SSTI Digest

Geography: Arkansas

Arkansas Task Force Recommends State Investments in Tech Companies, Co-locating Economic Development Agencies

To attract and grow high technology businesses and streamline its economic development efforts, a task force created in 2007 to study economic competitiveness in Arkansas recommends the state remove its constitutional prohibition on state equity investments in private companies and co-locate its three economic development agencies.

Several Statewide TBED Issues Win Voter Approval

The outcome of Tuesday's election resulted in several wins and some defeats for TBED among the more than 150 ballot measures presented to voters across the nation. Outlined below are the unofficial election results of select ballot measures from each state's respective election office and local media reports as of Wednesday, Nov. 5. More detailed information on the measures is provided in last week's issue of the Digest, which is available at: http://www.ssti.org/Digest/2008/102908.htm#election.

States Increasing Scholarship Opportunities to Boost College Graduation Rates

With an increased need to compete globally, the need for a highly educated workforce has taken center stage in a number of states. But with the continuing issue of college affordability, states are looking at new ways to increase the number of college graduates within their borders.

TBED People

Arkansas Two-year Colleges Offering Entrepreneurship Degrees

Entrepreneurship education courses continue to appear across the country. A large-scale commitment was announced recently, as eight Arkansas two-year colleges will offer degrees and certificates in entrepreneurship this fall. The broad availability is expected to help create a culture of entrepreneurship that extends from regions capitalizing in the emerging fields of bioscience and nanotechnology research to the rural pockets of the state in need of high-paying jobs.
 
Last month, the curriculum was approved by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, prompting eight of the state’s 22 community and technical colleges to join a consortium with two additional schools seeking approval in October to begin implementing the curriculum. The degree option is for an Applied Associates Degree in Business Management or a stand-alone certificate in Entrepreneurship.
 
While some areas of the state are home to large Fortune 500 companies, including Wal-Mart in Bentonville and Tyson Foods in Springdale, other regions are unlikely to attract big corporations that provide jobs, said Donna Wood, associate vice president of global business development for NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC). The curriculum is critical for the state’s rural areas where it is difficult to provide educational services to students who want to learn more about developing a business.

Arkansas Wins $9M NSF Grant for Biomass Power & Nanotechnology Research

Last week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority (ASTA) would receive $9 million through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to enhance the state's research capabilities. The new funds will be used to support a broad range of activities, from attracting world-class scholars to fostering entrepreneurship, in select technology areas.

 

The program, dubbed the Arkansas Advancing and Supporting Science, Engineering and Technology (ASSET) Initiative, will provide additional research funding to three of the state's university campuses: the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. These schools will receive financial support to establish two new research centers and to promote interdisciplinary and multi-institutional research in promising fields.

 

The first center will investigate the nexus of agricultural, energy, environmental and health sciences in the use of plant materials for energy generation. The Plant Powered Production (P3) Center will be a statewide virtual facility that will bring together researchers from each of these disciplines and will facilitate cooperative research between the state's institutions of higher education.

 

A second center, the Wireless Nano- Bio- Info-Tech Sensor System and Center, will provide a collaborative infrastructure for nanosensor research at the University of Arkansas. Researchers at the center will contribute to the development of wireless arrays of low-cost, specialized nanosensors that can be used in power generation, food preservation, and biodevices.

 

ASTA's ASSET Initiative also will invest in a range of programs beyond university R&D to support high-tech growth in these emerging fields. The state's strategy includes a Human Resource Development and Community Outreach plan that will support entrepreneurs through training and education to commercialize the technologies developed at these new centers. In addition, ASSET will sponsor seminar series, discipline-specific regional and national meetings, and electronic access to scientific journals for researchers. The initiative also plans to develop K-12 and undergraduate educational programs and new opportunities for underrepresented groups in scientific research.

 

Read more about the Arkansas ASSET Initiative at: http://www.asta.arkansas.gov/newsroom/index.php?do:newsDetail=1&type_id=58

People

The Arkansas Department of Economic Development has been renamed the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Arkansas Enacts $140M TBED Package

With all of the recent activity from its state legislature, Arkansas will soon possess one of the nation's most comprehensive portfolios of state-supported TBED initiatives. A number of TBED-related acts passed by the Arkansas General Assembly this session have all received Gov. Mike Beebe's signature. The result could be a public injection of up to $140 million for Arkansas's TBED community over the next biennium.



Most of the new TBED initiatives were outlined in the 2007 Legislative Agenda created by Accelerate Arkansas, an independent statewide coalition organized under the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation. Accelerate Arkansas' goal is to raise the state's average wage to the national average by 2020, a goal to be advanced by investments in research, entrepreneurship, risk capital, and Arkansas' science and engineering workforce.



Every component of the legislative agenda proposed by Accelerate Arkansas was accepted by the legislature. The General Assembly also passed additional TBED legislation during the recent session, including authorization for research parks, broadband access, and R&D tax credits. The package rounds out the complement of the programs already underway in the state through the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority.



The new legislation authorizes maximum spending levels for a variety of specific TBED activities to be undertaken during the 2007-2009 biennial budget cycle. Gov. Beebe is given the discretion to spend less than the maximum levels, providing a flexibility to reallocate resources that is not often available to state executive branches.



Many of the new measures will be supported by an anticipated surplus in state revenues - projected to be around $917 million when the fiscal year ends on June 30. The legislature decided the funds will be distributed between public school facilities ($456 million), highway improvements ($80 million) and other legislature-initiated projects, resulting in about $196 million to be used for programs within the executive branch. Gov. Beebe has authorization to use approximately 70 percent of the $196 million for TBED initiatives, including:

People

With new governors often come changes in the leadership of state economic development organizations. Arkansas, Colorado and Maryland recently announced their new development officers:

Tech Talkin’ Govs, Part II

This is the second installment of SSTI’s look at the Inaugural, Budget and State of the State Addresses delivered in the past week. With a heavy emphasis on alternative energy, TBED priorities continue to receive significant time in the speeches delivered by the nation’s governors at the start of the 2007 legislative season. Selected excerpts of new initiatives are provided below:



Arkansas

Gov. Mike Beebe, State of the State Address, Jan. 10, 2007

“Our students deserve the best and the newest learning tools that we can provide. It's essential that all of our students have Internet access and current technology to maximize it. Therefore, we will undertake an up-to-date assessment of all technology resources in our schools, showing us where we need to improve, and how these resources are used. With that, the Arkansas Department of Education and the Department of Information Systems will formulate a timeline to ensure that every child has SAFE access to the online world. ...



“... Young people with the talent and the ability to pursue higher education in Arkansas should not be hindered by a lack of resources. Those whose families earn less than $25,000 a year will be eligible for a $1,000 state scholarship each year for a maximum of four years. Realizing that not everyone will be able to attend school full-time, part-time students will also benefit with pro-rated aid over a longer period of time.



“And not everyone has the opportunity to immediately pursue higher education after high school. I’ll work with the legislature to further increase opportunity for higher education by expanding the Career Pathways Initiative from the current 11 community colleges to all 22. ...



“... To help attract new manufacturers and retain the ones we have, we’ll phase out the sales tax on utilities for manufacturers, with the first step being a one-sixth reduction.



“As we look forward to the future, we must put a special focus on the industries of the 21st century that will ensure our long-term economic success. I will work with the Legislature and the legislative leadership to roll back the sales tax on off-road diesel fuel and replace it with a per-gallon tax coupled with an incentive to purchase bio-diesel.



“And I’ll work with the legislative leadership on crafting a tax credit for the construction of crushers and other bio-fuel infrastructure. For an investment today, we can seed the industry of the future right here in our own backyard.



“Today, there is the potential to create gasoline – not ethanol, but gasoline – from cellulose products already growing right here in Arkansas. Imagine stopping at a gas station and filling your tank with fuel made from Arkansas wood products and created at an Arkansas bio-refinery.”



California

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, State of the State Address, Jan. 9, 2007

“The legislature joined with me in passing the historic global warming measure that caps greenhouse gas emissions. We hear so much about climate change. One area where we definitely need the climate to change is the national government's attitude about global warming. ... So, I ask you to appropriate the funds to implement this global warming legislation, so that we can become part of the world market that is already trading credits for the reduction of greenhouse gases.



“I also ask you to work with me on another environmental first. I propose that California be the first in the world to develop a low carbon fuel standard that leads us away from fossil fuels. And let us use the freedom and the flexibility of the market to accomplish it.”



Colorado

Gov. Bill Ritter, State of the State Address, Jan. 11, 2007

“Our calling card to the 21st century must be the New Energy Economy. ...



“... [W]e must do everything possible to ensure that the futuristic technology coming from the labs and the classrooms is transferred to the marketplace. ...



“I am proposing several immediate initiatives:

New Governors Make TBED and Economic Development a Priority

Last Tuesday's elections resulted in the selection of 11 new governors across the country, and could lead to important changes for TBED communities in many states. Six races resulted in a change of party affiliation in the top state position, including races in Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio. All six governorships changed from Republican to Democratic administrations. This is the first time in 12 years that a majority of governors have been Democrats.

 

Incumbents won gubernatorial races in 25 states, and 14 governors did not face re-election this year.

 

But what changes are in store for the states with new leadership? Several of the governors-elect made economic development and TBED a part of their platforms throughout their candidacy. Here is a sampling of policies and programs announced by some of the governors-elect on their official websites as collected by SSTI:

 

Arkansas

Attorney General Mike Beebe (D) has proposed developing a series of regional community partnerships across the state to promote economic growth. Existing community partnerships in the state, the governor-elect says, have been successful in recruiting new employers by marketing regional assets and collaborating on infrastructure improvements. The incoming administration will favor communities that have demonstrated a commitment to regionalism when considering discretionary incentives and infrastructure funding. Beebe has also pledged to help find private partners to collaborate on biotech research conducted within the Arkansas University system.

 

Colorado

Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter (D) has a similar plan to implement regional development strategies in Colorado. His administration will establish State and Regional Economic Development Offices to conduct county research and analysis, recruit new businesses, and develop recruitment and information packages for new and existing businesses. Ritter has also released his New Energy Economy plan, which calls for the promotion of wind, solar, and biofuel industries to benefit rural areas, and for the creation of the Colorado Clean Energy Fund to provide seed money for alternative energy companies.

 

Iowa

Clean energy also will be a priority in Iowa, where Secretary of State Chet Culver (D) has proposed a $100 million Iowa Power Fund to support businesses attempting to enter the clean energy industry. Culver also favors a small public venture fund ($20 million to $25 million annually) to provide venture capital in underserved areas of the state. Entrepreneurial support will be available through a new Office of Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship, which will serve as a one-stop shop for training, advice and advocacy. Culver supports a repeal of the state's ban on stem cell research and will provide at least $10 million in funding for the Iowa Center for Regenerative Medicine in Iowa City to leverage life science growth and investment.

 

Florida

Attorney General Charlie Crist (R) has promised to develop the state's science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs as engines of high-tech growth. His administration will offer additional research funding to universities that focus or increase their focus on STEM education and research. Crist also plans to encourage public-private partnerships to implement the Sure Futures program, which would match businesses with students seeking advanced STEM degrees and offer employers a tax credit for hiring those graduates to work in the state.

 

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, attorney and businessman Deval Patrick (D) plans to focus the state's investment in high-tech businesses on areas that have not benefited from recent growth along Route 128. State funds for start-up businesses will offer more favorable terms of repayment based on the number of jobs created by the new firm. New businesses that create new jobs in distressed areas of the state will owe substantially less. Patrick's administration also will issue bonds to invest in the expansion and development of facilities and new faculty at public universities to promote stem cell research and biotech commercialization.

 

New York

Applied research in New York may receive a boost from Attorney General Eliot Spitzers (D) planned New York State Innovation Fund. This program, if funded by a voter-approve bond act, would support research with a direct commercial application. The fund would support research with direct commercial applications, which the governor-elect says has been ignored by the state's Centers of Excellence.

Higher Education Issues: Bonds and Affirmative Action Ban Pass

Last Tuesday's election included four ballot initiatives pertaining to the issuance of bonds for capital improvement projects at higher education institutions as well as a highly watched amendment to the state constitution in Michigan to ban public institutions from utilizing affirmative action practices. All five measures passed.

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