Governor Announces Innovation Council at Inaugural Summit

On Tuesday, February 19th, Governor Asa Hutchinson hosted the first of what will be many Innovation Council meetings. The Innovation Council is comprised of business and industry experts as well as investors seeking to develop a focused and sustained state-wide initiative to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Arkansas in an effort to expand and diversify the state’s economy.

More below:

For Immediate Release


Governor Hutchinson Names the Arkansas Innovation Council to Expand Arkansas’s Knowledge-Based Economy

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson has invited a group of key leaders from Arkansas businesses, research universities, philanthropic organizations, and state agencies to form the Arkansas Innovation Council. The Arkansas Innovation Council will meet twice a year with the Governor serving as chair of the council. 

“The long-term success of our state will hinge on the development and expansion of Arkansas’s knowledge-based, technology-driven economy,” Governor Hutchinson said. “We can accelerate our development if we draw on the experience of a diverse group of key leaders. The members of this council are to partner with me to identify resources and skills that will transform the ability of businesses to grow in Arkansas.”

The council will work with the Governor to identify gaps and seek new ideas, initiatives, and recommendations to form a strategic plan complete with specific action steps. This plan will guide the efforts of Arkansas business and industry, higher education, not-for-profits, and state and local governments to create a measurable expansion of Arkansas’s knowledge-based economy.

“Promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship for technology and technology-enabled companies is a vital economic development strategy,” said Mike Preston, executive director of Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC). “It is essential to the generation of cutting-edge research, to help our existing industries grow, and to create high-paying jobs. Arkansas is building an environment of opportunity with incentives and programs to help entrepreneurs and innovators start up and scale new business enterprises, but there is more work to do.”

The council will focus on innovation in industry sectors in which Arkansas leads nationally and globally, as well as those that are crucial to the lives of its citizens: retail and retail technology; transportation, distribution, and logistics; agriculture, food processing, forestry, and natural resources; healthcare and biosciences; financial services; data sciences, advanced analytics, and software development; energy and power electronics.

“The task of growing our knowledge-based economy will require a focused and sustained effort from leaders of our principal industries, research universities, philanthropic organizations, state agencies and other stakeholders who want to move Arkansas forward,” said David Sanders, director of Innovate Arkansas at Winrock International.

The Arkansas Innovation Council will meet twice a year with the first meeting scheduled for February 19th in Little Rock at the Robinson Center. Innovate Arkansas, a program administered by Winrock International, will coordinate the council’s activities.

The founding members of the Arkansas Innovation Council are:

Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, President, University of Arkansas System
Albert Braunfisch, Chairman, MSpark
Amy Callahan, Cofounder, Collective Bias
Ross DeVol, Walton Fellow, Walton Family Foundation
William T. Dillard, III, Executive Vice President, Dillard’s Inc.
George Dunklin, Jr., Dunklin Farms
Richard Howe, CEO, Inuvo
Doug McMillon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Walmart Inc. 
Judy McReynolds, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, ArcBest Corporation
Jeffery W. Nolan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Loutre Land and Timber Company
Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Mike Preston, Executive Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission
John Rutledge, President, First Security Bank, Little Rock 
Cheryl Schluterman, Interim President, Arkansas Development Finance Authority
Josh Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Metova, Inc.
Warren Stephens, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Stephens, Inc.
Dr. Chuck Welch, President, Arkansas State University System
Troy Wells, President and CEO, Baptist Health
Noel White, President and CEO, Tyson Foods Inc.


Innovate Arkansas ( assists technology entrepreneurs in turning startup companies into viable commercial enterprises. Innovate Arkansas is focused on building and managing the programs needed to accelerate business growth for tech-based and knowledge-based startups and established corporations in Arkansas. As the primary conduit between these organizations, Innovate Arkansas serves a critical role in developing talent, building commerce, and securing the capital required to develop the state’s high-growth economy.


Winrock International ( is a recognized leader in U.S. and international development with a focus on social, agricultural and environmental issues. Inspired by its namesake, Winthrop Rockefeller, Winrock combines scientific and technical expertise with entrepreneurial innovation to deliver market-based solutions that improve lives around the world. Winrock’s mission is to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity and sustain natural resources across the globe.


The mission of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission ( is to create economic opportunity by attracting higher paying jobs, expanding and diversifying state and local economies, increasing incomes and investment, and generating positive growth throughout Arkansas.

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