A-State supporting new ideas, businesses with project

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A grand opening celebrating part of A-State's Innovation System took place Monday in Downtown Jonesboro.

A ribbon cutting ceremony took place in front of the Garage on Church Street.

Ty Keller, the director of A-State Innovate, said the new resource has been needed in Northeast Arkansas for some time.

"A State Innovate is a huge deal," Keller said. "Because we're here to help people achieve their goals and their dreams for entrepreneurship and innovation. We will provide resources to people in the community that may have an idea, but don't know how to make it happen. We can help with prototyping and manufacturing. We can also help with folks that need small business plans. Just all kinds of resources. It's a need in Northeast Arkansas and we're happy to provide it."

A-State's Innovation System is designed to help guide people.

"We are a network of sites and resources," Keller said. "That are meant to foster innovation and entrepreneurship toward industry. We want to take all the connections we have and just really push for opportunities for everybody in this area."

A number of groups and organizations have made the creation of the Innovation System possible.

"This was funded by the EDA," Keller said. "About a year ago with a grant. I came on board in the middle of October, so it's been a little bit of a process to get things going with a bunch of regulations and codes. But we're thrilled to start today."

Partners with A-State on the project are Nucor Yamato, Ritter Communications, the Delta Regional Authority and the Economic Development Commission.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson traveled from Little Rock to be a part of the celebration.

He says the state is ready to support this leap forward.

"A-State is the natural center," Hutchinson said. "For Eastern Arkansas innovation and technology and your leadership is critically important in this effort. The state is committed. We're committed to the sense of continuing to produce those young thinkers and that come out of high school that are interested in technology and innovation. We need to increase the availability of start-up funds in our program. In an ideal world, they get ideas, they get prototypes and guess what the next thing is? They need funding. And we have to have access to that and the state wants to be able to help in that regard."

"We're going to be able to help people pursue their dreams," Keller said. "So, if something has kept you from pursuing your business or pursuing a dream. Or even creating something. Maybe you have a patent idea, something that hasn't been done before. We don't want you to stop at an idea. We want to be able to take that all the way through and provide all the resources you need to do that."

Crosby Hendrix received a marketing degree from A State and was president of the Inventor's Club.

"Being creative," Hendrix said. "That's why a lot of students go to college. And it's very difficult when you're in college because you don't have the resources to kind of get your own thing going. You don't know where to get started. "And that's what's so exciting about the Innovation System. Is that's the whole purpose. Those people may have what they think may be a good idea. This is the place to come get started. This is the place to get to work. That's the hardest part about it, is getting started. Especially as a student because you're so fresh and everything is so new. Just how to get started and that's what Innovation System is here for. To me, it's very exciting for the students. It's what makes it a game changer."

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said the move is also going to mean positive things for the city of Jonesboro.

"This will open up many avenues," Perrin said. "Number one, I have visited the other ones in the state of Arkansas and what I saw was people coming in with certain inventions and innovative ideas. And so, what they did was come into the center and then move forward and it was the center that helped them do that. Anywhere from grant help to whatever they need to get that idea on to paper and then paper on into a product. So, that to me has been incredible. And I think you'll find this will also work closely with the workforce development center in the industrial park. So, this is a big step forward to what we needed in Jonesboro."

A-State Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse said he was thrilled to learn about the Innovation System being started at A-State.

"What's unique about it," Dr. Damphousse said. "Is it's three different places that do three unique things. Some of them are like one big operation. This one is interesting in that it's three different places."

The Innovation System consists of three different areas: The Lab, the Shop, and the Garage.

The Lab is located at the Catalyst Innovation Center, is a business incubator geared towards bioscience, engineering, and technology start-ups that are located within the A State Biosciences Institute.

The Garage is located in Downtown Jonesboro on Church Street.

It is a creators and co-work space for creativity and collaboration on innovative projects.

The Shop is focused on industrial scale solutions for manufacturing and other heavy industrial innovations.

Some tools are like those found in the Garage, however, the equipment at the Shop is more advanced in nature and will help provide the member a detailed proof of concept.

The Shop is located in Jonesboro's Industrial Park.

The chancellor's wife, Beth Damphousse, said she's seen something like this work in Oklahoma.

"I saw this utilized," she said. "I took part in it. I was out there working with the goggles on, using nail guns, saws and sanders. I was a hands-on person because I enjoy that. I'm kind of different from that area. I like to do woodworking things myself. I like to create things that are different from what I can purchase at the store to make things different and new."

Keller said now it's time to get to work.

"Our challenge is more about the members and the people we're helping," Keller said. "It turns out, lots of people have ideas, but a lot of people don't have money. So, we've got to make connections and really be able to help these folks get launched. And for me, that's the big deal. You don't want a great idea to die because they don't have $10,000. So, we've got to help prepare them for things like if they're going to the bank or going to apply for a grant they've got to have some type of business plan and really be able to locate the financing."

Keller said they're going to be working on getting the word out about who they are and what they do.

"Marketing!" Keller said. "We're going to get out and talk to everybody. Let them know what we're doing, what we're capable of. We're going to get in front of the high schools, the community, there's a local Inventor's Club. We're really going to get these guys involved."

Keller said they're currently taking memberships online.

He said he'd love to see as many as 300 people sign up for use of their facility.

They're working with around 15 people so far and he says they're showing success.

Right now, memberships at the Garage are $50 a month.

Keller says they will have discounts for students, veterans and team discounts.

The Shop is currently under construction.

"For the shop," Keller said. "There is construction and electrical work over there. We have the equipment for a machine shop and a wood working shop. So, right now we're constructing a partition to separate the two because wood and metal don't play well together. I think construction should be complete in a month and we'll start moving equipment in there."

The Shop will be $75 a month.

For more information about A State's Innovation System, click here.

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