Conductor to expand reach to rural Arkansas regions, grow Conway team
CONWAY, April 5— The Conductor, a public-private partnership between the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie, today announced that it has been awarded the Small Business Administration’s Regional Innovation Cluster contract. The funding will enable the Conductor to bolster its offerings in the collaborative central Arkansas cluster and expand its footprint to reach underserved areas of the state, which house 19 Opportunity Zones and are rural regions as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Conductor is one of seven Clusters nationwide to be awarded the competitive funding. Each of the Clusters are public-private partnerships driving innovation and job creation in the nation’s most promising regional hubs.
“The Small Business Administration’s Innovation Cluster Award will be a difference-maker for central Arkansas,” said Kim Lane, CEO of the Conductor. “Not only will this funding enable the Conductor to escalate our transformational work in Conway, it will allow us to proliferate our reach to rural areas of the state. Through this expansion, the Conductor’s free services and support will be made available to thousands of rural small business owners and entrepreneurs, creating collaborative ecosystems that support the start and growth of local businesses.”
“The Conductor is already an asset to economic development and entrepreneurship in Central Arkansas,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said. “With this award, I am confident that the Conductor will have an even more expansive reach into the rural communities of the region and will continue to successfully develop innovation and growth for our state. Congratulations to the Conductor for receiving such a distinguished honor and continuing to develop Central Arkansas as a center for innovation and entrepreneurship.”
The Conductor, based in the City of Conway, is centrally located among 10 rural counties in the region. The Regional Innovation Cluster contract will enable the Conductor to continue serving as an epicenter for entrepreneurs, as well as provide services to entrepreneurs in the surrounding counties of Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Pulaski, Van Buren, White and Yell.
“I’m proud to support organizations like the Conductor that provide mentorship for business owners and innovators in rural Arkansas. Their work is vital to the success of cultivating ‘homegrown’ small businesses. As a recipient of the SBA’s Regional Innovation Cluster Services contract, the Conductor will be able to expand its entrepreneurial outreach and empower more Arkansans to dream big. Together, we can continue to make central Arkansas an economic epicenter,” said U.S. Congressman French Hill.
Congressman Womack said, “The Conductor supports the entrepreneurial spirit of our state – and it’s great to see their efforts recognized by the Small Business Administration. With this award, the organization will be able to help more small businesses launch and grow in Arkansas, including areas of the Third District. I congratulate them on this honor and look forward to seeing continued economic growth, business development, and innovation throughout the region.”
In less than three years since its launch, the Conductor has served nearly 9,000 people through its free programming, events, one-on-one business consulting, and trainings in UCA’s Makerspace, powered by the Conductor. The Makerspace offers prototyping services, 3D-printer trainings, CAD classes, youth events and more, all of which are free-of-charge for students at the University of Central Arkansas and the community.
“The University of Central Arkansas is proud to be the Conductor’s founding partner. Since its launch in 2016, the Conductor’s work has transformed central Arkansas into an entrepreneurial epicenter,” University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis said. “UCA is excited to be on the cusp of the innovation and entrepreneurial movement through this partnership and is excited about the impact that we will have in the future.”
With plans to increase the scope and magnitude of its services, the Conductor has also announced plans to grow its team in Conway. In addition to a Rural Program Officer, the Conductor will be adding a Director of Operations, Marketing/Outreach Manager and an Educator to the team, as well as part-time student workers from the University of Central Arkansas.
“Public-private partnerships help spur growth and leverage resources in an incredibly efficient way, and it’s no surprise that the Conductor has been selected for this award given its successful approach in helping foster innovation and economic development in Central Arkansas. I’m excited to track its progress as it utilizes this grant to further assist entrepreneurs in the region and especially those in rural areas where the opportunity for success sometimes hinges on access to the types of resources and support the Conductor is poised to provide,” Senator John Boozman said.
“We are so honored and humbled to expand our long-standing relationship with the SBA through the Conductor Regional Innovation Cluster program,” said Jeff Amerine, principal of Startup Junkie. “This award will allow our team to empower even more entrepreneurs in Arkansas.”
“The proven impact of the Conductor Cluster is an outcome of the inclusive, collaborative work of our incredible partners and sponsors,” Lane said. “Together, we are creating an environment that inspires and enables entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses and create new jobs in the state. This funding will enable us to continue infusing entrepreneurship into local economies, and creating a supportive, scalable infrastructure that empowers entrepreneurs to thrive.”
About the Conductor
The Conductor, a public-private partnership with the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie, drives innovation, entrepreneurship and economic empowerment in central Arkansas through high-impact programming, one-on-one consulting, commercialization support, talent development, collaboration, and maker training and rapid prototyping in UCA’s Makerspace, powered by the Conductor, which is free-of-charge to students and the community.