NEWPORT, Ark.- Officials with the City of Newport and the Newport Economic Development Commission (NEDC) announced the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded a $2.5 million grant to Newport’s Tech Depot IT Apprenticeship Academy.
According to a news release from the Newport Economic Development Commission, the grant will be matched with $625,000 from NEDC to build a 12,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility to house the Tech Depot.
“This is a huge day for economic development in Newport,” shared Mayor David Stewart. “The new Tech Depot facility will allow our citizens to access the training and skills to work with any company in the world, and often they will be able to work remotely and continue to live and raise their families here.”
Officials say the first apprentices and participating companies are currently being established by the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS) and the curriculum is being finalized by ASU-Newport.
“This is another huge step forward for apprenticeship programs in Arkansas,” according to Bill Yoder, Executive Director of ACDS. “We have experience in IT and apprenticeships, and ASUNewport has experience in technical curriculum development and delivery, and now with this facility we
have all the tools for world-class IT training in Newport, Arkansas.”
The Tech Depot is starting its operation in the historic Iron Mountain Train Depot in downtown Newport and will move to the new facility once it’s completed.
“The partnership between the Newport Economic Development Commission, ASU-Newport, and the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences is allowing us to support our existing industries by helping them grow the Information Technology talent they need right here in Arkansas,” stated Jon Chadwell, Executive Director of the NEDC. “In addition, we believe that having this resource to develop IT talent will attract other companies who are having challenges finding qualified employees for these positions.”
The new Tech Depot facility will contain Apprenticeship Training Rooms, an IT Co-Working Space, an IT Incubator for entrepreneurs, shared office space for companies who use the facility and an apprenticeship testing center, according to the news release.
The project is anticipated to take 18 to 24 months.
Dr. Sandra Massey, Chancellor of ASU-Newport, said, “ASU-Newport is proud to be part of this great new opportunity for Newport and all of northeast Arkansas. We welcome the opportunity to support and develop the technical skills of the incredible people who call Arkansas their home.”
Arkansas’s Congressional delegation worked with the City of Newport and the grant writing team at the White River Planning and Development District to secure the grant from the EDA.
“The CARES Act continues to provide vital support and assistance to Arkansas as our state deals with the effects of COVID-19,” said Senator John Boozman. “This grant will help Newport and the regional economy by training residents to fill in-demand jobs and creating further opportunities for
economic growth in the community. I welcome this investment by the EDA and the Trump Administration at this critical time.”
Congressman Rick Crawford commented, “The demand for a highly-skilled information technology workforce is only growing, and it is vital that we are providing the proper education and training for students to fill this demand. This investment not only helps provide a critical resource to local Arkansans in the technology field, it creates an innovative training program that will attract business professionals nationwide.”
Officials say the inaugural classes in the Tech Depot will have over 40 apprentices participating and will support companies located in Newport, Batesville and Jonesboro.
Partners anticipate classes growing to support over 100 apprentices every six months by the end of the third year.
According to the news release, any company with IT employee needs can either send a current worker for apprenticeship training or work with the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences to find an apprentice to hire and train at the Tech Depot.
People who are interested in IT careers can put their names into the apprenticeship pool of candidates that will be offered to companies for consideration. For more information, visit www.techdepotnow.com.
Officials say the Tech Depot is the centerpiece of Newport’s Downtown Technology Park, know as DTech Park. DTech Park, operating out of the Newport Economic Development Commission offices, will assist technology companies in securing a remote work location, finding office space, securing a partnership with the Tech Depot or locating incentives to start or expand their technology-based business, according to the news release.
“Rural sourcing, which to me means finding our talent in rural America rather than offshore, can help companies with security and profitability while also growing the small towns and cities that have been America’s backbone for centuries,” explained G.B. Cazes, Principal of the Emory Group.
The Emory Group is consulting on the project and assisting with development and logistics.
To learn more about Newport’s Downtown Technology Park, visit www.dtechpark.com.
Officials say the Tech Depot and DTech Park are bringing IT opportunities to rural Arkansas.
If you would like to get involved, complete the contact form on the website or call the Newport Economic Development Commission at 870-523-1009.