The Tulsa-Northwest Arkansas corridor this month moved one step closer to becoming a national hub of advanced mobility development and entrepreneurship, thanks to a new agreement between the governors of Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Govs. Asa Hutchinson and Kevin Stitt met Aug. 17 at the Helmerich Research Center at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa to sign a memorandum of understanding pledging that state and local leaders will work together around drones, electric vehicles, logistics and other multi-dimensional mobility technologies.
The partnership will take several forms, such as by tapping NorthWest Arkansas Community College and similar schools in Tulsa to develop the advanced mobility workforce and piloting new systems through corporate leaders like Walmart and J.B. Hunt. Growing these industries could support more than 50,000 new engineering, piloting and analysis jobs in the two-state area.
“Moving people and goods cleaner, faster, safer, and at lower-cost will benefit everyone, everywhere,” said Cyrus Sigari, an aviator, investor and entrepreneur who chairs Hutchinson’s newly created Arkansas Council on Future Mobility. “What is happening here is special: intentional collaboration, meaningful investments, and strategic partnerships like this position the Oklahoma-Arkansas region to become the Silicon Valley of transportation and logistics.”
The partnership aims to take advantage of the region’s unique combination of characteristics, such as an urban-rural airspace and existing strengths in logistics, retail, manufacturing and university and military assets.
The economic interconnections along the U.S. 412 corridor from Springdale to Tulsa also have been growing in strength for years, particularly around mobility.
Electric vehicle maker Canoo in 2021 announced it would build its headquarters in Bentonville, which has since happened, and would fill hundreds of research and production positions in Northwest Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. The University of Arkansas this summer received a $412,000 grant from the Walton Charitable Support Foundation for planning mobility and workforce development initiatives.
The Tulsa-based venture capital firm Atento Capital earlier this year launched 412 Angels, a first-of-its-kind program to boost investment in startups, in partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Council, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. And the first Drive Electric NWA event is set to showcase the latest in electric vehicle applications on Sept. 24 in Rogers.
“I have seen enough of space-age mobility and technology in Arkansas to know that drones and autonomous vehicles are no longer the stuff of science fiction,” Hutchinson said. “Arkansas is rich with business and technology entrepreneurs who are fearless in their pursuit of the future. This partnership will accelerate the work on advanced mobility and further enhance our region’s reputation as a leader in technological innovation.”