During yesterday's annual State of the City address, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola addressed a number of topics surrounding the city's economic growth, including the recent completion of the Little Rock Technology Park and its largest tenant, The Venture Center.
"As a mayor, we love these big projects, but as—a 21st Century city—we also have to have a framework to breed Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Creativity for the jobs of the 21st Century," he said.
The mayor also announced that the unemployment rate of Little Rock's metro area now stands at 3.6%, less than half of the 7.4% in 2011, and currently stands in a tie for second lowest in the South. He also cited that average wages have grown 28% since 2005 and personal income has grown 25%.
View more of Mayor Stodola's remarks about The Venture Center and its VC FinTech Accelerator - Empowered by FIS below. His entire speech can be viewed at KTHV.
Little Rock is embracing this calling like never before. With the Venture Center and the opening of Phase I of the Technology Park, a $25 million investment, I look forward to seeing the collaboration and success that is going to come from the collision of ideas between the entrepreneurs, technology companies, artists, and creative talent inhabiting the Creative Corridor on Main Street where soon hundreds will live, work, and play. We have started Phase II of the Low Impact Development streetscape construction adjacent to the Repertory Theatre, Ballet Arkansas is in its new home, and we look forward to the location of a University of Arkansas Executive MBA program in the Corridor in the near future. Housing is being constructed on Main Street and the Donaghey Building is under contract for 155 apartments – all told there will be nearly 400 housing units in the Creative Corridor, truly transforming Main Street into a 24/7 environment where ideas and creativity can flourish.
Now, that’s the “physical framework,” but through the work of the Venture Center, the City, and individual entrepreneurs and companies, an “intellectual and creative framework” is also being built that is going to foster the growth of the city’s new economy in the coming decades. It’s already taking root with Venture Center member companies alone creating 286 jobs and raising $19 million in capital in just two and a half years. They have served 112 businesses and generated $12 million in revenue.
One of the most exciting things to happen this past year was the FinTech Accelerator put on by the Venture Center and Fidelity Information Services [FIS] who brought ten companies in from around the world to Little Rock for a rigorous 12-week program designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage financial technology services startups. These companies received access to the FIS C-Suite, intense mentorship from across the city, and $50,000. Then the top three received a further share of half a million in investment dollars. It was an immense success with three of the companies, Pfitr, Mortgage Peer and LumoXchange, choosing to be based in Little Rock permanently. FIS is so committed, FinTech 2.0 will start in May. This year, 295 companies from around the world are competing for the ten coveted spots.
The mayor concluded his speech with his hopes for Little Rock's future.
"This is how we build our city. This is how we build a better future for our future. This is how we will make Little Rock the next great American city in the South," he said.