The non-profit Winrock International, which promotes economic development in impoverished areas around the globe, announced on Wednesday that it will take under its umbrella the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.
The Hub provides tools, skills training and other resources for entrepreneurs and designers. Winrock International, named after former Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, operates “with a focus on social, agricultural and environmental issues,” according to a press release. Headquartered in Little Rock, Winrock currently employs about 1,000 people in 46 countries. The Innovation Hub, based in North Little Rock, currently employs 12 people.
At the announcement, several speakers characterized the merger as a unique opportunity to further opportunities for entrepreneurs.
“This is important to the state of Arkansas,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “We have a lot of momentum in this state in terms of job creation, innovation, in terms of economic growth.”
Hutchinson said that spirit has led the state to record its lowest unemployment rate ever, at 3.8%.
“You’re not going to create economic development unless you innovate every day,” he said.
State Representative Warwick Sabin, currently executive director of the Innovation Hub, will now lead Winrock’s U.S. Programs. He takes over from Annette Pagan, who served in the role for the last 20 years. At the announcement, Sabin emphasized the role the Innovation Hub plays in providing people with a space and community to develop their ideas and business models.
“This is a workforce and economic development approach that addresses the imperatives that exist today and anticipates those of tomorrow,” Sabin said.
Speaking after the announcement, Winrock president and CEO said the merger would lead the two entities to expand and help more people who have ideas for businesses.
“We have ambitions to be able to take the models that have been successful here and move them regionally and even nationally and even internationally,” Ferguson said. “Because economic development, livelihood improvement, entrepreneurialism—these are issues not just in the United States, not just in Arkansas, not just in Little Rock, but all over the world.”
Ferguson said the process of filing formal paperwork to incorporate the two nonprofits would likely take several months.
The Associated Press contributed information to this article.