May 13, 2022 - Business

Heartland Summit sets stage for economic growth

Steuart Walton, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Downtown Bentonville was buzzing Thursday with talk of everything from jet packs to tax credits and venture capital to partisan politics.

  • More than 350 people from across the U.S. convened at the Record for the Heartland Summit.

Details: Full audience panel discussions included speakers Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation; and Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

  • Breakout sessions on healthcare, education, transportation, energy and the adventure economy gave guests opportunities to dive deeper.

Why it matters: The objective of the summit is to assemble decision-makers and influencers to collectively elevate local and regional economies in the heartland.

The big picture: A recent report from Heartland Forward found that between 2010 and 2019, workers slowly migrated from the coasts to the 20, central-heartland states.

  • The pandemic accelerated that movement because more workers than ever can choose to live where they want for quality of life.

Some key takeaways from the day:

  • Dimon encouraged corporate leaders to get involved in local policy and politics.
  • Steve Case, CEO of investment firm Revolution, noted that for many companies, there's a strategic advantage to being located in the heartland — rather than the coasts — for both intellectual capital and credibility.
  • Saeed Amidi, CEO of Plug & Play, believes that due to the entrepreneurial environment, there will be at least three unicorn companies in NWA in the not-too-distant future.
  • Hutchinson, who shared the stage with Louisiana's Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, talked about the importance of cooperation between both parties and noted that economic development isn't partisan.

Yes, and: Heartland Forward and Builders + Backers announced they will fund an idea accelerator for Northwest Arkansas.

  • A cohort of 10 NWA entrepreneurs will be selected to receive $5,000 "pebble" grants and participate in the accelerator to help spur economic development.
  • It's part of an effort announced last year to work with 1,000 entrepreneurs across the U.S.

Anyone with a creative idea for solving a problem in NWA can apply.

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