Nov 13, 2023 - News

Takeaways from the 2023 Heartland Forward Summit

Dimitri Clark (left) and Elysia Contreras Springer pitched their businesses and won $25,000 each at the Heartland Forward Summit. Both are based in Northwest Arkansas. Photos: Worth Sparkman/Axios

More than 350 policy wonks, investors, entrepreneurs and rainmakers gathered Thursday in Bentonville for the third Heartland Forward Summit.

Why it matters: The summit's objective is to collectively elevate local and regional economies in 20 states in the middle of the U.S. — the heartland.

Details: The day included sessions on maternal and child care, the outdoor recreation economy, health care, mental health, entrepreneurship, next-generation mobility and biomimicry.

Catch up quick: Amid networking events, big idea discussions and deal-making, Heartland Forward made three announcements of note last week:

1. Heartland Health Caucus — The organization launched a new nonpartisan legislative and policy group of health leaders that will exchange ideas on pressing health issues and develop policy approaches across Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

  • The caucus will seek to simplify the health care system through public policy; advance legislation for telehealth, workforce and maternal health; and promote health as an economic issue.

2. Stepping Stone — Heartland Forward and Builders + Backers, a venture capital and accelerator firm, announced the expansion of the Stepping Stones program across all 20 heartland states following a pilot in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

  • It's designed to help young companies get on a pathway to $1 million in revenue.

3. Meanwhile, five entrepreneurs were awarded $25,000 each in funding, as well as spots in the Stepping Stones program.

  • Gnargo Bike Co. and Abily, both of Fayetteville; FreeArm of Helena-West Helena; SecondKeys of Memphis, Tennessee; and drone maker NovAI of Tulsa received the checks without providing any equity.

Go deeper: Heartland Summit brings Boris Johnson, Matthew McConaughey to Bentonville


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More NW Arkansas stories

No stories could be found

NW Arkansaspostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more