Axios Northwest Arkansas

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Good Tuesday morning, everyone.

  • πŸ›Ά Let's see what we can pack into the stream of life this week.

It's a great day to contribute to our newsroom by becoming a member!

β˜€οΈ Welcome to a sunny day with highs in the low 70s.

Today's newsletter is 872 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Rogers to offer live music at revamped theater

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Victory Theater β€” the nearly 100-year-old downtown Rogers venue that is home to community theater productions β€” is about to also be a concert site.

What's happening: The theater has been closed for renovations and is scheduled to reopen next month. The city plans to regularly host live music there, Rogers arts and culture coordinator Kinya Christian told Axios.

Why it matters: For city officials, the move means programming music year-round instead of only during the summer at Butterfield Stage. The plan is to have local and touring musicians from various genres at accessible prices, Christian said. Starting prices for scheduled shows so far are $25-$40.

Background: The city has owned the historic building since 2008. Arkansas Public Theatre, a volunteer community theater nonprofit, performs there.

Context: The city has ramped up its involvement in the arts in the past few years β€” like building Butterfield Stage at Railyard Park downtown and offering a free summer concert series.

Details: The $3 million Victory Theater renovation includes transforming the cabaret-style seating to a traditional layout β€” going from 170 seats on the lower level to 319, Christian said. The balcony will keep its 126 seats.

  • The work also includes sound, lighting and concession upgrades.

What they're saying: The change has potential to bring more attention to the arts as a whole in downtown, Axios learned from Ed McClure, artistic director at Arkansas Public Theatre. Someone may come for a play and find out about a concert and vice versa.

  • APT will continue to have six shows a year at the venue; it previously had eight.

What's next: The first show, featuring Grammy-winning jazz artist Pat Metheny, is set for March 13. Get tickets.

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2. Lithium summit highlights industry potential

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

ExxonMobil plans to produce enough lithium from its land leases in south Arkansas to power 1 million electric vehicles a year by 2030, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Driving the news: The first Arkansas Lithium Innovation Summit β€”Β a gathering of nearly 700 industry professionals, policymakers and ancillary business leaders β€” was held last week in Little Rock.

Why it matters: Demand for lithium batteries will increase as consumers continue to adopt electric cars. In the U.S. the need is expected to grow sixfold by 2030, turning into a $55 billion annual industry.

State of play: The nascent extraction industry in Arkansas has yet to produce any commercial-grade lithium, an integral part of rechargeable batteries. But Canada's Standard Lithium and ExxonMobil are betting new technologies will squeeze the mineral from the Smackover formation.

How it works: Briny water is pumped from the formation and circulated through several proprietary filters designed to capture lithium, which then must be processed further before it can be used in batteries.

  • The brine is returned to the formation, making the process more environmentally friendly than strip or evaporative mines.

Quick take: Much work remains; the direct extraction process hasn't yet proven to be financially viable.

  • "At pilot scale, most work, but the challenge is around commercializing it β€” how you integrate that technology with all the other elements within that process flow to be able to produce [a] product people need safely and reliably," said Patrick Howarth, lithium global business manager for ExxonMobil.
  • The lithium industry must scale tenfold by 2040 to meet the United Nations' 2050 net-zero goals, said Andrew Miller, chief executive of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.
  • Lithium is a challenging market, Standard Lithium CEO Robert Mintak told the Democrat-Gazette, but investors see now as the right time to get into the industry.

Read the full story for what Gov. Sanders is saying.

3. The Agenda: Fayetteville City Council's plans

City hall
Fayetteville City Hall. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

The Fayetteville City Council meets in regular session tonight. They plan to vote on:

Formalizing the city's partnership with the Arkansas Department of Transportation on the Interstate 49/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard interchange improvement project, which includes a 15th Street overpass.

Applying for five federal grants totaling $4.05 million. The grants will cover 80% of the project costs, and the city will be responsible for the other 20%. Projects include:

  • Millsap Road and College Avenue intersection improvements.
  • Design for the Stephen Carr/I-49 interchange.
  • Rupple Road lighting.
  • Drake Street protected bike lanes and trail connection.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard walkability improvements.

Go to the meeting: 5:30pm at Fayetteville City Hall or online.

4. Kitchen Sink: News drops

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

✍️ The historic War Eagle Mill has new owners. (Northwest Arkansas Business Journal)

😷 A tuberculosis exposure was identified at Har-Ber High School in Springdale. The Arkansas Department of Health is recommending students be tested. (Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

⚾️ The Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team won three of its first four games of the season, closing out the series Monday against James Madison University with a 4-0 shutout at Baum Walker Stadium. (Whole Hog Sports)

Sponsored job listings

New jobs to check out

πŸ’Ό See who's hiring around the city.

  1. Director Commercial Strategy and Planning IBU at Tyson Foods.
  2. Senior Manager, Partnership Marketing at Caring.
  3. Director, Supply Chain Management at Sam's Club.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Use code FIRST50 for $50 off your first job post.

5. Your week ahead

"Company" is on stage in Fayetteville this week. Photo: Courtesy of Walton Arts Center

Our week is starting a bit late thanks to Presidents Day, but here's your guide to having fun on a weekday.

🎭 See a Broadway show β€” "Company" is onstage at Walton Arts Center every night this week. Get tickets starting at $42.

πŸ€ Watch basketball β€” The Arkansas Razorbacks men play at Texas A&M at 6pm today. Watch.

  • The UA women also play A&M β€” at 7pm Thursday. Watch.

πŸŽ₯ Learn about Black history β€” See an installment in The Momentary's film series β€” the documentary "Summer of Soul" β€” free at 7pm Wednesday.

Thanks to Fadel Allassan for editing and James Gilzow for copy editing this newsletter.

🎧 Alex is listening to the new Idles album.

πŸ¦ƒ Worth is reading about asexuality in the animal kingdom.

⏳ Short on time? Check out Axios' 1 big thing podcast dropping every Thursday.