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What's it going to take to build the desired "tech ecosystem" in NWA?


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Two interesting articles this week:


1.  "Northwest Arkansas turning into a tech hub": http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article/105734/northwest-arkansas-transforming-into-a-tech-hub


2.  "Walmart SVP Rick Webb: NWA needs employees educated in STEM": http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article/105733/wal-mart-svp-rick-webb-cites-need-in-nwa-for-employees-educated-in-stem-fields


It sound like there is a need to turn out hundreds if not thousands of tech employees here in NWA on a very regular basis.


What does NWA need to do that it isn't already to build this "ecosystem" as Dr. Webb calls it? 

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From the first article, before it goes to pay:



Akins is also the chairman of the NWA Technology Council, an organization that is trying to pump up the area’s technology sector through education and networking. A year ago, it held its first Tech Summit at the Hammons Center in Rogers. Akins, who expected maybe 150 people to attend, was surprised by a standing-room-only crowd of 400.

“We are definitely in a transition year in northwest Arkansas,” Akins said. “You are seeing a major shift in this area becoming a tech hub. The appetite is definitely here.”

Harvey said the technology sector is growing so fast that the demand for workers far outstrips the current supply. Northwest Arkansas has to commit to developing a local pipeline to produce “hundreds if not thousands” of technology workers annually.

“We’re about the see the next wave of information technology growth because the Internet is connected to everything,” Harvey said. “There’s going to be so much more opportunity for those types of people. At this point, everybody is scrambling. I can only imagine what it will look like in 10 years.”



From the second:




The demand for highly skilled workers in northwest Arkansas is part of the reason for the area’s rapid upgrade in culture. Museums, music venues, trails, restaurants are all meant to make the area more attractive — “make Bentonville a cooler place,” Webb said — to outside hires because local supply can’t keep up with demand.

“We’re short right now,” Webb said. “We can hire all that we can get. We’d love to hire here locally. We’re having to go literally around the country and around the world to hire people and bring them to northwest Arkansas. We need more talent.”


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NWA has everything it needs except young and highly trained technical talent. 


If the UofA was churning out hundreds of CS graduates every year, it's hard to imagine how bright the future could be for the tech ecosystem in NWA.


Yep, if the Walton Family Foundation and Walmart wanted to make a big impact on the availability of technology talent in NWA, they'd put some $$$ towards expanding those programs at the U of A.  Maybe they will soon.  Walmart has huge numbers of IT jobs which mostly are outsourced to California at the moment.  Imagine the impact of moving those jobs to NWA over time.  

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My husband and I are both in the IT field here in NWA. I can say I am glad to see this push because for my husband especially, who has a CS degree, the salary for developers in the area is really lacking when compared to the job markets a short drive away in St. Louis or Dallas. I think in order to gain a younger, fresher applicant pool those salary points will need to change for the better.

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