Tech Depot

Architect rendering of the Newport Tech Depot IT Apprenticeship Academy.

NEWPORT — The United States Economic Development Administration has awarded a $2.5 million grant to Newport’s Tech Depot IT Apprenticeship Academy.

The grant will be matched with $625,000 from the Newport Economic Development Commission to build a 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility to house Tech Depot.

“This is a huge day for economic development in Newport,” said Mayor David Stewart. “The new Tech Depot facility will allow our citizens to access the training and skills to work with any company in the world, and often they will be able to work remotely and continue to live and raise their families here.”

About three weeks ago, Gov. Asa Hutchinson cut the ribbon on the Tech Depot collaboration in downtown Newport. The first apprentices and participating companies are currently being established by the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS) and the curriculum is being finalized by ASU-Newport.

“This is another huge step forward for apprenticeship programs in Arkansas,” said Bill Yoder, executive director of ACDS. “We have experience in IT and apprenticeships, and ASU-Newport has experience in technical curriculum development and delivery, and now with this facility we have all the tools for world-class IT training in Newport, Arkansas.”

Tech Depot is beginning its operation in the historic Iron Mountain Train Depot in downtown Newport and will move to the new facility upon its completion.

“The partnership between the Newport Economic Development Commission, ASU-Newport and the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences is allowing us to support our existing industries by helping them grow the information technology talent they need right here in Arkansas,” said Jon Chadwell, executive director of the NEDC. “In addition, we believe that having this resource to develop IT talent will attract other companies who are having challenges finding qualified employees for these positions.”

The new Tech Depot facility will contain apprenticeship training rooms, an IT co-working space, an IT incubator for entrepreneurs, shared office space for companies who use the facility and an apprenticeship testing center.

Anticipated construction time for the building is 18 to 24 months.

Sandra Massey, chancellor of ASU-Newport, said, “ASU-Newport is proud to be part of this great new opportunity for Newport and all of Northeast Arkansas. We welcome the opportunity to support and develop the technical skills of the incredible people who call Arkansas their home.”

The Arkansas Congressional Delegation worked with the City of Newport and the grant writing team at White River Planning and Development District to secure the grant from the Economic Development Administration.

“The CARES Act continues to provide vital support and assistance to Arkansas as our state deals with the effects of COVID-19,” said U.S. Sen. John Boozman. “This grant will help Newport and the regional economy by training residents to fill in-demand jobs and creating further opportunities for economic growth in the community.”

Arkansas’ leaders understand that developing high-skill talent in rural communities will help preserve these cities in an ever-changing world.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford said, “The demand for a highly skilled information technology workforce is only growing, and it is vital that we are providing the proper education and training for students to fill this demand. This investment not only helps provide a critical resource to local Arkansans in the technology field, it creates an innovative training program that will attract business professionals nationwide.”

The inaugural classes in the Tech Depot will have more than 40 apprentices participating and will support companies located in Newport, Batesville and Jonesboro. The partners anticipate classes growing to support more than 100 apprentices every six months by the end of the third year.

Any company with IT employee needs can either send a worker for apprenticeship training or work with the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences to locate an apprentice to hire and train at the Tech Depot. Individuals interested in IT careers can put their names into the apprenticeship pool of candidates that will be offered to companies for consideration. For more information visit www.tech depotnow.com.

Tech Depot is the centerpiece of Newport’s Downtown Technology Park, known as DTech Park. DTech Park, operating out of the Newport Economic Development Commission offices, will assist technology companies in securing a remote work location, finding office space, securing a partnership with the Tech Depot or in locating incentives to start or expand their technology-based business.

“Rural sourcing, which to me means finding our talent in rural America rather than offshore, can help companies with security and profitability while also growing the small towns and cities that have been America’s backbone for centuries,” said G.B. Cazes, principal of the Emory Group, which is consulting on the project and assisting with development and logistics. To learn more about Newport’s Downtown Technology Park visit www.dtechpark.com.

Tech Depot and DTech Park are bringing IT opportunities to rural Arkansas. To get involved please complete the contact form on the website or call the Newport Economic Development Commission at 870-523-1009. Further questions and inquiries can be forwarded to Jon Chadwell at director@newport aredc.org.