LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — December 13, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that Winrock International has been awarded a $576,302 grant for the Innovation Fund (I-Fund) through the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.
“Entrepreneurs use their skills and creativity to turn ideas into successful businesses serving customers in their local communities and beyond,” U.S. Senator John Boozman said. “This smart investment by the U.S. Department of Commerce will allow Winrock to expand its efforts to identify and support promising startups with the potential to transform life and industry in Arkansas.”
The grant will provide funding for a full range of services to Arkansas entrepreneurs and new startups. The services will be delivered through a proven proof-of-concept business accelerator program designed to assist teams and potential start-up companies across Arkansas.
“This is an exciting milestone in our continued efforts to spur entrepreneurship and job creation in Arkansas,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “With this new investment, more Arkansas innovators will have access to the resources they need to build successful businesses, create opportunities for Arkansans and contribute to a bright economic future for our state.”
The Innovation Hub at Winrock International launched the original I-Fund in 2016 with an initial investment of $1 million from IBERIABANK, and in 2017 the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) expanded that effort with an additional $1 million grant to create the Delta I-Fund, a first-of-its-kind accelerator for early-stage startups across the eight-state Delta region. This latest expansion of the program will specifically support Arkansas entrepreneurs by providing key training, mentoring and technical assistance to help them build businesses throughout the state.
“I’m inspired by Arkansas’s entrepreneurs and by Winrock’s work to cultivate job creators,” said U.S. Representative French Hill. “By empowering our entrepreneurs, we drive long-term economic growth that creates new, high-paying jobs. Congratulations to Winrock for receiving this grant, and I’m happy to continue to support their efforts in future applications or endeavors.”
This fifth cohort of Regional Innovation Strategies awardees expands the RIS portfolio to five new states and continues to build vibrant regional entrepreneurial economies. The awardees were selected from a pool of more than 230 applicants.
“I’m proud of the continued trust that the U.S. Department of Commerce places in Winrock to create sustainable economic growth in Arkansas,” said Winrock International President and CEO Rodney Ferguson. “With this expanded support, we will build upon our proven successes and equip more new businesses to thrive in Arkansas.”
The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, leads the Regional Innovation Strategies Program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. The program is authorized through the America COMPETES reauthorization Act of 2010, and has received dedicated appropriations since FY2014.