Entrepreneurship Award Goes to Council, ARK Challenge

The Northwest Arkansas Council and The ARK Challenge were recognized today with a top award given out by the world’s largest professional organization for economic development practitioners.

An Excellence in Economic Development Silver Award for Entrepreneurship was presented to the Northwest Arkansas Council and The ARK Challenge at the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

“When we started focusing on entrepreneurs about three years ago, one of our primary objectives was to create a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem for Northwest Arkansas,” said Mike Harvey, chief operating officer for the Northwest Arkansas Council, a private nonprofit organization that works to improve economic opportunity and quality of life in the region. “This validates some of the progress we’ve made. It’s a special recognition.”

The entrepreneurship award goes to programs, policies, or initiatives that nurture and support individuals or emerging small businesses to develop their ideas, products, and/or services into viable, competitive businesses.

“Economic development efforts have long been a keystone in the quest to bolster the economy and improve quality of life in every locality across the country,” said Bill Sproull, the International Economic Development Council’s chair and president and CEO of the Richardson (Texas) Chamber of Commerce. “As the nation continues to tackle challenges in the midst of global uncertainty, these efforts have taken on an even greater significance. With this award, we laud trendsetting organizations like the Northwest Arkansas Council for leading the charge.”

The Northwest Arkansas Council, The ARK Challenge and other partners began collaborating on projects to support entrepreneurs in early 2012. The Council works to support regional economic development and much of its attention goes toward assisting startups.

The ARK Challenge is a mentorship-driven accelerator program for technology startups. It holds weeks-long boot camps to assist startups in the development of their companies and it’s a full member of the Global Accelerator Network.

The partnership has helped draw national attention to opportunities for entrepreneurs in Northwest Arkansas. A CNNMoney headline referred to Northwest Arkansas as a “hotbed for startups.” Fast Company magazine noted that Northwest Arkansas-based Walmart had “created a cottage industry of small-town retail innovators,” and Entrepreneur magazine put Northwest Arkansas in its list of “nine cities you wouldn’t think are hubs for tech startups,” joining Portland, Omaha, Las Vegas, Kansas City and four other places.

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. The awards honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban and rural communities.

Pictured: Kim Davis, Jeannette Balleza Collins, Jeff Amerine and Mike Harvey of the Northwest Arkansas Council and The ARK Challenge accepted the Excellence in Economic Development Silver Award for Entrepreneurship at the International Economic Development Council's annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas.