Arkansas Creates Future Mobility Advisory Council

The group intends to build Arkansas into a leader in emerging forms of transportation.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announces the formation of the Future Mobility Advisory Council. [Courtesy: Arkansas Governor’s Office]

On Tuesday, Arkansas state officials and members of its private sectors took steps to establish the state as a leading destination for companies that want to build future mobility technologies. In a press conference, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the formation of the Future Mobility Advisory Council, geared toward attracting businesses and innovators to Arkansas to develop the state into a global giant in next-generation transportation.

For its chairperson, the council appointed Cyrus Sigari, co-founder of UP Partners, and an executive chairman of JetAviva. Other companies with seats on the committee include Walmart (NYSE: WMT), Canoo (NASDAQ: GOEV), J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT), Entergy (NYSE: EAI), the Arkansas Trucking Association, the Arkansas Auto Dealers Association, the University of Arkansas, Southern Arkansas University Tech, and several state agencies.

The council will cover all mobility sectors, including drones, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and other emerging technology in this space.

"The goal of the council that I am creating by executive order today is to ensure that we are prepared for electrification, autonomous vehicles, and advanced air mobility to integrate into our existing infrastructure and create an environment in which they can thrive," Hutchinson said at the ceremony. 

Hutchinson outlined his priorities for the council. They include:

  • Reviewing pertinent legal policies that inhibit innovation 
  • Outlining programs that will fast-track adoption of the next-gen technology
  • Securing federal funding sources
  • Developing education and workforce initiatives to create jobs

Sigari highlighted the appeal of the burgeoning air mobility sector to the state. 

"From using drones to delivering emergency medical supplies…to flying cars [that will] allow us to explore this great state in the sky with an ease we've only dreamed up—the time is right now for Arkansas to stake its claim to lead this exciting new future," Sigari said.

Betting on Arkansas

In a subsequent press release, UP Partners highlighted a privately commissioned NEXA Capital Partners’ report that predicts the advanced air mobility (AAM) market will bring over 4,000 new jobs to Arkansas and create $3.6 billion in economic activity related stimulus for the state by 2045.

If Arkansas can attract an AAM OEM center, the same report says it could create more than 7,000 full-time jobs, leading to an additional $9.9 billion in economic activity and adding approximately 25 percent to Arkansas's existing aerospace sector.

For context, 20 percent of Arkansas' total exports in 2020 came from the aviation sector, including civil aircraft products, engines, and parts. 

Sigari called the state an "ideal geographic location," and said he envisioned it could be the headquarters for companies seeking to build robust supply chains and leverage attractive government incentives. 

Chad Causey, executive director of Arkansas Aerospace and Defense Alliance (AADA), said in a statement that Arkansas was a "natural fit" to support the AAM sector.  

"With a highly skilled aerospace and defense workforce and a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit, Arkansas can and will capitalize on this future growth."

Indeed, companies have already begun using these emerging technologies. In 2021, Walmart announced its drone delivery service, collaborating with drone companies Zipline and DroneUp. 

"We're excited to experience the benefits of next-generation transportation, including its convenience, cost-savings, and sustainable impact on communities,” John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., said in a statement. "Our collaboration with both private and public sectors has not only helped us pioneer the use of autonomous vehicles and drones in the state of Arkansas, but in the retail industry as a whole, and it's only just the beginning." 

Arkansas officials also hope that these new technologies will increase enrollment in the state’s colleges. 

University of Arkansas engineering professor Alan Mantooth highlighted his school's unique research capabilities around electrical and aerospace engineering, and welcomed future students looking to be a part of the state's new initiative.

"The UofA is uniquely positioned to support this effort with the ability to produce world-class applied research and innovations in power electronics, energy systems, logistics and supply chain, and cybersecurity. 

“[We] are proud to be a part of this effort to support the state's emerging smart mobility sector, providing research, technologies, and well-prepared workforce," Mantooth said.

The council is required to provide an initial report to Hutchinson by November 30.

Michael Wildes holds a master’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he worked at the university’s flight department as a Flight Check Airman, Assistant Training Manager, and Quality Assurance Mentor. He holds MEI, CFI & CFII ratings. Follow Michael on Twitter @Captainwildes.

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