LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday he has formed a 19-member panel to study opportunities to grow Arkansas’ computer science and data analytics business sector.
The Blue Ribbon Commission to Report on the Economic Competitiveness of Computing and Data Analytics in Arkansas is tasked with producing a report, due in fall 2017, addressing opportunities for growth in niche areas and the needs and challenges of businesses and the talent pipeline.
Entrepreneur Charles Morgan and Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, will be the commission’s co-chairmen.
Members will include:
• Jerry Adams of Arkansas Research Alliance.
• Donald Bobbitt of the University of Arkansas System.
• Charles Welch of the Arkansas State University System.
• Maria Markham of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
• Andrew Clyde of Murphy USA.
• Ed Drilling of AT&T Arkansas.
• John Haley, Circumference Group.
• Walter Smiley, formerly of Systematics.
• Todd Hillman of MISO.
• Rich Howe of Inuvo.
• Sonja Hubbard of E-Z Mart.
• Gaylon Lawrence of The Lawrence Group.
• John Roberts of J.B. Hunt.
• Jerry Jones of Acxiom.
• Monica McGurk of Tyson Foods.
• Warren Stephens of Stephens Inc.
• Clay Johnson of Wal-Mart Stores.
The commission is scheduled to begin meeting late this month.
“This esteemed group of Arkansans, through their expertise and guidance, will allow the state to address the opportunities and obstacles we must address to create an environment in which our technology sector can thrive,” Hutchinson said in a statement.
Computer coding is now taught in every public high school in Arkansas, under an initiative launched by Hutchinson in 2015. He said Friday the creation of the commission is the next step in the initiative and will allow colleges and universities and workforce development agencies to address the specific needs of companies in the computer science and data analytics sector.