- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An international development organization that traces its roots to the late Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller announced Wednesday it’s combining forces with another Arkansas nonprofit that was formed to help budding entrepreneurs.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub will join Winrock International, officials from the central Arkansas nonprofits announced at a news conference. The Hub’s executive director, state Rep. Warwick Sabin, will become Winrock International’s senior director of U.S. programs under the arrangement.

“This comprehensive combination of our organizations is truly exciting and dynamic because it will both elevate and amplify the impact of the Innovation Hub, while bringing a new dimension and energy to Winrock’s activities in Arkansas and the United States,” Sabin said.

The Hub, which launched three years ago, offers training in areas such as computer programming and offers entrepreneurs ways to connect with potential investors for their companies and ideas. It has equipment that members can use - including 3-D printers and a wood and metal shop - to create prototypes of their products. The facility also offers after-school and summer programs for youth.

Winrock International employs 1,000 people, with 200 in the United States, and has 120 programs in 46 countries aimed at helping the disadvantaged, increasing economic opportunity and sustaining natural resources. The Hub, which employs 12 people, will continue its operations under Winrock’s U.S programs group without any immediate changes to its staffing or programs, the groups said.

“Today in many ways is a new day for Winrock,” Rodney Ferguson, Winrock’s CEO and president, said. “It’s a reaffirmation of our commitment to Arkansas and this region, and it’s a thank you for all of you who have been part of our network for so many years.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson praised the merger, saying it would help the state build on its economic development efforts.

“It’s going to give us a great working relationship that’s going to help us build the foundation and to continue to build the momentum on job creation and innovation,” Hutchinson said.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo


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