Conway’s New Breeding Ground for Entrepreneurs & Startups
The Conway Station was a centralized place in downtown Conway from which the city developed in the 19th century.
Now, another breeding ground for advancement has taken root just down the block at the Arnold Innovation Center, powered by Conway Corp, specifically for entrepreneurs and startups. AIC opened in late 2021 and has already become a game-changer for small business owners of Central Arkansas.
A Creative Hub Years in the Making
Plans for the Arnold Innovation Center were first announced at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting in 2017.
“The center’s mission will be to connect entrepreneurs with critical resources to create, launch and grow businesses creating jobs and wealth in our community,” said Johnny Adams, then-chair of the Conway Corp board of directors. “This amazing business incubator will have all the tools and connections necessary to help launch a scalable business.”
The AIC is named in honor of retired Conway Corp CEO Richard Arnold, who began working at Conway Corporation almost 40 years ago in 1978 in the data processing department, where he served as manager until his promotion to manager of finance and accounting. In 1996, he was named chief financial officer.
He was named Conway Corp’s chief executive officer in 1998, a position he held for 19 years.
“Richie’s leadership has positioned Conway as a creative hub for entrepreneurs,” Adams said when announcing plans for the AIC in 2017. “The Arnold Innovation Center will feature the latest in technology and provide a venue for developers, students and the wider community to engage directly with Conway Corp’s latest infrastructure upgrades, business tools and fastest digital data technology available.”
The building, located at Toad Suck Square in downtown Conway, was originally built for First State Bank and opened in August 1960 before becoming Conway City Hall in 1986. City Hall moved to the Federal Building in 2020. After a $2.7 million renovation of the building from Conway Corporation, the Arnold Innovation Center opened in late 2022.
“The innovation center will be the epicenter of Conway’s startup community,” Conway Corp CEO Bret Carroll said. "This is an ideal location from a technology standpoint and an historic one. It’s in the heart of the Data District and just a few steps from where almost 150 years ago, Conway’s original startups were launched.”
Empowering Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs
Conway Corp envisioned the AIC as an incubator with all the tools and connections necessary to launch a scalable business. A key part of that vision was the Conductor.
The Conductor is a public-private partnership between the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie. The Conductor empowers entrepreneurs and innovators through no-cost resources, such as one-on-one consultations, workshops and technical assistance, and programming, like its 0%-interest KIVA Loan Program and 10X Growth Accelerator.
The Conductor manages the AIC and offers coworking space, rented desks, meeting space, and event space for entrepreneurs. The space will also offer small, leasable office spaces in mid-2023. This gives business owners a space to launch and grow their businesses, with easy access to peers, technical assistance, subject matter experts, and meeting space.
Memberships, starting at $25 per month, are available now for founders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. The space allows for plenty of natural light, has a modern feel, and is adaptable to fit any startup's needs.
In addition to membership opportunities, the space is open to the public for consultations and specific events hosted by the Conductor. Upcoming events include Startup Stories, which tell the stories of local businesses, and webinars on the Entrepreneur Operating System, Managing Finances, and Marketing tactics.
For more information on the Arnold Innovation Center and Conductor programs, visit arconductor.org.