Arkansas is a hidden diamond in the United States. From breathtaking natural beauty to the low cost of living, it’s no surprise First Orion chose Little Rock for its headquarters.
The economy is excellent for both business and employees – the Natural State is the 4th most affordable state to live in and the 7th cheapest state to do business in. Conway – our founding city – was listed in Forbes as being one of seven places in the US so cheap you can afford to be an entrepreneur. Little Rock, our capital city, was ranked #1 place to live in small to midsized cities by Kiplinger Magazine. And the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers statistical area is among the top 25 best-performing cities in the nation, as ranked by the Milken Institute. Along with having amazing cities, we also have gorgeous National and State parks, including our own diamond mine!
But Arkansas isn’t just a beautiful and affordable place to live. It has a fast-growing tech industry with international corporations setting up bases all across the state. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs are growing faster in Arkansas than the national average. This growing tech industry spans across many sectors, so the if you are working on that STEM degree, Arkansas is a booming place to be!
Graphic pulled from AEDC 2017 Tech Industry Report. Full report available at http://info.arkansasedc.com/tech-report
We asked our CEO, Charles Morgan, why the tech sector is growing so fast in Arkansas. “The tech community in Arkansas is multiplying because we have a lot of catching up to do. Arkansas businesses are now running on technology and data, and First Orion is the first amongst them. In return, it is just good business for First Orion to do everything we can to develop new tech talent for the growing industry.” At First Orion, we don’t just find good talent. We help create talent by developing critical skills and knowledge through our technical apprenticeship programs. Fun fact: our apprenticeship program has even been certified by the U.S. Department of Labor. Every First Orion employee has access to Safari training courses and is encouraged to spend a portion of their time exploring educational opportunities. We even hired a Director of Learning and Development to facilitate these opportunities!
As the tech has grown in Arkansas, so has the community’s thirst for knowledge. Abby Sims, one of the minds behind the annual Little Rock Tech Fest, has been a driving force in connecting professionals in the central Arkansas tech community. Tech Fest is focused on professional software developers’ needs and has experienced persistent growth since its inception. According to Sims, “Little Rock Tech Fest has seen wonderful growth in the last six years. We went from a free 1-day event in 2013 through 2015 to a paid 2-day event in 2016. Our growth has been a steady 20% year over year. This year, we had 558 people at our event.”
We also asked her why she believed the tech community was growing so fast in Arkansas. She said, “Demand for our talents has definitely grown, but I believe the tech community has been here all along. I feel it had been siloed within employers, city limits, professional organizations, and schools. Platforms have grown in the last decade that enabled us to be more social with each other and add people into groups. Things like Twitter, Facebook, Eventbrite, Meetup along with a surge in coffee shops and co-working locations have all contributed to shining a light on these silos and bring us together in new ways.”
Arkansas is an opportunity state for STEM-focused students and young professionals. At First Orion, we’re committed to recruiting the best of the best, and we’ve hired people from all across the globe. Our future headquarters will allow us to continue to grow – and for the city-dweller types, there are apartments, restaurants, bars and coffee shops within walking distance in the heart of the Argenta neighborhood.
So if you’re wondering why someone might choose to grow their tech startup in Arkansas, just ask! You get stellar scenery, your salary goes farther, and there are multiple opportunities to hang with a thriving tech community. For us, Arkansas is the perfect state to call home.