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The Importance of Community Support

Guest blog post by Wayne Miller, executive director of The Venture Center

Gratitude. Inspiration. Determination.

When I think of Arkansans, these words immediately come to mind. Now, a month into social distancing that’s reshaped our community and battered our economy, I’ve seen Arkansans bring real help for friends, families, strangers and the backbone of our community - our small businesses. While there is uncertainty across many metrics today, we know that people Love Little Rock and strive to support each other here.

While this is rightfully at the forefront of everyone’s minds, I wanted to take a moment to remind the community of the way it helped in extraordinary ways before the health crisis ever came to Arkansas. Back in January, The Venture Center and its community partners welcomed the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator program companies to Little Rock. Many of our Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Little Rock Regional Chamber friends were part of the unofficial welcome committee. They went on to invest their time and energy into the companies during the months to follow.

As a result of community investment, the companies soared. They grew, learned, honed their skills and they did it all right here in Little Rock, AR. The ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator was successful any way you look at it. Still, from company growth to company founders delightfully experiencing the Little Rock and the Arkansas we love, we know that together, we knocked it out of the park.

That’s worthy of celebration on its own, but also consider this. The ICBA stands for the Independent Community Bankers of America, an organization representing the interest of community banks comprising 99% of all banks in the U.S. and employing over 750,000 people. Today, community banks are challenged in unprecedented ways and many of those challenges have solutions rooted in cutting-edge technologies. 

Each of the financial technology companies, all of which have now completed the accelerator program, saw ways to help community banks. They all immediately stepped up to offer free aid and accelerated deployments of their products and as a result are having enormous impacts for community banks and their customers. 

None of this would have been possible without the generosity and support of our welcoming, savvy and inspired community in Little Rock and throughout Arkansas. Your help was and will continue to be critical to successfully executing these programs. And while we didn’t have our usual in-person live Demo Day, we did have our first live Virtual Demo Day - and I’m happy to report that it was a hit! Little Rock took center stage as we hosted viewers from Israel, India, Canada and all across the country. We loved seeing our Little Rock Regional Chamber and Arkansas Economic Development Commission friends at the online event and can’t wait to see you all soon for an in-person celebration. If you missed the Virtual Demo Day, you can watch it here.

Our current landscape is difficult to traverse, but the spirit of our city and state is strong and the work we do together truly makes a big difference. Thank you for supporting the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator program and for playing a role in advancements that are truly making our city, state, country and the world a better place. 


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