Governor Creates Council to Support Growth of Advanced Mobility Sector in Arkansas

The new group will identify barriers and resources for developing the industry in the Natural State.

a white, driverless delivery truck with Walmart and Gatik's logos on the side of it turns onto a busy road at lighted intersection
Gov. Hutchinson has created a council to support the advanced mobility industry and attract companies like Gatik who’ve partnered with Walmart to create fully driverless deliveries. Courtesy photo.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson today announced the creation of the Arkansas Council on Future Mobility, which he said will lay the foundation for the state’s leadership in the transportation industry for decades to come. Hutchinson announced his intention to establish the group during his final State of the State address last week.

“The goal of the council, which I am creating by executive order today, is to ensure we are prepared for electrification, autonomous vehicles and advanced air mobility to integrate into our existing infrastructure, and create an environment in which they can thrive,” he said.

The council is tasked with identifying state laws and regulations that create a barrier to the development of advanced mobility within Arkansas, and making recommendations for policies and programs to support and facilitate the development of electrification and advanced mobility. 

Additionally, council members will develop priorities and recommendations for securing federal resources, and analyze the state’s education and workforce training to see what more needs to be done to encourage and provide the workforce required in advanced mobility. 

Hutchinson wants Arkansas to become a leader in the industry and the state is already attracting the attention of advanced mobility companies. Envirotech Vehicles, Inc., today announced Osceola will be the site of a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Envirotech is a provider of new zero-emission, purpose-built electric vehicles. The company has purchased an approximately 580,000-square-foot facility that’s expected to create more than 800 jobs in Mississippi County.

“We are confident that Osceola has the perfect business climate and local workforce to allow us to see growth and success in the region as the state’s first commercial electric vehicle manufacturer,” Envirotech CEO Phillip Oldridge said in a statement. “This, and the plant’s location near the Mississippi River with access to the port of Osceola, will be vital as we position EVT to bring new innovation and technology advancements to the state.”

Osceola is also home to United States Steel Corporation’s “next-generation highly sustainable and technologically advanced steel mill.” Earlier this month, the company broke ground on the $3 billion steelmaking facility, which will be the most advanced in North America and the largest private project in the history of Arkansas, according to a press release. The new plant will be adjacent to U.S. Steel’s Big River Steel and it’s expected to bring 900 jobs to the area along with thousands of construction jobs. Officials estimate the project will be complete by 2024, at which point the project will apply to become LEED certified.

Osceola has a majority-minority population, so many BIPOC individuals could benefit from the region’s job growth. More than 51 percent of Osceola’s residents are African American and Hispanics account for nearly 7 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census.

Northeast Arkansas is not the only part of the state attracting advanced mobility companies. Walmart has partnered with Gatik to test autonomous vehicles in Northwest Arkansas. Electric vehicle manufacturer Canoo is moving its headquarters from California to Bentonville and is establishing an R&D center in Fayetteville. The move is expected to bring at least 545 high-paying jobs to the region.

Gov. Hutchinson has appointed Canoo CEO Tony Aquila to the new Arkansas Council on Future Mobility. Aquila will serve alongside more than a dozen government leaders and private sector leaders in the area of advanced mobility including Cyrus Sigari, co-founder of UP.Partners, a venture capital firm supporting companies that are creating advanced mobility technologies. Signari is the council’s inaugural chair.

“Our collective hope is that Arkansas will become the shining beacon on the hill for others to follow as a model for public-private partnership and accelerating the use of next generation mobility technologies for all,” Sigari said.

The council must deliver a report to the governor no later than Nov. 30 of this year.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.