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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Arkansas's Future Business Leaders


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I recently attended the 11th Annual Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup Competition held in Little Rock. Each year, undergraduate and graduate students from Arkansas colleges and universities vie to see who will win this prestigious business-plan competition. The winners receive prize money to invest in their own start-up companies and go on to compete against winning students from Oklahoma and Nevada.

This event has become one of the premier competitions of its kind in America. It has generous support from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, as well as from businesses, individuals and universities. I am a great believer in the importance of entrepreneurship and education to the economic success of our State. Arkansas has a rich history of entrepreneurship. Our history of business success is built on the personal initiative of Arkansans whose ideas led to the creation of companies like Walmart, Tyson, Stephens, Murphy Oil, JB Hunt, and many others. Now we are looking for the next great Arkansas entrepreneurial success story.

This competition has already driven the creation of several Arkansas companies, a fact that makes us very proud. The continuing challenge for us as a State is to create the best business environment possible for current and future entrepreneurs to find success here at home.

Our colleges and universities are incubators of ideas and innovation. By giving students the education and tools necessary to apply their vision to the needs of our people, we can strengthen our future economic prosperity, and keep our most talented young people here in Arkansas.

While the Governor's Cup provides an opportunity to turn academic research into successful businesses, it is also important to foster the entrepreneurial spirit before students ever arrive on campus.

More and more, Arkansas schools provide tangible connections between the knowledge students obtain in class and practical, real-world applications. We must show our students that their science, English, and economics classes have a direct impact on their lives beyond school.

For the past six years, the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation has sponsored the Youth Entrepreneurship Showcase for students in the 5th through 8th grades. Students compete in a business-plan competition, learning how to create a business by applying what they learn in school to real-world settings.

This year, a second component was added to the competition, incorporating high-school students. Y.E.S. 2.0 encourages students to harness technology in their business plans. These programs provide a better understanding of how important education is to later success.

Our future workforce will need specialized skills and training to compete globally. This requires a solid education from early childhood through higher education and an emphasis on the technology-based skills that provide high-paying jobs. But our future workforce also needs to know that their dreams can be realized right here in Arkansas, and we want to provide them with the knowledge, support, opportunities, and encouragement to help them succeed.

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