TULSA, Okla. (KNWA/KFTA) — Governors Kevin Stitt and Asa Hutchinson of Oklahoma and Arkansas respectively, came together Wednesday morning to position the two-state region as a national hub for advanced mobility.

According to a news release, the collaborative effort to support the industry, which includes, drones, electric and autonomous vehicles, battery manufacturing, and transportation solutions, will create new research and testing space, support local AM startups, attract new companies, and convene industry corporations to test and scale new technologies.

The release notes the region houses unique urban-rural airspace, legacy aerospace, logistics, and retail industries, robust manufacturing workforces, and top-tier university research and military assets, which makes it positioned to establish itself as a national leader in AM.

Efforts to grow the industry are projected to support the creation of up to 55,000 new jobs in careers such as software engineering, cybersecurity analytics, drone piloting, vehicle maintenance, and mechanical and industrial engineers, the release says. According to the analysis, average earnings in AM are approximately 50% higher compared to other industries in Arkansas and Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma has a legacy of leadership in aerospace and I am thrilled with the innovation we are seeing in research and development in autonomous systems and advanced air mobility. I am proud of the work being done by our Aerospace and Autonomous Systems Council, our universities, corporations and entrepreneurs around our great state in advanced mobility technologies. This partnership gives us the momentum we need for this region to lead the nation into the future of mobility.

Gov. Stitt

I have seen enough of space-age mobility and technology in Arkansas to know that drones and autonomous vehicles are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Arkansas is rich with business and technology entrepreneurs who are fearless in their pursuit of the future. This partnership will accelerate the work on advanced mobility and further enhance our region’s reputation as a leader in technological innovation.

Gov. Hutchinson

In February 2022, Gov. Hutchinson launched the Arkansas Council on Future Mobility, laying the groundwork for this new bi-state AM initiative. The council is chaired by aviator, investor, and entrepreneur, Cyrus Sigari, considered one of the world’s foremost experts on the future of mobility.

The announcement of this new cross-border initiative follows the recent UP.Summit – the “Davos of mobility” – held June 6-8 in Bentonville Ark. The annual gathering convenes the world’s top investors, executives, startups and founders to discuss everything from battery-electric and autonomous aircraft, drones, electric and autonomous ground vehicles, and ground breaking space technologies. The UP.Summit is co-hosted by mobility-focused venture capital firm UP.Partners, Tom and Steuart Walton, and Ross Perot Jr.

Highlights of this joint effort include:

  • Partnering with Tulsa Innovation Labs to establish a “Launch Pad” at the Helmerich Research Center at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa to fuel research and commercialization to drive innovation to market and establish home-grown advanced mobility technologies, a complement to the recent “smart mobility” planning grant given to the University of Arkansas.
  • Building collaborative programming across the region’s unique urban-rural geographic assets such as FISTA Innovation Park in Lawton, Thaden Fieldhouse in Arkansas, and a 110 Nautical-Mile Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) corridor for testing and research currently under development in the Tulsa Region for unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • Convening industry leaders such as Walmart, QuikTrip, and J.B. Hunt to pilot emerging technologies.
  • Tapping institutions such Tulsa Community College, NWA Community College and Holberton School Tulsa to create accessible workforce development opportunities and a diverse AM talent pool across the region. 
  • Coordinating efforts across existing AM-focused economic development efforts, including Oklahoma Aerospace, Autonomous Systems, and Defense Council, and the Arkansas Council on Future Mobility. 

The release says the effort will also leverage the region’s rich ecosystem of academic and research partners, such as Oklahoma State University-Tulsa Helmerich Research Center, University of Oklahoma’s National Weather Center and Advanced Radar Center, University of Arkansas, Southern Arkansas University Tech, University of Tulsa and military installations Fort Sill and Tinker Air Force Base to build on their experience in the development of sensors, propulsion technology, hydrogen, and battery technologies.