This past week, we got some exciting news about a big expansion for a young, homegrown Arkansas business. First Orion, a Conway-based technology company, plans to hire 121 workers over the next two years to further develop its smartphone application known as PrivacyStar.
The average salary for these jobs will top $75,000 a year, and company leaders plan to hire Arkansans to fill the positions. These are the types of knowledge-based, high-paying jobs that can elevate the standard of living in our State.
PrivacyStar gives consumers more control over the privacy of their phones. Users can better track and block unwanted calls, and unwanted telemarketers can be reported directly to the Federal Trade Commission. Already, one-million people have bought and downloaded PrivacyStar. Some of the new employees will help develop international versions of the app as it goes global in the coming months.
PrivacyStar is the latest example of how creative insight paired with technological know-how can create good jobs. When Hewlett-Packard chose to locate a new operations center in Conway in 2009, we proved that Arkansas has the skilled workers and ability to adapt to a changing technology sector. The success these companies have had in Arkansas illustrates the investments that come with a changing 21st-century economy.
These jobs, however, require constant pursuit. Technology changes rapidly, and causes shifts in the economy from year to year, and often month to month. For Arkansas to stay competitive, we must continue to strengthen the ties between our education system and the business community. What our students learn in college must have an actual application and relevance in the workforce.
For instance, PrivacyStar needs employees with skills in mobile-technology application development. These skills uniquely differ from those more commonly taught to fill other jobs in the computer-technology field, like database management. Nationwide, there is a demand for mobile software developers, so Arkansans who educate themselves in this discipline have the inside track to jobs with PrivacyStar.
More of Arkansas’s colleges and universities are working closely with industries to ensure that students gain the knowledge that will most benefit them in a tech-based job market. To cultivate future mobile Web designers, the University of Central Arkansas is building a new residential program that will bring together computer science, business and communications majors with the hope of inspiring new smartphone applications and other marketable technologies. This type of creative encouragement can help to ensure that Arkansas businesses adapt and flourish.
I speak often about Arkansas’s entrepreneurial success stories over the past 50 years. By continuing our efforts to link economic development and education, Arkansans can create more great American companies for the next 50 years. Students who possess better industry-specific skills and the drive to discover and create will lead Arkansas to unprecedented success in the future.