The Arkansas Photonics Industry Alliance held its first statewide conference on September 25 in Little Rock. The primary focus of the meeting was centered on economic development through growing and strengthening the state's 13 photonics companies.
The photonics industry employs over 500 people throughout the state of Arkansas, delivers over $27 million in wages, and contributes over $77M of economic impact.
The newly formed alliance, the 11th optics and photonics cluster in the United States, will help publicly identify the 13 manufacturers and their academic peers as a single industry for the first time, according to alliance co-founders and SPIE Members Walter Burgess and Kirk Warden. Burgess is vice president of Power Technology, a laser diode manufacturer, and Warden is vice president at LaCroix Optical, which manufactures custom, precision optics.
Photonics industry representatives, members of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and other state officials were in attendance.
"The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is proud to support the Arkansas Photonics Industry Alliance. The photonics industry is a very important, enabling technology in Arkansas with tremendous growth potential," said Tom Chilton, AEDC's Director of Technology Development.
Paul McManamon, former SPIE President and co-chairman of the National Academy of Sciences study "Harnessing Light 2", was the keynote speaker. He emphasized the importance of photonics in the United States and discussed the National Photonics Initiative in depth.
Following the meeting, McManamon commented: "There seemed to be strong interest in developing the appropriate workforce education programs in Arkansas, especially at the two-year technician level. I doubt most states would have received this level of interest across the various economic development agencies."