DoctorPreneur, by John James, M.D.
I grew up in Benton, the county seat of Saline County, Arkansas. Northwest Arkansas is home now, but I’ll always have a fond place in my heart for Benton.
Despite operating a technology business in Fayetteville, we couldn’t be successful without the influence of Saline County. Despite being 200 miles away, 15 of our 60 employees are transplants from Saline County. Four of the seven members of our leadership team are graduates of Benton High School. The CEO (me), the CTO (Jim Kane), the VP of Operations (Ryan Green) and the VP of Data (Adam Fite) were all Fighting Panthers.
I love Saline County, but I was shocked to see my childhood hometown on Business Insider’s list of 20 American counties that could potentially be the next Silicon Valley. Saline County was number eight on the list. Even more surprising, Arkansas’ Craighead County was NUMBER ONE.
While it’s extremely unlikely that either Saline or Craighead County will supplant Silicon Valley as the business technology leader of the free world, the Internet makes it a remote possibility. The Internet is the great field leveler. It allows Arkansas kids like me to start a company, raise venture capital, and compete on even footing against the world’s greatest companies.
I can’t speak to Craighead County, but Saline County likely made the list due to its longstanding dedication to education.
It may seem like nepotism, but my company hires people from Benton because they are hard workers with a passion for learning. They had this passion instilled in them by teaching legends like Judy Parker, Linda Miller, Carol Perry, Theda White, Ray Barton, Polly Caldwell, Dorcas Holicer, Richard Hillman and Ken Carpenter.
These teachers changed my life, and impacted the lives of all my Benton-born employees. Without their influence, my company would not exist.
As the article notes, the field leveling effect of the Internet gives Arkansas a chance to become a technology hub. For Arkansas to capitalize on this opportunity, we need a big supply of top notch talent to fill the rosters of cutting edge companies. Thanks to dozens of great school districts like Benton, we’re well on our way.
For additional commentary on the list, see this previous Innovate Arkansas blog post.
(John James, M.D., is a physician turned serial Internet entrepreneur. His latest venture is Acumen Holdings, a rapidly growing ecommerce company based in Fayetteville. He’s never worn cowboy boots, though he sells hundreds of pairs every day on his newest store.)