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Global solutions along the Arkansas River

From Little Rock's Mark Grobmyer and Charles, Prince of Wales?

THINKING BIG: Mark Grobmyer points to a map showing the sites where the $220 million Global Studies Institute and attendant facilities would be located.
  • THINKING BIG: Mark Grobmyer points to a map showing the sites where the $220 million Global Studies Institute and attendant facilities would be located.

Arkansas has a history of winning long shots, from Bill Clinton to Sam Walton and his little five-and-dime up in Bentonville. Given that, while it might be tempting to dismiss lawyer Mark Grobmyer's plan for the Global Studies Institute and the Global Technology Expo Deployment Demonstration (or GTED2) as pie in the sky, stranger things have happened.

The projects, which Grobmyer said could cost up to $250 million if all phases are completed, would include a complex on both sides of the Arkansas River to showcase, demonstrate and distribute new sustainable technologies to fight poverty, hunger, drought and disease in the developing world. The complex would include the Global Solutions Institute east of Heifer International headquarters, a library and museum complex north of Heifer, an exhibition hall to showcase emerging technologies across the Arkansas River in North Little Rock and a half-dozen other major facilities.

Grobmyer said the idea for the Global Solutions Institute grew out of a December 2012 meeting in Little Rock by the Club de Madrid, a group of over 100 former heads of state, and the P80 Group Foundation, an organization started by Charles, Prince of Wales, that seeks to steer investment from the world's largest pension and sovereign wealth funds into technologies that could influence climate change or sustainable development. "The premise of this whole thing is, while there are 240 tech parks in the United States and there's lots and lots of incubator innovation facilities, there is no facility anywhere that's totally dedicated to deploying technologies. That's what makes this unique and different," Grobmyer said.

The first phase of the project, which could be completed this year, will involve upgrading exhibits in the Heifer Global Village Building and creating a series of functional technology demonstration stations on an island in the Arkansas River close to the Clinton Presidential Center. A bridge was built last year to the island, which has been set aside as a city park. "The idea is that island will be a place where you can have exhibits of things you would actually use in a developing country," Grobmyer said. "We'll partner on that with the Alliance of Small Island States, which is a group of 42 island countries. They need to have water purification stations and micro-grid electric systems and flood resistant housing. The idea is we'd have examples of those technologies on the island." Grobmyer said the land for the exhibits would be leased from the city, or else the exhibits might be operated by the city as a way to provide power and water to other facilities on the island.

Grobmyer said that with the global fundraising effort recently launched, $1.5 million in cash and services has been raised for the project. When fundraising goals are met, he said, the project should take five to seven years to complete.

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