More than 250 global technology and mobility executives gathered this week in Bentonville at the UP.Summit first founded by aviation entrepreneur Cyrus Cigars in 2017. The annual invitation-only summit rotates annually between Bentonville, hosted by Tom and Steuart Walton, and Dallas / Fort Worth, led by Ross Perot Jr.
The event is sponsored by Walmart, Wisk, Airbus, Boeing and ARK Invest.
Leaders from more than two dozen companies will speak at the event Tuesday and Wednesday (June 7-8) at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The focus of this year’s summit is the future of transportation using technological advancements with a focus on cleaner, faster and cheaper mobility options on land, sea, air and in space.
Alice Walton, philanthropist and daughter of Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton, is a fan of mobility and welcomed the summit attendees to Crystal Bridges on Tuesday.
“When my family moved to Bentoville, there were about 2,000 people here. This museum we are in today was out of town. We lived in a dairy and Walmart wasn’t a national name, nor was JB Hunt or Tyson Foods. But this region has been looking for change, ”Walton said.
Walton said he believes the poorer the soil, the richer the people are as they have to be better and innovative to survive. He said that’s how he views Northwest Arkansas.
“The companies here know how to work together and support each other. The secret sauce of northwestern Arkansas is community, “Walton said.
He said more than 30 years ago the best business minds in the region formed the Northwest Arkansas Council with the initial goal of getting a greenfield airport outside Bentonville. He said the airport was key to the region’s ongoing growth and was the first greenfield airport built in 50 years when it opened in 1998. As for the Crystal Bridges Museum, Walton said it took several years to get his family aboard with his big dream, but they got close and agreed that the holy family land he is on should go for the public good.
“I didn’t really know how big it was going to get, but my mom always said give me the thing you love the most. As a child I always loved art and that’s how this museum was born, ”Walton said.
He said it was important to his family that the museums were community owned and that admission was always free so that there could be equal access to art for all.
“Crystal Bridges is the intersection of art, nature and architecture where American history is told,” Walton said. “I had no idea how big this dream could be, but we were expecting 100,000 to 200,000 visitors a year and in our first 10 years we welcomed over 6 million. We expect 1 million visitors this year. “
It has launched an open call for those who are visiting to return often and possibly stay, as people in the region know how to care for and support each other.
“I left here once, but I claimed it and I’m a come-backer,” Walton said.
He recently entrusted his museum oversight duties to Olivia Walton, the wife of his nephew Tom Walton, so he can focus on his next dream of transforming health care in the region and state with the Whole Health Institute coming to the grounds of Crystal Bridges in 2024.
In Tuesday’s morning session, several company executives spoke about the needs and challenges of innovation for the environment, automation and mobility. Innovation and pilot projects are being conducted on everything from Class 8 trucks that will use compressed natural gas to deliver long distances to drone deliveries to drones that make lifesaving blood deliveries in Rwanda.
Walmart operates the largest private truck fleet in the United States with over 10,000 tractors and 80,000 trailers operated by 12,000 drivers traveling an average of 100,000 miles per year. The retail giant is testing multiple technologies with multiple suppliers, and Fernando Cortez, Walmart’s senior vice president of transportation, said the retail is looking to reduce the carbon footprint of its entire fleet.
Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo said the drones have been able to move to places no other means of transport can and his company is helping solve logistical challenges across Africa by supplying blood, insulin, COVID-19 vaccines and other just-in-time drugs to clinics in Rwanda, Kenya and soon Nigeria, Japan and three US states, including Arkansas.
Zipline drones have safely flown 45 million miles and delivered seven million products. He said that every two minutes someone gets a Zipine delivery. Zipline partnered with Walmart last year to make drone deliveries from the Walmart Neighborhood Market store in Pea Ridge. He said the deliveries started with medical aid, but has since evolved to include 12,000 items in the shop and will soon be 28,000.
The partners also tested a robotic device from Serve Robotics that could take orders from the store to the drone flight station behind the store where they are transferred to the drone.
Rinaudo said drones can fly in all kinds of weather conditions, and while they offer some efficiency savings for US companies, their implications are far greater in countries like Rwanda and Kenya, where deliveries can be made. the difference between life and death.