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Million-dollar Walton family grant helps Arkansas college launch bike tech program

Published April 14, 2021

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (BRAIN) — The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation has made a $1 million-plus grant to a community college here, allowing the school to launch an accredited two-semester Bicycle Assembly and Repair Technician program, with classes planned for the fall 2021 semester.

The program is accredited by the Bicycle Industry Employers Association, which also plans to accredit a program at a Minneapolis college this fall. The BIEA hopes to have programs in seven U.S. regions by 2024. The group announced in December that its second program would be at Bentonville's NorthWest Arkansas Community College.

NWACC announced Wednesday that its Workforce & Economic Development Division was recently awarded a $1,030,958 grant from the Foundation. It said it would use the grant for a phased rollout of the program, including renovating an existing facility on campus to become the NWACC Cycling and Technician Education Center (C-TEC).

The rollout will begin this fall once the program is officially approved by the Arkansas Division of Higher Education. A decision on approval is expected April 23.

The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation is distinct from the larger and better known Walton Family Foundation. It is set up specifically to make grants to public colleges and universities in Arkansas. Representatives from those institutions serve on the Foundation's board. The Foundation is supported by Walton Enterprises, LLC and made grants totaling about $14 million in 2019. Steuart Walton, the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton and a well-known investor in bike-related companies and projects, is the Foundation's chairman. 

"This program (at NWACC) has the potential to become a training hub for cycling and technician workforce development not just regionally but nationally in a growing industry," Walton said in a release Wednesday. "As more people turn to cycling as a sport, for recreation or exercise, the development of this curriculum is timely and important to the economic advancement of our region."

The program will award Technical Certificates in Bicycle Assembly and Repair. The certificate is built into the college's Associate of Applied Science in General Technology, allowing a student to transfer their associate degree to the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith's to pursue an online Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership.

A renovated facility will house the bicycle technician program and offer a learning and lab space for future BIEA-accredited programs and for community members. Plans for the center include space for changing and hygiene stations for those cycling to campus, a bicycle repair station for those cyclists using a nearby trailhead, and a skills course or singletrack trail for bike testing. 

Initially the program's classroom/bay/shop area will be housed in the campus' physical plant building, which currently holds the college’s maintenance offices and equipment. In the next phase, the college hopes to renovate the building in partnership with area stakeholders to develop a cycling and technician education center. The campus maintenance department already had plans to move to another building and the timing of the new bike tech program accelerated those plans. 

A college representative told BRAIN that the grant will provide salaries for three years for three new positions: a program director, project coordinator and outreach coordinator. The college is now accepting applications for these positions. The program director will teach courses and determine how many part-time faculty may be needed as the program grows.

NWACC President Dr. Evelyn E. Jorgenson said, "NWACC bicycle technician graduates will be career-ready professionals with the skills needed to meet challenges, think critically and serve customers, as well as have opportunities to further advance into areas of retail, research, manufacturing and engineering. We are excited and thankful to play an important training role in Bentonville, the mountain bike capital of the world." 

Fox Racing recently announced a three-year agreement to support the BIEA as it expands its programs nationally. The organization is hoping to raise $300,000 toward its goal. 

More information at and

Burns Hall on the NWACC campus.
Topics associated with this article: Retailer education, Advocacy/Non-profits

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