In The News

Simmons Name Appears on Arkansas’ Tallest Building

The new logo of Simmons First National Bank appeared over the weekend on the south side of Arkansas’ tallest building in Little Rock, an installation timed specifically so that a photo of the high-profile branding could be shown at the Simmons First National Corp. annual shareholders meeting Tuesday night at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

The dinner meeting hosted by the company’s new CEO, George Makris Jr., was mostly perfunctory, without the fanfare of last year’s final production under retiring CEO J. Thomas May. The Simmons First Foundation, the creation of which was announced at last year’s meeting, revealed the first two recipients of the Tommy May Make-A-Difference grants: $25,000 to Juvenile Court Judge Ernest E. Brown’s “Family Engagement Program” and $22,910 to the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson County.

New branding was evident in videos shown to the audience and in the new signage on the 40-story Simmons Tower, which was the Metropolitan Tower until Simmons acquired Metropolitan National Bank last fall. The corporate name and the official name of the flagship bank still contain the words “First National,” and the logo still has a “1” across the “S,” but new branch-level signage says only “Simmons Bank.”

To read the full article from Arkansas Business.

MISO Breaks Ground on South Region Operations Center


Facility will enhance coordination and efficiency across all three regions

CARMEL, Ind., March 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO) broke ground today on a regional operations center in Little Rock, Ark., signifying a continued commitment in the reliable delivery of least-cost energy to MISO members and their customers from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. This action marks the next phase of the successful integration on Dec. 19, 2013, of the four-state electric grid spanning the southern region into MISO.

“A regional presence is important,” said MISO’s President and CEO John Bear. “This facility will provide the space necessary for us to build upon and develop a more focused approach to transmission system management and will result in more reliable and lower cost energy for end-use consumers.”

Similar to the company’s North Region Operations Center, the facility in Little Rock will serve as the command center for MISO’s newly established South Region. MISO expects to hire roughly 50 employees with an average yearly salary of $85,000 for various positions, including real-time operations, market operations, customer services, government and regulatory affairs, information technology and administrative support.

“Little Rock is an appropriate location for us,” continued Bear. “It’s a well-educated workforce, in a city with a great deal of experience in transmission planning and engineering.”

“We’ve worked with higher education and the private sector to build a workforce that can bring more high-paying jobs to Arkansas,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “This is another strong example of collaboration producing continued economic growth for our state.”

MISO expects to spend $22 million on its new facility in West Little Rock. The building is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014 with an employee move-in date scheduled in spring of 2015.

“MISO is a great addition to Arkansas and is a testament that the committed partnership between the City of Little Rock and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission continues to attract topnotch 21st century businesses fostering job creation,” said Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola.

Dignitaries who attended the ceremony include Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Grant Tennille, and Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce Chairman Gary Smith.

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Electric grid company breaks ground at LR site

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A company that manages part of the nation’s electric grid marked the start of construction on a regional headquarters in Little Rock, where about 50 employees will earn an average annual salary of $85,000.

Midcontinent Independent System Operator CEO John Bear said the organization picked Little Rock because of the supply of engineering talent and the focus by local colleges on what the industry needs.

The company, known as MISO, is to use the Little Rock facility to ensure a flow of electricity and also to manage disaster recovery after hurricanes and other events.

Entergy Arkansas signed an agreement with MISO after breaking from its prior system agreement.

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MISO Breaks Ground on West Little Rock Site

LITTLE ROCK – A company that manages part of the nation’s electric grid marked the start of construction Friday on a regional center in Little Rock that will employ 50 people earning an average of $85,000 per year.

Midcontinent Independent System Operator CEO John R. Bear said the organization picked Little Rock for the $22 million center because of the supply of engineering talent and the focus by local colleges on what the industry needs.

“It was really quite an easy choice,” Bear said.

Regional grid managers buy wholesale electricity for member utilities and are intended to secure the lowest prices available and sustain a reliable supply.

The company, known as MISO, is headquartered in Carmel, Ind., but needs a center in the South to accommodate its pickup of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. lines in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy signed with MISO after it dissolved its prior system agreement.

The building in west Little Rock is expected to be finished at the end of 2014, and employees are to move in during the spring of 2015.

MISO’s regional hub will be near a similar operation. Southwest Power Pool opened a $62 million headquarters for its 500 employees in 2012 when it consolidated its offices that were spread across Little Rock. Both are nonprofit organizations that manage the flow of electricity among various utility companies.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola noted that the city has about 70,000 students in the community’s colleges and universities.

“It’s about the people; it’s about the talent,” Stodola said.

Bear said the center will be critical as a management center during hurricanes and other natural disasters that disrupt electric grids.

MISO manages the parts of the grid in 15 states in the Midwest and South, and in the Canadian province of Manitoba.

To read the full article by Arkansas Business.

CJRW Stakes Out New Space at Third & Main in Little Rock

Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods of Little Rock said Thursday that it plans to move its downtown headquarters to the Fulk Building at the southwest intersection of Third and Main streets by late 2015.

CJRW, the state’s largest advertising and public relations firm, also said its wholly owned subsidiary, Jones Film Video, will move into a building directly across the street from its new home, at the southeast corner of that same intersection.

In a news release, the agency indicated that it would lease both spaces but did not disclose terms of the deal. The Fulk Building has been home to Bennett’s Military Supply. Jones Film Video will occupy space most recently held by Mr. Cool’s Clothing.

“Our agency has always been located in the heart of downtown and we have been looking at several options for the better part of a year now,” Wayne Woods, CJRW’s chairman and CEO, said. “When we considered what we will need moving forward, the Third and Main location made all the sense in the world. To the extent that our move will advance all that is going on in the Main Street corridor, we are very pleased.

“Downtown has been good to us and we have always been a champion of downtown,” he said.

The announcement adds to the numerous redevelopment projects taking place along Main Street, including the $22 million Mann Building, the K Lofts, the new headquarters for bicycle manufacturer Orbea, the Arkansas Venture Center and the Little Rock Technology Park.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre also plan to occupy rehearsal and creative space along Main.

CJRW negotiated with Terraforma Inc. of Little Rock, a land acquisition and development firm, for the space. Flake & Kelley of Little Rock, a commercial real estate firm, handled the transaction.

To read the full story from Arkansas Business