Expanding Arkansas

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 31 views 

Commentary from the weekly address of Gov. Mike Beebe

On July 13th, I was pleased to join Windstream Corporation’s leaders as the company announced that it will make Little Rock its permanent headquarters. The telecommunications provider has maintained offices in Little Rock since the company was created in 2006, but this announcement is momentous as it will not only save the 300 Windstream jobs currently held by employees in Little Rock, it will create 210 more.

Windstream is a $4 billion company with 9,500 employees in 23 states. After this announced expansion, about 1,400 Windstream employees will be based in Arkansas. The company sells both broadband and landline phone services, with a concentration in the southeastern United States. Through customer growth and acquisitions, Windstream has steadily increased its national standing over the past four years.

We know well the positive ripple effect that new jobs have throughout our local-and-state economies. These employees and their families eat at Arkansas restaurants, shop in Arkansas stores, and pay Arkansas taxes, all of which positively contribute to our bottom line. But locating a headquarters here broadens the ripple effect.

For years, we’ve seen the benefits of having the world’s largest retailer headquartered here, as dozens of vendor companies have located to Northwest Arkansas because of the sheer volume of business they do with Walmart. Even when a company’s entire business isn’t headquartered here, it still brings more people to our region, visitors who may not otherwise enjoy the Arkansas experience.

When I was a State Senator, I once ran into Alltel founder Joe Ford at Little Rock National Airport. As we chatted and caught up, we were repeatedly interrupted by people coming from and going to flights, all of whom knew Mr. Ford. These people were Alltel employees, traveling to Little Rock from all over the country on business.

The presence of a headquarters, whether regional, national, or international, produces a steady flow of visitors who then spread the word about our friendly people, natural beauty, and the advantageous standard of living Arkansas offers. The establishment of a corporate headquarters means a higher profile and more tourism for Arkansas.

When Verizon Wireless acquired Alltel last year, its leaders recognized the expertise and institutional knowledge already manifest in the Little Rock-based company, convincing the new owners to keep more employees here than originally anticipated. What was at first expected to be an 800-employee presence for Verizon will now be nearer to 2,500.

Last December, Allied Wireless Communications Corporation announced that it, too, would make Little Rock its corporate headquarters. Like Windstream, these companies are benefiting from the skilled workforce already here, and in turn, Arkansas benefits by not losing talented people to competitive jobs elsewhere.

Arkansas is proud to be Windstream’s permanent headquarters. It will be another engine to propel us forward and to spread the word about our State and our capital city throughout the country. We look forward to more companies making Arkansas their home, and the chance to celebrate more Arkansas jobs in the coming months and years.