It would be too expensive to move the Arkansas state Capitol to influential Northwest Arkansas, so regional leaders will have to find ways to bridge the political passageway from inner-city Little Rock to the outskirts of Bentonville.
That’s the premise of a new Northwest Arkansas public affairs firm, Shiloh Strategic Advisors, led by public relations veterans Bryant Adams and Fran Webb, who will partner with Little Rock-based Capitol Advisors Group (CAG), a governmental relations firm with state, national and international reach led by long-time lobbyist Bill Vickery and his partners Mitchell Lowe and John Burris.
The two groups and their partnership are seeking to build a political communications corridor to connect the business and influence of Northwest Arkansas with the public policy decisions made in the heart of the capital city.
“The ability to create a nexus between the state Capitol and this burgeoning business environment — that is really leading the state, the region and possibly the nation in development — to bind those two areas together, we feel like is a sound business idea and a good political idea,” Vickery said.
“We want to open up a real artery between the two,” Adams said. “It’s certainly our hope that with some of the melding of the communications world and the political world, that we can be more open to a new way to communicate back and forth. That’s why we have an office there, and we have an office here. We want to be able to serve both types of constituents.”
Shiloh, with an office in Fayetteville, will offer public affairs and public relations services primarily to businesses and coalitions in Northwest Arkansas that are interested in shaping public opinion regarding a variety of policy issues being debated at the state and federal governmental level.
“It’s no coincidence that lawmakers show up at the Capitol, and the public perceives an issue a certain way before they ever cast a vote on it,” Adams noted.
“We see the business of politics not slowing down in growth. That’s where the future is,” Vickery added.
Vickery, an aide to former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., founded Capitol Advisors Group in December 2012 with his partner, Lowe. The governmental affairs firm added former state Rep. John Burris, R-Harrison, in 2015 and has grown to include seven employees. Capitol Advisors Group lists the Arkansas Trucking Association, Entergy, Motorola, Uber and Verizon as some of its key clients.
Shiloh has already lined up several clients, including work on a distracted driver project for the Arkansas Trucking Association. Other clients are prohibited from disclosure due to confidentiality agreements.
The two groups will bring a wealth of experience in Arkansas traditional and cutting-edge media, as well as services encompassing pollsters, production professionals and other vendors suited to specific client needs.
Adams, a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, has extensive political and public affairs experience. He worked in Washington, D.C., for the Republican National Committee, the George W. Bush re-election campaign and served a stint at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, he worked in Republican politics in Colorado before coming back to Arkansas to help Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin win his first bid for Congress in 2010.
Outside of pure politics, Adams worked for five years with prestigious public relations firm Mitchell in Fayetteville, serving on the Walmart account.
Webb has almost 30 years of experience in marketing, public relations, advertising and fundraising. She has worked out of state, but her Arkansas roots include stints at Alltel Corp., CHI St. Vincent Foundation and some of the state’s high-profile regional advertising and public relations agencies. A graduate of Texas Christian University with a master’s degree in communications from Indiana University, Webb has a background in education, telecommunications, tourism, and healthcare — all key areas of public policy debate.
While the goal is to combine a full service public affairs and public relations suite of services with the insight and experience of political insiders, what’s to keep other area PR firms from partnering with similar lobbying groups? And if it’s such a good idea, why hasn’t it happened before?
Vickery says Adams’ experience in Washington, D.C., and state politics, as well as his Northwest Arkansas connections, make the partnership unique.
“We have all worked together on campaigns,” Vickery said. “We see the benefit of taking a public affairs firm, especially in Northwest Arkansas, into the expanding world of politics. We also see, as a lobbying firm, the advantage of a strategic alliance with a PR firm/public affairs firm to really be able to create both a nexus geographically for Northwest Arkansas and the state Capitol, as well as the business of politics.”