Former Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin returned to his banking roots a little over six months ago after 12 years as the city’s CEO. He cited a major health issue as one reason for bowing out of the job he’d held for more than a decade during a period of unprecedented regional growth.
Now serving as senior vice president, business development for First Security Bank in Jonesboro, Perrin still has an eye on how the city develops, particularly from his private sector position.
An Arkansas State University alumni, Perrin has three additional banking-related degrees from Southern Methodist University, Northwestern University and Louisiana State University. He previously worked for Citizens Bank Jonesboro, First National Bank Batesville, and served as president at both First State Bank Newport and Mercantile Bank Jonesboro. He also has consulted a broad range of firms on financial matters through a private management company.
Perrin visited with Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock to discuss his transition out of the public limelight, his developing role at the bank, and what he sees happening in the region’s marketplace.
TB&P: For starters, how is your health?
Harold Perrin: I just went to the doctor today and was scoped and got a negative bill from the local urologist here in town, who coordinates with MD Anderson [Cancer Center]. So, I’m very blessed, very pleased, that so far everything is going good.
TB&P: You’ve been out of office for about six months now. What it’s like to not be the mayor of Jonesboro? How’s the transition back to the private sector going?
Perrin: I was only retired for about two weeks and I’d get some calls from various companies. Then good friends of mine, Reynie Rutledge and Brad Edwards, called me and we sat down and had two or three meetings. It’s just like coming back home, really. When I had my own company, First Security Bank was my client for 14 years. So, I know a lot of people that are still here and I like the way Reynie operates his financial institutions.
I’m just really happy, content, and excited. My wife says that, when I come home at night, you don’t have to go to all those meetings like you used to. That’s the one thing I miss. I will tell you that I do miss being mayor a little bit. I still have the opportunity to visit with some of the department heads from time to time when I run into them at a restaurant or outside the bank.
But, the key to both jobs require two things: relationships and partnerships. That’s really what we’re doing here at the bank. It is the same thing I did as mayor.
TB&P: What are you seeing in the marketplace right now, as a loan officer, as a person that’s involved in economic development. What’s hot right now?
Perrin: I would say two things are just absolutely going strong. Number one is housing. It seems like every council meeting they approve a complete subdivision. Right now, you’ve got several new subdivisions under construction.
The other thing very close to that is commercial, as well as retail. When I say retail, a lot of that is tied back to food. We’re getting a Chipotle’s, Freddy’s has just opened up. We’re getting a lot of that here in town as well. So, I would say housing, restaurants and retail is your big thing.
But let me say this, we just went through last year dedicating some of the largest projects for the hospitals. The tower at St. Bernards and the ICU rooms as well as NEA Baptist, which is now under construction. They are building doctors’ clinics away from the hospital because they need the space within the hospital.
TB&P: What do you think is missing? What are the ingredients that Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas need more of?
Perrin: One, I think the chamber [Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce] is now looking for additional land. We are pretty close to only a few hundred acres, around 600. We’re going to need more than that.
We’ve also got a master railroad expansion master plan. There’s work to get the funding for that. The other thing is that we’re working with the airport to look at the terminal. We’ve got a good terminal now, but I think the expansion of that, we’re going to have to enlarge that.
In the area of employment, I would like to see us concentrate on good high-tech jobs and industry in that area. That’s one of the goals of Jonesboro Unlimited when they raised the funds to do that. One of them was to look at high-tech companies. They go to trade shows, et cetera, and work in that area. They’re doing a good job. We hit our goals the first year, which I think is great.
We’ve been blessed as a city. I always said that, when I cut a ribbon, that it’s a great day in Jonesboro, but it’s also a blessed day. I mean that sincerely, and the fact that we always want to be pro-business. We’ve got a lot of good things going. It just takes time to get it to completion. You’ve just got to have a little patience and sometimes my patience is short.
We all work as a team, and I think that’s the big key, is that none of us is looking for credit. We’re looking to get whatever we need for Jonesboro, for our people, and it doesn’t make any difference whether you’re with the chamber, the university, the city, or a financial institution. We’re going to get together, work together and get it completed.