With its superior quality of life in a spectacular natural setting, the six-county Central Arkansas region offers a wealth of advantages as a place to live, work and invest in, including standout higher education institutions, a superior transportation network and a deep pool of workforce talent.
The region includes Little Rock, a major center of commerce where more than 1 million people live within 50 minutes of its downtown. But the region is more than Little Rock and is home to a number of vibrant communities, including Conway, North Little Rock and Lonoke.
The region has created a diverse economy with key industry sectors in advanced manufacturing, aerospace, banking and finance, and health care. One of its signature industries is the nonprofit sector, which includes headquarters for major organizations including the William J. Clinton Foundation, World Services for the Blind, Heifer International, the East Initiative and Winrock International.
Central Arkansas has attracted the headquarters of a roster of well-known to companies, including department store chain Dillard’s, data services giant Windstream Holdings, publishing company Oxford American, performance bicycle manufacturer Orbea, and Rhea Lana’s, a franchisor of children’s clothing consignment stores.
In addition, a number of globally known companies have established major operations in the region, including Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, International Paper, Remington Arms Company and Snap-on Tools.
Beyond Little Rock
Central Arkansas' vibrancy extends beyond Little Rock. In Brinkley in Monroe County, major employers include Phillips Van Heusen Corp. (clothing distribution), Riviana Foods (grain elevators) and Specialty Rice (rice mills). In Benton in Saline County, key employers include Rineco Chemical Industries (waste reduction disposals).
In Conway in Faulkner County, a diverse economy includes major employers such as IT company Acxiom Corp., University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College, Conway Regional Health System, Southwestern Energy Co., Hewlett-Packard, Kimberly-Clark and school and office furniture maker Vireo Manufacturing.
Looking at Lonoke
In Lonoke, Mayor Wayne McGee says a tax passed in November 2017 to invest $20 million in a new water and sewer system will attract more business and industry to the city.
“We have also redone our water towers and wells, and a new Lonoke interchange on Interstate 40 was added with plenty of adjoining property available there for development,” McGee says. “Lonoke is within 20 minutes of Little Rock and has been somewhat of a bedroom community, but our city is steadily building an economy of its own. Our tax base more than doubled in the last eight years.”
The largest employers in Lonoke are Remington Arms Co., Riceland Foods and Atwoods Distributing. New developments to the city landscape include Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotel projects. The community also houses the world’s largest baitfish farm along with a huge goldfish farm and hybrid striped bass hatchery.
McGee says he appreciates that area organizations like the Central Arkansas Planning & Development District take a regional approach to attract more business and industry.
“Several groups are working together to bring in more industry, with all cities and counties benefiting by large companies moving here,” he says. “Several businesses are showing an interest in Lonoke, with companies noticing our new schools and construction of new subdivisions. We have a good quality of life here and a very pro-business attitude.”