Arkansas Business' 25 for the Future (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

Cliff Beckham, President and CEO of USA Truck, Inc. of Van Buren

6. Jay Chesshir
Now the head of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Jay Chesshir previously headed the Hot Springs Chamber. His economic development credentials are proven, with 2007, 2008 and 2009 each containing significant job creation announcements. Most recently, Caterpillar Inc. announced it would locate a 600-employee factory in North Little Rock.

Chesshir and crew have worked with many of the communities surrounding Little Rock to bring and develop business in central Arkansas.

7. Jay Cranford
Jay Cranford joined CJRW, the Little Rock ad agency founded by his father, Wayne, in 2007. He previously worked at Stone Ward, a competing Little Rock agency. At both, Cranford worked on campaigns for many national clients.

As creative director at Stone Ward, Cranford helped develop award-winning campaigns for Terminex and Meineke. Since joining CJRW, he has worked with many of the company's existing clients and is currently working with Pollo Campero, a fast-casual restaurant chain, to develop a presence in the United States.

Cranford recently was named senior vice president and creative director at CJRW.

8. Heather Larkin Eason
Heather Larkin Eason joined the Arkansas Community Foundation in 1998, after earning a law degree from the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Eason had planned on becoming a tax attorney – having previously worked at Ernst & Young LLP as a CPA, she had the background. An opportunity at the foundation presented itself, however, and Eason has not looked back. The Hendrix College Sports Hall of Honor inductee succeeded Pat Lile as the nonprofit's president and CEO in 2008. Eason now oversees the foundation's $1 million annual budget, $136 million in assets and 26 offices spread across the state.

9. Conner Eldridge
Originally, Conner Eldridge planned a law career, but he was pulled toward banking by his father-in-law, Ross Whipple, founder of Summit Bank of Arkadelphia. Eldridge became president in 2005 and joined the board in 2006.

Last year, he succeeded Whipple as CEO. It's hard to choose billable hours over running your own bank, particularly when it has nearly $1 billion in assets.

10. Jay Howard
Still under 30, Jay Howard of Rogers already has had a successful career. Howard founded and owns I.O. Metro, an import furniture store with 13 stores in seven states.

Before starting the company, Howard was a national sales manager for Jimco Lighting Co. He handled account management for Target Corp. and eventually was recruited by Lebanon Seaboard Corp. to Rogers, where he handled the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club accounts. The Lebanon account grew from $1.8 million to $5.2 million in just one year. The successes gave Howard a chance to open his own company in 2005 with the help of Bill and Helen Benton, who are equal partners with Howard.

11. Brad Lacy
The city of Conway has announced a series of achievements lately. And in most, Brad Lacy has played a central role. Lacy is president and CEO of both the Conway Development Corp. and Chamber of Commerce.

The recent announcement of Hewlett-Packard locating a $48 million facility in the town owes quite a bit to Lacy's work behind the scenes. Expect the string of announcements to continue for Conway and Lacy. And expect Lacy & Co. to roll out the dog-and-pony PR show every time another company moves to Conway.



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