New CEO of State Chamber Targets Business Climate

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Sep. 8, 2008 12:00 am  

Randy Zook: "The business climate includes everything from the work force to taxes to insurance costs to infrastructure availability."

Randy Zook is on the lookout for any proposed legislation or regulations that will hurt businesses in Arkansas.

"Our primary role is to monitor and influence those legislative and regulatory activities that affect the business climate," said Zook, who in July became president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, which has 1,100 members.

Improving the business climate will help attract businesses to the state and keep those companies already in Arkansas from leaving, he said.

"We know that when companies or investors are looking for places to create new businesses, that business climate is one of the most important considerations for them," Zook said. "The business climate includes everything from the work force to taxes to insurance costs to infrastructure availability."

In June, after a four-month search for a new CEO, the State Chamber and AIA named Zook to replace Paul Harvel, who left to become president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County in Arkadelphia on July 1.

Zook's strong points include his experience managing a company and in economic development, said Hugh McDonald, chairman of the Arkansas State Chamber.

Zook started in sales and worked his way up to president and CEO of Atlantic Envelope Co. of Atlanta, which had about 1,400 employees and revenue of $200 million under Zook.

"He's run a business. He's met payroll," McDonald said. "He understands the economics associated with running a business. And he also understands the impact of regulation and taxes, [which] ultimately can support the growth of business or can inhibit the growth of business."

Zook said his experience heading Atlantic Envelope gives him perspective from the members' point of view. "I understand what business executives face in terms of leading their businesses and keeping them healthy," Zook said.

Zook also worked for a year and a half as deputy director for finance and administration at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, where he was involved in luring companies to Arkansas and helping businesses add 10,000 jobs.

"I hated to leave," the 63-year-old Zook said. "But this was too good an opportunity to pass up. I'm healthy and have no desire to consider retirement."

Adding to Harvel's Success



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