Conway Wins HP Center and 1,200 Jobs

by Mark Hengel  on Monday, Jun. 23, 2008 12:00 am  

Gary Fazzino, Hewlett-Packard's vice president of government affairs, left, said the political will of Arkansas politicians like Gov. Mike Beebe helped finalize the deal.

Hewlett-Packard of Palo Alto, Calif., announced Thursday that it would open a customer service and technical support center in Conway that will employ 1,200.

The announcement was made before a packed house at the University of Central Arkansas' Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall. Gov. Mike Beebe said the jobs Hewlett-Packard will bring are what the state will need to compete.

These are "the kind of jobs that represent increased earning capacity and wages for the needs and demands of families in today's society. It represents all those obvious tangible monetary benefits and all the surrounding corollary expansions that go along with it. It represents 1,200 jobs that - frankly - will start in the low $40,000s, and with many being much higher paying at the start than that," Beebe said.

Hewlett-Packard will open its 150,000-SF, $28 million facility at the Meadows Office & Technology Park in southern Conway, owned by the Conway Development Corp. The first hires will begin working in late 2009, and the company will staff the facility over a four-year period. The announcement was made simultaneously with another announcement that Hewlett-Packard will open a comparable center in Rio Rancho, N.M.

Hewlett-Packard will receive several economic incentives for locating in Conway. Beebe said the state is providing $10 million from the Governor's Quick Action Closing Fund for infrastructure, and the Conway Development Corp. will build the $28 million facility to the company's specifications. Hewlett-Packard will then lease the building from the development corporation. Conway Mayor Tab Townsell said the city also agreed to spend $2.2 million to prepare the site.

Gary Fazzino, Hewlett-Packard's vice president of government affairs, said many factors led the company to choose Conway.

"It is very clear why Arkansas is such a great place to do business: Business environment, skilled work force, outstanding educational system, high quality of life and a commitment by the state's political, business and educational leadership to aggressively seek out opportunities for economic growth," Fazzino said during the announcement. "These factors helped Arkansas earn its way to the top of the list of U.S. states for HP investment."

A Reason to Return

Maria Haley, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the announcement helps reverse many people's conception of Arkansas. Hewlett-Packard's locating in Arkansas also gives Arkansans who left the state to find jobs in the high-tech sector a reason to return, she said.

"It ... will bring high-tech, high-paying jobs to the state. And hopefully, it will bring back some of the people who left the state because they couldn't find quality jobs," Haley said. "And I also think that since the state was able to land this type of particular facility, [it] gives the world a different image" of Arkansas.

For Conway, Hewlett-Packard's decision to locate in the city represents the town's emergence into the new century, Townsell said.

"You know, chronologists will tell you the 21st century started seven or eight years ago; historians will tell you it's a moment in time that starts a century. ... The 21st century in Conway, Arkansas, and to a degree in Arkansas, starts today," Townsell said.



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