Governor Appoints Arkansas CEOs to Study State's Computer, Data Sector

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday announced the formation of the blue ribbon commission to study how to grow the state's computer science and data analytics sector.

The 19-member commission, co-chaired by Acxiom Corp. founder Charles Morgan and Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston, begins meeting later this month.

"This esteemed group of Arkansans, through their expertise and guidance, will allow the state to address the opportunities and obstacles we must address to create an environment in which our technology sector can thrive," the governor said in a news release. 

"This is the next step in growing the computer coding initiative as it will allow our higher education institutions and workforce development agencies to address the specific needs of Arkansas companies in the computer science and data analytics sector," he said.

Other members of the commission include Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock; John Roberts, CEO of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell; Andrew Clyde, CEO of Murphy USA Inc. of El Dorado; and Clay Johnson, enterprise chief information officer and executive vice president for global business services at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville.

The governor's office said the Blue Ribbon Commission to Report on the Economic Competitiveness of Computing and Data Analytics in Arkansas will "study opportunities to grow the sector of Arkansas' economy associated with computer science and data analytics."

Hutchinson has asked the commission to produce a report, due in the fall 2017, that addresses "business challenges in computing and data analytics, potential application niche areas for Arkansas to build excellence/depth in computing and data analytics and skill needs and challenges of Arkansas' talent pipeline."

Along with Morgan and Mike Preston, the commission's members are:

  • Jerry Adams, Arkansas Research Alliance
  • Donald Bobbitt, University of Arkansas System
  • Charles Welch, Arkansas State University System
  • Maria Markham, Arkansas Department of Higher Education
  • Andrew Clyde,  Murphy USA
  • Ed Drilling, AT&T Arkansas
  • John Haley, Circumference Group
  • Walter Smiley, formerly with Systematics
  • Todd Hillman, MISO
  • Rich Howe, Inuvo
  • Sonja Hubbard, E-Z Mart
  • Gaylon Lawrence, The Lawrence Group
  • John Roberts, J.B. Hunt
  • Jerry Jones, Acxiom
  • Monica McGurk, Tyson Foods
  • Warren Stephens, Stephens Inc.
  • Clay Johnson, Walmart