Southwest Power Pool Unveils $62 Million Headquarters

In July, Southwest Power Pool of Little Rock will consolidate its three central Arkansas locations into a single, 20-acre, $62 million headquarters campus.

Located at 16100 Pride Valley in west Little Rock, the campus is intended to improve efficiency both from technical and personnel angles. There's room for expansion, and Southwest will apply for LEED certification.

Southwest was created in 1941. At the time, it was a combination of 11 utilities that "pooled" their general resources to power the state's new aluminum plants.

Now, it's a full-scale, nonprofit regional transmission organization, providing power supplies, transmission infrastructure and other services to 65 members in the electricity utility industry in nine states.

As such, one of the most important parts of the campus is the control center, where 100 technicians work around the clock monitoring power data across 320 flat-panel screens.

The technicians have four main responsibilities: checking security and coordination; working the transmission market; navigating the energy market; and scheduling.

"It's a 24/7 operation," said Nick Brown, president and CEO of Southwest. He said the facility is "hardened" to prevent electronic failure and face physical threats, including severe weather.

Brown said Southwest had been working towards consolidating its campuses, which are spread across Little Rock and Maumelle. Southwest finally broke ground on the project in 2010.

"Obviously there are huge efficiencies and coordination that can be taken advantage of if all at one location," Brown said.

The campus contains a 34,000-SF control center, a 150,000-SF administration building and a two-story parking deck. Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway is building the campus, Witsell Evans & Rasco of Little Rock was the architect and TME Inc. of Little Rock was the engineering firm.

"The campus is designed and situated so we can add another administration building below the parking deck if future requirements occur," Brown said.

He added that Southwest has been hiring for the past three years, and the new campus will allow it to expand from its current 525 employees to around 600. Southwest is adding degreed professionals in the engineering, IT, accounting, legal and business analysis fields.

Brown said the campus' completion should be a turning point for the nonprofit.

"The campus itself is an [$62 million] shot in the arm for the central Arkansas community," he said. "And it's just amazing, the difference. You wouldn't think a building or a campus would have an impact on the morale of employees, but it's amazing to me how excited the population is about the move. Consolidating our campuses and not having to drive across town for meetings, the efficiency alone, I think, will be good."

More on Southwest Power Pool

Our 2011 Executive Q&A with Nick Brown.