Hewlett-Packard to Hire 200 in Conway As Part of Growing Health Care Business

Hewlett-Packard Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., said Wednesday that it is planning to hire 200 software engineers and programmers for its operation at Conway.

The announcement comes about five months after HP announced that it would lay off 500 people at its Conway center, part of a companywide restructuring process announced in May 2012. HP's Conway plant now employs about 800 people.

Officials said they plan to hire for the positions over the course of the 2014 calendar year. John Herzog, an HP executive, said the jobs -- management positions, engineers and business analysts -- are related to the company's growing health care business. He said the positions will pay more than the jobs HP cut in the summer, but didn't yet have details on average salary.

Gov. Mike Beebe and HP officials made the announcement during a news conference at the state Capitol. Earlier Wednesday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that HP's move to hire 200 new employees would "soften" what it has to reimburse the state in incentive funds in the wake of last summer's lay offs.

Because of the layoffs, HP was expected to pay back a portion of state incentive money it received to establish an operation in Conway. Arkansas Business reported in August that the state and HP were in negotiations over the repayment.

On Wednesday, state officials said details of the incentive payback are still being hashed out. Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the state and HP will likely reach an agreement by the end of the year.

HP announced the customer service and technical support center in 2008 with great fanfare at a news conference attended by Gov. Mike Beebe and an HP executive. It opened the 150,000-SF, $28 million center at the Meadows Office & Technology Park in Conway in 2010, expecting to employ 1,200 people with average salaries of about $40,000.

Conway Mayor Tab Townsell said the announcement should re-affirm Conway citizens' faith in the community's relationship with the company, and proves the city was right to "stick to our knitting" during a business downturn.

"The fundamental reasons we were excited about this project five years ago have not changed," Townsell said. "Conway has a quality workforce. HP has the wherewithal to withstand the ebbs and flows of the global economy. Today is a great example of Conway and HP succeeding together."

Beebe's Wednesday announcement comes after another economic development announcement on Tuesday in Mountain Home, where Epoxyn Products revealed plans to expand its manufacturing facility there, creating 50 jobs.