E-Z Mart CEO Sonja Hubbard Appointed to Chair Arkansas Research Alliance

E-Z Mart CEO Sonja Hubbard Appointed to Chair Arkansas Research Alliance
Jerry Adams, Sonja Hubbard

The Arkansas Research Alliance has named Sonja Hubbard, president and CEO of Texarkana's E-Z Mart Stores Inc., chairman of its board of directors.

It also named four new members to the board:

  • Todd Hillman, vice president, MISO South, Little Rock;
  • Gaylon Lawrence Jr., partner, The Lawrence Group, Wilson;
  • Michelle Hargis Wolfe, vice president of human resources, Walmart Leverage Division, Bentonville;
  • Joseph Steinmetz, chancellor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The ARA board is made up of 17 business leaders from across the state and the chancellors of the state's five research universities. The ARA is a nonprofit modeled after the successful Georgia Research Alliance that is focused on strengthening economic opportunity in Arkansas by investing in university-based research.

Also serving on the ARA board:

  • Laurence Alexander, chancellor, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff;
  • Joel Anderson, chancellor, University of Arkansas at Little Rock;
  • Ritter Arnold, president, E. Ritter and Co., Jonesboro;
  • Hal Carper, group vice president for R&D and logistics, Technical Services, Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale;
  • Andrew Clyde, president and CEO, Murphy USA Inc., El Dorado;
  • Ray Dillon, president and CEO, Deltic Timber Corp., El Dorado;
  • Ed Drilling, president, AT&T Arkansas;
  • Tim Hudson, chancellor, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro;
  • Roger Jenkins, president and CEO, Murphy Oil Corp., El Dorado;
  • Tommy May, chairman and CEO, Simmons First Foundation, Pine Bluff;
  • Hugh McDonald, president and CEO, Entergy, Little Rock;
  • Charles Nabholz, president and CEO, The Nabholz Group, Conway;
  • Dan Rahn, chancellor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock;
  • John Roberts, president and CEO, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., Lowell;
  • Reynie Rutledge, president, First Security Bank, Searcy;
  • Robert Shoptaw, retired CEO, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, Little Rock;
  • Dan Williams, CEO, Garver, North Little Rock.

Hubbard has served on the ARA board since 2011.

"ARA is an incredible asset to Arkansas that helps facilitate and support work that ultimately gives us a competitive advantage," she said. "The impact this organization has, especially its focus on science and technology research, will have far reaching impact for many years to come. It's an honor for me to represent the vibrant business community in Arkansas and serve as chairman of our board of trustees."

ARA’s partnerships with the state's research universities helps fund research for seven ARA Scholars and nine ARA Fellows. The ARA Scholars program recruits world-class researchers to the state, and the ARA Fellows program aims to keep the best research talent in the state. ARA Scholars receive three-year grants of $500,000 to bring their research to Arkansas and Fellows receive three-year grants of $75,000 to further their research at in-state universities.

The state has committed $2.1 million over the next two years to help cover the costs of the programs.

Research conducted by ARA researchers includes areas such as experimental cardiovascular surgery, stem cell research, energy storage and advanced membrane-based separation processes for applications in water treatment and biofuel production, according to ARA.

Late last year, ARA was awarded a $764,000 U.S. Food & Drug Administration contract to determine if new approaches can be developed to screen for lung cancer with a blood test and in 2014, ARA was awarded a $1.2 million FDA contract to conduct research in nanotechnology and bioinformatics to improve public health outcomes.

In 2011, the state signed an agreement with FDA to establish a nanotech research collaboration between the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson and the state's five research universities led by ARA, and in 2013 the ARA partnered with the FDA to help commercialize the technology developed at NCTR.

In December, Hubbard presided over the announcement of the second class of ARA Fellows.

"The Arkansas Research Alliance is privileged to have one of the strongest boards in the state, and we are thrilled that Sonja Hubbard has stepped into the role of chairman," said ARA President and CEO Jerry Adams. "I'm more confident than ever that ARA is positioned to help Arkansas excel by advancing opportunities in the areas of research, commercialization and job creation."