Often known as “The City of Colleges,” Conway was in danger of losing two of them during the Great Depression.
With Hendrix and Central Baptist College facing financial extinction in 1929, the city’s business leaders banded together to find ways to save the schools as well as to attract industries to the area and create jobs.
This community-minded, locally-led effort was the genesis of Conway Corporation, born the same year with a charter stating the organization was founded “for benevolent purposes, especially for the promotion of education and educational institutions located in the City of Conway.”
As it evolved and grew, Conway Corp. developed its mission to produce safe, affordable and reliable utility and telecommunications services that are innovative and environmentally sound, while also striving to enhance the quality of life in the community.
The organization has a seven-member board serving staggered terms. Their election is ratified by the city council and they set policies and rates, approve plans and strategies and hire the CEO. Conway Corp. has a five officer leadership team of Bret Carroll, CEO; Greg Dell, COO; Jason Hansen, CTO; Crystal Kemp, CMO and Tracy Moore, CFO.
Education and Utilities
Conway Corp. has continued to play a role in the successes of educational institutions like original benefactors Hendrix College and Central Baptist College as well as the University of Central Arkansas and other community educational partners.
Conway Corp. pledged $3 million to the UCA Conway Corporation Center for Sciences (opened in 2017), and it committed $1.5 million to the Miller Creative Quad at Hendrix College. In the pandemic year of 2020, Conway Corp. partnered with Conway Public Schools to provide internet access to 100 students who were remote learning and provided production services and aired virtual graduation ceremonies.
While education is one of the pillars of Conway’s economy, it is just a part of Conway Corp.’s successes through the years.
The organization has built, improved, maintained or operated utilities like the James H. Brewer Reservoir and the Tupelo Bayou Water Treatment Facility while acquiring a water allocation from Greers Ferry Lake to support future growth. Thanks to a diverse power supply portfolio, Conway Corp. residential customers enjoy as much as 50% savings on electricity compared to some providers in Arkansas.
Broadband and Solar
Perhaps nothing illustrates Conway Corp.’s commitment to progress than its efforts and achievements in the areas of broadband and solar power.
Conway Corp. has entered a partnership with global solar leader Lightsource BP for a 132 MWdc solar facility. It will provide about 25% of the city’s electric load, will generate enough electricity to power more than 21,400 homes and will be the largest community solar project in the state.
Solar power fits the Conway Corp. power supply portfolio and will be important for economic development. Some companies won’t consider moving business into a community without renewable energy in the power supply mix.
When it comes to broadband, in 1995, the company rebuilt its hybrid-fiber-coax plant, a project that cost about $5.6 million. Upon its completion in 1997, Conway became the third city in the country to offer high-speed broadband citywide.
In 2016, Conway was the fifth city in the country to offer a 1 Gigabit internet service for residential customers citywide, and in 2020 launched its streaming video service ConwayCorpTV. Conway Corp. is the fifth company in North America to offer high-speed broadband cable Internet service and then offer 1 Gig Internet service.
Broadband advancements, too, are an economic driver for the community and help create quality of place for customers who expect the same reliability they do from their utilities. Broadband is important for remote learning, the city’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system, telemedicine, higher education and city government.
On the Horizon
In addition to capital projects to replace aging infrastructure, Conway Corp. expects to see, in the next several months, completion of the Arnold Innovation Center (AIC), which will provide co-working space with day-to-day programming managed by The Conductor. This is a critical component of economic development.
“The innovation center will become the epicenter of Conway’s startup community,” Carroll said. “This is an ideal location from a technology standpoint and an historic one. It’s in the heart of the Data District and just a few steps from where almost 150 years ago, Conway’s original startups were launched.”
Conway Corp. will also be looking for ways to leverage its AMI and associated data to improve efficiency and better serve customers, while also tackling fiber to the home (FTTH) and other upgrades to its telecom plant to continue to provide fast, reliable broadband services.