Little Rock financial services firm Stephens said Wednesday that it has hired Mike Preston, the former state Commerce Department secretary, to lead a new practice advising clients on site selection and incentives.
Preston will lead a Site & Incentive Advisory (SIA) practice within the firm's investment banking division, the company said in a news release.
The company said the practice will advise businesses on growth strategies "by helping them understand the opportunities and challenges with site selection."
"This will include navigating complex incentive plans and assistance with negotiations in order to produce optimal solutions for their shareholders."
"Mike has built considerable expertise in understanding what is important to a company seeking to expand geographically," said Brad Eichler, executive vice president and head of investment banking. "This expertise includes not only site selection but a thorough understanding of the workforce and incentive programs.
"We believe this expertise will be beneficial to clients throughout the country. We are excited to have someone of Mike's caliber and reputation join our team, and to offer his skillset for the benefit of our corporate clients."
Preston was former Gov. Asa Hutchinson's economic development leader throughout Hutchinson's two terms in office. Hutchinson hired him in 2015 to be executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Before that, Preston had worked as director of government relations for Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership that promotes the state to businesses.
In Arkansas, Preston led the state agency charged with growing business in Arkansas and attracting new employers to the state. AEDC also markets key industrial and manufacturing sites in Arkansas and often offers incentives, including tax breaks and grants, to qualifying businesses to expand in Arkansas or to locate here.
In 2019, Preston became secretary of the Department of Commerce under Hutchinson's reorganization of state government. He retained his duties as leader of AEDC, which is part of Commerce, but also oversaw its Division of Workforce Services. Other Commerce departments include the state Bank Department, the Securities Department and the Insurance Department.
In December, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced a new leader for the Commerce Department, former Entergy Arkansas Inc. president and CEO Hugh McDonald.
Stephens is a family-owned investment firm led by Warren Stephens and is among the largest private companies in Arkansas. It includes Stephens Inc., Stephens Investment Management Group LLC, Stephens Insurance LLC, Stephens Capital Partners LLC and Stephens Europe Limited.