Mark Simmons, chairman of Simmons Foods Inc. in Siloam Springs, has been named as the next presiding co-chair of the Northwest Arkansas Council.
Simmons was announced as co-chair during the council's annual meeting on Wednesday. He is the first pick for the position to hail from Siloam Springs. Simmons, who was part of a group that created the Northwest Arkansas Council in 1990, replaces Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale Chairman John Tyson as presiding co-chair.
Part of Simmons’ focus during his time as presiding co-chair will be evaluating the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy, a five-year plan aimed at helping the region continue to grow.
The council developed 50 strategic actions for the region in January 2011, including focuses on serving the area’s population, improving schools and highways, creating a regional wayfinding system, developing young leaders, growing existing businesses, attracting new companies, recruiting workers to the region and increasing access to physical activity and healthy food.
"We need to know how we’re doing, and where we need to focus our energy over the next two-and-a-half years," Simmons said. "We think we’re on a good course, but an outside review is important."
Simmons joins a list of presiding co-chairs that has included notable names from the University of Arkansas and global corporations like Tyson Foods, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville and J.B. Hunt Transport Services of Lowell.
Past presiding co-chairs include Lee Scott, Jim Walton, John A. White, Kirk Thompson, David Gearhart and Tyson. Former Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt was the first chairman of the council, serving in that role from 1993-2006. Hammerschmidt replaced Alice Walton.
Simmons Foods Inc. ranked No. 4 on Arkansas Business' list of the state's largest privately owned companies, based on 2012 revenue of $1.29 billion. M.H. "Bill Simmons" founded the company in 1949.