As part of Hewlett-Packard Co.’s growing health care services, it announced in December that it would build a regional industry development center in Conway, which would result in the hiring of 200 new employees.
HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has had a presence in Arkansas for around 30 years. In 2010, the publicly traded technology company built a 150,000-SF, $28 million customer service and tech support center in Conway with the expectation of hiring 1,200.
In 2012, the same year HP posted a net loss of $12.6 billion, it announced it was laying off 500 from the center. This led to HP having to pay back some of the state incentive money it received for locating an operation in Conway.
Currently, it employs around 600 in Conway.
So how do these new jobs compare with those lost?
John Herzog, an account executive with HP’s health care business, said the salary levels of these jobs are proprietary information, but added that they will represent a “wide range,” from entry-level to highly skilled.
“They’ll be more technical in nature,” he said. “They’ll be developers, business analysts, leadership positions. HP has a host of both off-the-shelf and Web-based applications that we bring to bear for our health care clients. They’ll be maintaining, enhancing and supporting those products.”
Most of the jobs will require college degrees with a technical background, he said, and the company will be recruiting locally.
“I think the general plan is to hire locally as much as possible,” he said. “That’s certainly the goal — I know the groups doing that hiring are starting the process, and certainly Conway with its location near a lot of local universities makes it a good environment for that.”
The additions will be hired over the course of 2014, and Herzog said interviews are already taking place for some of them.
But the new health care positions don’t correspond to the positions cut in 2012, Herzog said. “They are totally different positions,” he said. “They are a totally different business unit than what those other jobs were supporting.”
Despite the layoffs, Brad Lacy, CEO of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, said he was pleased with HP. “HP has been a great addition to the local and regional job market,” he said. “The shared services facility provides good white-collar job options. We are thrilled that the company is bringing new jobs to the city. These highly skilled positions will continue to spur growth in the city.”
Herzog said Arkansas represents a “positive business climate” for HP. “When health care was looking to expand its presence, Arkansas just made sense from a business climate perspective,” he said.
And as far as growth in Arkansas beyond the 200 Conway jobs?
Sue Arthur, vice president of U.S. health and life sciences for HP’s enterprise services sector, said there’s nothing concrete, but the potential is there.
“I would expect we would continue to look to build out our nucleuses of talent to support our health care business,” she said.