UPDATED: Windstream Corp. to Keep Little Rock HQ, Hire 210; Governor’s Fund Pledges $5.5 Million in Incentives

Arkansas Business

Robert Bell

Windstream Corp. on Tuesday said it will keep its corporate headquarters in Little Rock, create 210 new jobs and retain 300 existing jobs. This, after Gov. Mike Beebe committed $5.5 million in incentives to the telecommunications firm.

“I am extremely pleased to announce that Windstream has chosen to make Little Rock its permanent home,” Jeff Gardner, president and CEO of Windstream, said in a prepared statement.

“This is due in large part to the fact that the state of Arkansas and the city of Little Rock have created a climate where technology companies like Windstream can grow and achieve long-term success, and I want to thank Gov. Mike Beebe and Mayor Mark Stodola for their leadership,” he said.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Gardner told ArkansasBusiness.com that the company had indeed considered moving its headquarters out of state. The considerations came as the end of a five-year lease on its Rodney Parham Road headquarters approached.

“We really have enjoyed great success here in Little Rock, but we thought we had grown so much as a company and our customer base had grown that we should really look out and reconsider what made sense,” Gardner said.

“The funds that the governor talked about today were part of the reason, but there were a number of other reasons that it became clear to us that Little Rock was the best place.”

Gardner did not disclose any of the other locations to which Windstream had considered moving, but said the company had been presented with other economic incentive packages.

According to Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Ecomomic Development Commission, Windstream will immediately receive $1 million from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing fund. The remaining $4.5 million will be paid as Windstream meets hiring criteria.

“It’s going to be a million-dollar payment to the company now that will go toward training and some capital improvements and infrastructure, and then over the course of the next three years, as those 210 new jobs are created, the remaining $4.5 million will be paid out,” Hardin said.

These will be the first AEDC incentives that Windstream has received, Hardin said.

Windstream has also signed a new five-year lease for its Rodney Parham Road headquarters.

Asked whether the company will again consider moving when the new lease is up, Gardner said, “What we do in terms of facilities, you never know. But we think [Little Rock] will be our home for a long time to come.”

A good number of the 210 new jobs the company announced it was creating across the state will likely be in Little Rock, because of the concentration of regulatory, finance and marketing operations in the city, he said.

The company did acquire “a few thousand square feet” of new space at its headquarters to house the new positions, Gardner said. Windstream also has space for its engineering team on Executive Center Drive in west Little Rock.

“We’ve got real estate across central Arkansas, but we don’t have plans for any additional facilities right now,” Gardner said.

Windstream said it employs about 825 people at its Little Rock headquarters and 1,150 statewide. The expansion will take total employment in Arkansas to about 1,360. The company said it employs more than 9,500 nationwide.

“We’re excited that Windstream has decided to make Little Rock its permanent corporate headquarters, and to bring even more quality jobs to central Arkansas,” Beebe said. ”Technology-based jobs are vital to our future economic success, and this continued and expanded commitment from Windstream bodes well for our state and our people.”

Windstream has about 1.3 million high-speed internet customers, 3.4 million access lines, and 409,000 digital TV customers in 23 states company with communications operations in 23 states and about $4 billion in annual revenue, according to the release.

“Windstream has grown to national prominence with its headquarters in Little Rock and we are pleased to see this growth continue,” Stodola said.