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front & center: Alan JessupPublished July 25, 2010 at 3:26 a.m.
TRI-LAKES AREA When Alan Jessup took his first job in banking at Simmons Bank in Jonesboro, his mentor, Don Stone, gave him a piece of advice that still influences his life and career.
“He said I should always be involved in my community,” Jessup said. “He told me it was something that we should do all the time - not just as bankers, but as citizens.”
Jessup, who is Saline County president of Bank of the Ozarks in Benton, still follows that advice, and today he is one of the people building the future of the county.
“It’s good to see something grow and develop, to see something positive,” Jessup said. “There is a great feeling of accomplishment that you have helped make something better.”
The opportunities Jessup has to be part of building and improving things in Saline County go beyond his role as a banker. He has been chairman of the Benton Advertising and Promotions Commission since it was created in 2006 and was reappointed for another four-year term last October.
Jessup is also president of the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce, serves as treasurer of Habitat for Humanity of Saline County and is a former president of the Benton/Bauxite Rotary Club.
The A&P Commission is the driving force behind the proposed Fairplex project, a $55 million exhibition, convention and entertainment complex.
“When the commission was formed, there was an unwritten charge that we should find a way to build a facility to meet the needs of the community,” Jessup said. “Saline County needed a conference center, but our biggest concern was that it should provide some economic benefits as well.”
Two years later, the Fairplex project is ready to be built, if voters approve the sale of bonds during a special election.
“I hope Aug. 10 will give us a positive result,” Jessup said. “The voters have an opportunity to make a decision that will direct the future for Saline County.”
Jessup said that if the project gets the go-ahead from voters, it will be hard for its proposed site along Interstate 30 southof downtown not to go to the top of the list for the location of the Arkansas State Fair.
However, he is quick to add that Benton needs the complex, even if the State Fair misses the opportunity.
“If it doesn’t come here, the fair is only two weeks a year, and this facility would be built for 52 weeks a year,” Jessup said. “It is an opportunity in this economy to create jobs. That is important to any community, regardless of the type of work.”
Jill Jones, executive director of the A&P Commission, said she has a tremendous amount of respect for Jessup.
“He has the best ability to work outside the box for the community,” she said. “A lot of people will put in the work on community projects but only in ways related to their profession. The best things he has done have nothing to do with his paycheck. He is motivated to bring a better life to Saline County.”
The county has seen decades of growth and has had a stronger economy compared to the rest of the state, Jessup said.
“As a banker, I know business is getting stronger,” he said. “I talk to people who say sales are increasing and more people are looking at investing into the community.”
Jessup said the economy of Saline County is changing as it becomes more of a bedroom community.
“The economy here is now tied to the economy of Little Rock,” he said. “We just have to decide if the new growth will be mainly rooftops or retail development.”
Even as more newcomers move into the county, Jessup said he does not think the cities are in danger of losing their identities.
“People here talk about the schools in Benton, Bryant and Bauxite,” he said. “These are first-class educational systems. They create the identity for a community. The majority of the population may work in Little Rock, but people are proud to say, ‘I live in Benton,’ or ‘I live in Bryant.’ They want people to know they live here.”
Jessup was adopted by his parents at his birth in Little Rock, and he was raised in Jonesboro, where his father’s family owned a feed mill.
Jessup attended Jonesboro High School and stayed in town to go to Arkansas State University, majoring in finance.
“I wasn’t good in science or engineering, so business was the way to go, and I have always been interested in the money side of business,” Jessup said.
Before he graduated, Simmons Bank offered him a job. As a student, he was on the bank’s student advisory board, with the members functioning as ambassadors for the bank and the college.
He was also working for a stock brokerage firm. The bank offered him an entry-level job in Jonesboro, while the brokerage wanted to send him to St. Louis to begin his career.
“I picked Jonesboro, and 16 years later, I am still a banker,”Jessup said.
In 2003, he was moved to Benton by the bank he worked for at the time.
“I knew I wanted to get involved in Saline County, but we had just moved in, and the only person I knew was someone from college.”
That person was Shane Broadway, who was serving in the state Legislature and is now seeking to become lieutenant governor.
“He knows a lot of people,” Jessup said about Broadway, “and if you wanted to get acclimated to this community, he was the person to know.”
Although Jessup credits the influence of others on his life, people have also said he has provided a good model for others looking to have a positive impact on their community.
“There are people you remember in your life that influence you,” Jones said. “Alan is one of those people. His heart isin Saline County, and you can see that. He has a great impact on people - and on the entire community - for the better.” - wbryan@ arkansasonline.com
closegetting to know Alan Jessup
Name: Alan Patrick Jessup
Birth date: June 11, 1972
Family: Wife, Dione; sons, Logan and Jackson; stepson,
T.J.; and stepdaughter, Taylor
Biggest influence: My mother, Nadine Runsick
First job: Dishwasher
As a child, I wanted to be: A firefighter
Most people don’t know I’m: Adopted
I cannot live without: Diet Coke
Favorite quote: “Service above self”
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.