CONWAY -- Three technology firms plan to hire 140 workers and invest nearly $2.5 million to open offices in downtown Conway.
Two of the companies, Metova Inc., and Eyenalyze, will have offices on the second floor of the Halter Building on the corner of Front and Oak streets. The third company, Big Cloud Analytics, expects to locate soon in a nearby building.
Metova, a mobile software application development company, which also has an administrative office in Cabot, has already moved about a dozen employees from its main office in Franklin, Tenn., to Conway, said John Adams, the company's chief executive officer. Eventually, the company plans to employ about 60 in Conway in an expansion valued at nearly $2.1 million.
Adams said Metova works closely with schools such as the University of Central Arkansas to find the pool of qualified developers and Web designers needed for its products. He said the company's Tennessee office already has similar relationships with schools such as Vanderbilt University and Auburn University.
"We work with computer-science programs to make sure the students they put out have skills in line with our needs," Adams said after Thursday's announcement about the expansion plans.
Eyenalyze President Michael Rasmussen said his new company, which will have close ties to Metova, helps restaurants evaluate data from different aspects of the business, including sales, billing and inventory. Rasmussen, a Conway resident, is a certified public accountant who moved to Arkansas eight years ago.
Rasmussen said he chose Conway for the business because of quality-of-life issues. With the Internet economy, it doesn't matter whether a tech firm is in Arkansas, New York or Southern California, he said.
"We'll be pulling people from UCA and from all over the country," said Rasmussen, who expects to invest $250,000 and hire 40 people by 2016.
The third company, Big Cloud Analytics, based in Atlanta, also expects to hire up to 40 people and invest $116,000. The company analyzes market data to enable online retailers to better connect customers with recommended products, as well as detect shopping patterns and other information.
Bryan Throckmorton, the company's chief revenue officer, told a crowd gathered Thursday for the announcement that it made sense to expand in Conway, with its three colleges and an existing tech and data community featuring companies such as Acxiom and Hewlett-Packard.
"Why Conway? It's the access to talent," Throckmorton said. The company also plans to add about 40 workers.
Speaking at the announcement, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the three companies and the jobs they will provide represent the future of Arkansas' economy. He said the skills needed for such jobs are why he wants high schools to expand computer-skills and coding classes.
While manufacturing jobs are important, Hutchinson said they must be balanced by tech industry jobs.
Hutchinson said the decision by the three companies to expand in Arkansas means, "We can not only analyze big data, but we can also partner with government. We can partner with the private sector and we can create jobs in this state and we can compete globally. That's what's exciting to me," Hutchinson said.
The governor said he's optimistic about what Arkansas can do in terms of technology education and knowledge-based industries, "And Conway is leading in that effort."
The three companies are taking advantage of state incentives to expand.
Metova will receive $50,000 from the Governor's Quick Action Closing Fund for renovations and upgrades to its new office, said Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. It also will qualify for the Create Rebate, equal to 3.9 percent of its payroll associated with the new jobs. It also qualifies for the Tax Back program, which provides sales-tax refunds for building materials, taxable machinery and equipment associated with the project.
Big Cloud will receive $32,000 through the governor's closing fund and also qualifies for the Tax Back program. It also qualifies for the Advantage Arkansas program, through which it will get income-tax credit equal to 1 percent of the payroll associated with the new jobs.
Eyenalyze qualified for the Equity Investment Tax Credit through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for companies expected to pay wages in excess of state or county average wages. The program will provide the company with tax credits based on $600,000 the company raised from investors in January of 2014 for the project.
Business on 01/30/2015