Nearly two years after singing the praises of new downtown offices in Little Rock’s River Market District, First Orion announced Monday that it is moving its global headquarters across the river to North Little Rock’s Argenta District due to growing space needs.
In a ceremony with North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith and First Orion CEO Charles Morgan, the growing Central Arkansas tech firm said it has selected a building site at the 500 block of Main Street in North Little Rock to house its future workforce of more than 200 people.
“Central Arkansas is an inspiring place for us to be,” Morgan said. “We are helping to transform the region into a prominent technology hub and we are honored to be such a big part of the Argenta Plaza. Not only is First Orion building technology, but we are also building careers.”
In December 2015, First Orion made a similar promise when it announced plans to relocate its two closely connected companies, publicly-traded Inuvo Inc. and privately-held PrivacyStar, from Conway to Little Rock. Company officials said then the two companies together employed around 125 workers and were looking to add an additional 75 tech-oriented employees.
In a ceremony where Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and other city and chamber officials feted executives and employees from both companies and welcomed them to the city’s River Market district, officials said two years ago each firm was planning to lease about 13,000-square feet in the Museum Center building, owned by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman.
At the time, the sister tech companies were both headquartered in Conway, but said they wanted to add heft to Little Rock’s Creative Corridor just after the Little Rock Technology Park had announced the location of its new startup incubator in downtown Little Rock following a $22.5 million voter referendum.
“Downtown Little Rock is an exciting place to be, and as nice as any city in America,” Morgan said in a news release two years ago. “We are happy to grow our company in the River Market district, near the Little Rock Tech Park, and are looking forward to our continued growth. We are building technology and building careers.”
In today’s announcement, First Orion officials said it now employs more than 100 people in management, marketing administration and tech-related jobs with plans to double entering the new offices. Company officials said they are actively recruiting new employees for positions in software development, analytics and customer management.
Two years ago, company officials said the job additions would pay average annual salaries between $80,000 and $90,000. “Given First Orion’s rapid growth projections, they needed a much larger space,” company spokeswoman Jackie Eicholz said in response to a Talk Business & Politics query.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has fiercely promoted the state’s emerging technology sector, said it was exciting to see key tech companies expanding in Arkansas.
“It is truly the best environment for technology businesses to grow and for aspiring professionals to learn necessary skills to compete in this tech-driven economy,” said Hutchinson, who also attended First Orion’s announcement in Little Rock in December 2015. “Through my computer science initiative, Arkansas continues to grow a young talent base of future programmers, data scientists, computer engineers and endless possibilities. I expect First Orion will become even more involved in our state’s emerging tech community in the future.”
Once First Orion moves its headquarters across the river, several companies tied to Morgan and Acxiom Corp., will have changed their local offices like musical chairs. At the River Market location, First Orion was only blocks away from the former corporate headquarters of Acxiom, where Morgan retired from Acxiom as the company’s longtime chairman and CEO exactly eight years ago.
In February, Acxiom sold its iconic downtown Little Rock office tower to Pine Bluff-based Simmons Bank and moved its headquarters from Little Rock back to Conway. Acxiom first announced plans to move to Little Rock in 1999, promising to add 700 jobs and create additional synergy in downtown Little Rock’s River Market.
On March 30, Acxiom then signed an agreement to lease 11,215 square feet in the 301 Main St. building in downtown Little Rock. Completed in 2015, the building is part of the downtown Creative Corridor re-development and about two blocks west of the Little Rock Tech Park. Acxiom will occupy 4,487 square feet on the second floor and 6,728 square feet on the third floor of the building. Other tenants include Waymack and Crew Moving Pictures, Tropical Tango and Blue Flame Minerals.
PrivacyStar, a former startup Morgan helped to get off the ground in 2008, offers a mobile call blocking service that sends call complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. The Little Rock tech entrepreneur is also a major investor and director at Inuvo, which is led by company chairman and CEO Rich Howe, a former chief marketing officer at Acxiom.