Governor-Elect Hutchinson: Higher Pay, Nationwide Search For Top Economic Development Post

Dec 22, 2014

Asa Hutchinson speaks to reporters at the Capitol Monday alongside new Workforce Services Director Daryl Basset.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson announced on Monday that he wants to raise the pay of the state’s chief economic developer to attract a high-caliber candidate in a nationwide search. Hutchinson also named two appointments to top state agency positions.

Speaking at a press conference at the Capitol, Hutchinson said he’d come to the conclusion compensation needed to be adjusted for the next director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission after consulting with industry leaders.

“The consensus in my talking to economic developers in Arkansas, they encourage me to make sure that we get someone to compete in the national arena in job creation. That takes a nationally competitive search and regionally competitive salary,” said Hutchinson.

The incoming Republican said more study is needed before a firm compensation package will be proposed. Details could include incentive-based pay and funds being raised outside of the traditional budget. There is also an unrelated salary commission studying pay for elected state officials.

Hutchinson speculated the salary for the AEDC’s top position, currently held by Grant Tennille, might jump by $70,000 a year.

“I believe the current salary is in the $120,000 to $130,000 range which is lower than the other states that I’m speaking of in terms of Texas, Alabama, Florida in particularly. I suspect it will need to get into the $200,000 range,” said Hutchinson.

While Tennille, an appointment of term-limited Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, has not been asked to stay on in his current capacity, Hutchinson did not critique Tennille’s tenure.

“I think Grant has done a great job and he has been very helpful in the transition. I only have good things to say,” said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson did not set a timeline for Tennille's replacement and did not identify a particular industry he hoped to pursue with AEDC’s power to offer incentives and attract development. However, Hutchinson did say he hoped to build upon industries already located in Arkansas.

The appointment of Daryl Basset as the new director of the Department of Workforce Services was also announced Monday, along with the selection of Danny Games, a natural gas lobbyist, as deputy director of AEDC.