Hewlett-Packard says it will be adding around 200 highly skilled jobs to its facility in Conway. Governor Mike Beebe, Conway Mayor Tab Townsell and HP executive John Herzog joined state economic development officials in making the announcement at the state capitol. The 200 highly skilled tech jobs—said to consist of engineers, software developers, data analysts and the like—would be a part of HP’s growing healthcare information business. Beebe said Conway is a perfect fit for these positions because of its young, educated demographic and its centers of higher education.
“As a result of that they are very attractive for high-tech, high information, high-paid, high-skilled jobs. And HP has been very happy where they are. Now, there’s no question that HP went through some of the same troubles the rest of the country went through,” Beebe said.
Those troubles have already affected HP’s base in Conway, when hundreds of people were laid off from its call center earlier this year. That called into question the status of economic incentives HP receives from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund. In 2010, the company was awarded $10 million from the fund.
Economic Development officials say they continue to work with HP on its incentives package, determining amounts based around an employment threshold of 1,000 workers. If HP employs fewer than 1,000, they must renegotiate the incentives with the state. In July, HP said it would lay off about 500 workers. Beebe indicated the site currently employs between 600 and 700 workers and that this expansion would bring that number to between 800 and 900.
Speaking with reporters after the announcement, Arkansas Economic Development Commission director Grant Tenille said his agency will tally how many full-time employees have worked at HP over the course of the year to determine how much of the incentives the company will have to return.
Beebe said in his speech that the state will be using a formula consisting of total payroll, wage amounts and number of employees deciding incentive figures. Tenille added that they were taking “not a completely hard-line view on this.”
Nonetheless, Conway Mayor Townsell emphasized that efforts to keep HP in the city have paid off.
“This is a reaffirmation that the investments we made, that the investments we made, that the efforts we made, the political will we showed—that was called into question back in 2008—was actually the proper way to proceed and the proper way to go,” he said.
Officials couldn’t confirm whether the laid off workers would qualify for these new positions, but HP account executive John Herzog said after the announcement that he couldn’t rule out the possibility.
“These are some different skill sets than what were there but we’re going to take...any qualified applicant. We’ll be interviewing those and hiring accordingly,” said Herzog.
The jobs are to be added over the course of 2014.