Bank in Arkansas

The building towers over the neighborhood where I live in West Little Rock, much like something one would expect to see in the prosperous northern suburb of Dallas. And I mean this comment in a good way.

Bank OZK changed the course of this busy stretch of Arkansas 10.

Thanks to a project that will eventually house 900 white-collar workers, restaurants are emerging. It also added to a budding financial corridor that includes an existing office building for First Security Bank and the multi-million dollar transformation of the old Family Life building into the Arkansas Federal Credit Union headquarters.

The AFCU building will initially accommodate 200 employees and then expand to double that number. AFCU operates nearly 20 branches in central Arkansas, the Fort Smith area and northwest Arkansas.

Thus, the state’s largest credit union (AFCU has over $ 1.2 billion in total assets and serves around 110,000 members) and its largest bank (Bank OZK has nearly $ 27 billion in total assets with more than 250 offices in 10 states) will be within walking distance. one of the other.

George Gleason, who bought a controlling stake in an Ozark-based bank in 1979, is thinking big. The 44-acre lot is large enough to house six other buildings, and Gleason intends to have a full corporate campus as Bank OZK continues to grow remarkably. It can be everything from a conference center and hotel to accommodate visiting employees from across the country, to perks like a fitness center and babysitting facilities. I’ve learned to never underestimate Gleason.

It’s calm on this rainy day as I enter the spacious atrium for the first time. I admire the sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn in the lobby (Quinn is an Italian sculptor, the fifth son of actor Anthony Quinn) and hear of additional works that will be housed outside. The 75 foot high atrium opens to the five levels of the 248,000 square foot building.

Executive Vice President Susan Blair is my tour guide. We will later meet Gleason and other members of the management team for lunch in the conference room.

“This building was built with the modern workforce in mind,” says Blair.

This means a 111,000 square foot underground parking lot that protects employees from the elements, an open floor plan, 38 conference rooms, 475 workstations and 281 private offices. When preparing to go out, employees can enjoy more than 15,000 plants, eight acres of wildflowers and 500 native trees.

There are 90 benches made from quarried limestone near Batesville and 13 benches made from reclaimed cypress. Employees are encouraged to walk around the campus. That day, a Minute Man food truck is parked in the back. The water collection ponds on the ground are filled with koi carp.

I watched the construction for months as 120 million pounds of concrete, 3 million pounds of steel, one million pounds of stone and 200,000 square feet of glass were used in a structure designed by Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects and built by CDI Contractors of Little Rock. Still, I had no idea how pleasant it would be to work.

Inside there is art from all over the world, expensive art. There are already more than 50 works of art, including paintings as well as glass, marble and bronze sculptures.

I marvel at the 10 by 38 (there are 12) polished marble walls which are their own works of art. The marble came from South America, Asia and Europe.

Gleason is sure to add to the art collection in the years to come. The atrium will later be open for public events, and there may be guides who can explain the art collection to visitors. Think of it as a bank and an art museum.

“This is the fourth seat we have in Little Rock,” Gleason said at the start of the lunch. “We have a long history of underestimating our needs.”

In 1995, Gleason moved Ozark Bank to a 3,500 square foot space in downtown Little Rock. Three years later, the bank built a 40,000 square foot structure at 12615 Chenal Parkway. In 2008, growth required the construction of a 92,000 square foot structure at 17901 Chenal Parkway. A data center was added in downtown Little Rock in 2015.

“It became apparent shortly after moving into the new building in 2008 that we were going to need more space,” says Gleason.

Bank officials tried but were unable to acquire an attached property, which now houses a retirement home and an Aloft hotel.

“We needed more land than they had available if we were to look at several decades,” says Gleason.

Gleason has long been friends with Ed Willis, developer of The Ranch on Highway 10. The two men were able to negotiate a deal for the 44 acres. Now Gleason is ready to change the face of the far west of Little Rock.

The same day I had lunch with Gleason, Simmons First National Corp. announces that it will pay $ 278 million to buy two Tennessee banks. With the acquisitions, Simmons will have assets of more than $ 25 billion. Just as Bank OZK is changing West Little Rock, Simmons revitalized the River Market District by purchasing the Acxiom Building for $ 25 million in 2017.

The growth of the state’s public banking companies (Bank OZK, Simmons and Home BancShares of Conway, which operates as Centennial Bank) bodes well for the Arkansas economy. Along with the constant growth of private banks such as First Security and Arvest, the banking industry is truly one of the shining stars of Arkansas.


Editor-in-chief Rex Nelson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.


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