Bank of the Ozarks plans expansion in Ozark
By JOHN LOVETT
May. 21, 2018
OZARK, Ark. (AP) — George Gleason could have decided to put a new operations center for Bank of the Ozarks in many cities, from New York to California, and Texas or Florida.
However, on April 19, the Bank of the Ozarks CEO told 240 local bank employees gathered at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark that the national bank soon to be known as Bank OZK would continue its corporate growth in the town where it got its start.
By the end of the summer, the bank will begin construction of a 36,761-square-foot operations center that increases job capacity by 250 with anticipation of creating as many as 133 of those new jobs over the next five years.
Construction of the new operations center is expected to be completed by the second or third quarter of 2019, the Southwest Times Record reported .
The energy efficient building, designed by Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects to blend in with the existing three buildings, will offer 235 modern work spaces and 25 offices at the corner of West College and North Seventh streets. A covered connector will link the new building and the original bank headquarters.
"It's a big announcement," Bank of the Ozarks Market President Eddie Melton said. "For some towns it is a nice announcement. But for Ozark it is big."
Ozark Mayor T.R. McNutt, likewise, said the announcement was "huge" for the town of about 3,500 between the Arkansas River and Interstate 40.
"It's a pretty big shot in the arm," McNutt said.
A $330,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Economic Development will aid in the project, McNutt noted. The grant will help pay for infrastructure improvements such as drainage along College Street.
Melton said the "culture and work ethic" of the Ozark campus contributed to a decision for the new office to be built in Ozark. A price tag for the project was not offered. In addition to the architects, the work will also be done by Batson Inc. White-Daters & Associates Inc. and Engineering Consultants Inc.
It's been about 10 years since the bank announced it would build what became the Kenneth Smith Operations Center, a 27,615-square-foot building that more than doubled the bank's footprint in Ozark. That center increased jobs by 200 to the current 241 jobs in Ozark. The bank is now headquartered in Little Rock with about 2,500 team members in 254 offices across 10 states.
There are 21 positions available at the bank's operations centers in Ozark, according to Susan Blair, executive vice president and company spokeswoman.
Jobs that will be in demand with the new operations center in Ozark, Blair added, include those in information technology, digital services, telecommunications, loan and deposit operations, inbound customer call support, data support, quality control and risk management.
The housing market in Ozark could benefit from the jobs increase, McNutt said. However, many employees at the bank's operations centers in Ozark also commute from Alma, Clarksville, Fort Smith, Paris, Russellville and Van Buren, Blair said.
Bank of the Ozarks is one of the largest employers in Ozark. The largest is Butterball, and others include the Ozark School District and Baldor, now known as ABB, Melton said.
A partnership between the bank and Arkansas Tech University-Ozark has helped in the bank's growth. Over the past 10 years, 175 employees have taken courses at ATU-Ozark and 35 have graduated with either a degree or a certificate in banking technology.
"We were used to people having to leave Ozark for employment," Melton said. "The community is very excited about the prospect of growth here."
Melton was previously the bank's market president for Franklin County and now also oversees the banking operations in Logan, Pope and Johnson counties.
Gleason, the 28th employee of the 115-year-old bank, purchased it in 1979 when it had $28 million in assets. Gleason noted in his remarks April 19 that "the culture of excellence was born in Ozark, it continues to thrive here and it goes with us as we grow."
"We are pleased with our growth, enthusiastic for our future and proud of our Ozark legacy — and we continue to sink our roots deeper into this community," Gleason said April 19. "Our people and culture of excellence are among the prime reasons we are able to make today's announcement, as well as the reason we have been named the nation's top-performing bank 12 times in the past eight years."
The rankings quoted by Gleason are from the S&P Global Market Intelligence ranking of regional banks in 2012 and 2015-17.
Bank of the Ozarks was founded at Ozark in 1903 and as of March 31 had $22.04 billion in total assets with banking operations through 252 offices in Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, New York and California.
Other organizations that have recognized Bank of the Ozarks as the nation's top-performing bank in its asset size category include Bank Director magazine in 2013-17 and ABA Banking Journal in 2011 and 2012.
Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/