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Arkansas in line for $54 million to build electric-car charging stations

Andrew Moreau t600


Two big announcements last week indicate that 2022 could be the year when Arkansas fully plugs into the electric vehicle industry.

First, the Biden administration said it would provide $5 billion to states to reach the goal of building 500,000 charging stations across the country. Arkansas is in line to receive about $54 million, which will be a vital investment to create a statewide transportation infrastructure that supports electric vehicles, according to Becky Keogh, secretary of the Department of Energy and Environment.

“We could deploy a very widespread transportation infrastructure,” she said. “We’re still evaluating the requirements that Arkansas needs to make to receive that money but it is a significant level of investment and it makes us competitive in having chargers deployed across our state.”

The key is to have chargers available every 50-60 miles to build confidence among electric-vehicle owners or companies that use them to demonstrate that their cars and trucks won’t lose juice in the middle of nowhere.

Overall, Arkansas should be able to create a network of charging stations across the state that encourages travel and stimulates more Arkansans to buy electric vehicles, Keogh said.

The electric vehicle sector in the state was further strengthened last week when Canoo announced it would shift some of its manufacturing operations from overseas to emphasize production in the United States. The company said Northwest Arkansas would benefit from the move.

That follows last month’s major announcement, when Canoo said it would move its headquarters and research and development facilities to Bentonville as part of a strategic move to promote the U.S. Highway 412 corridor from Oklahoma through Arkansas as a center of electric vehicle research, development and manufacturing power.

This week’s manufacturing news further bolsters efforts in the state; Canoo said it could begin building electric vehicles in Arkansas as soon as next year.

Previous announcements from Canoo have indicated the company plans to deliver more than 500 jobs to the Northwest Arkansas region.

Northwest and Central Arkansas have been the primary focus so far of building electric-car charging stations in the state although that likely will change beginning next year as the state taps into the federal dollars the Biden administration is making available.

The federal infrastructure bill that includes the charging station funds also dedicates an additional $2.5 billion for local grants to support charging stations in rural areas and in disadvantaged communities.

The state Department of Energy and Environment has been relying on federal funding from the State Energy Program to pay for chargers. The agency also has about $215,563 available for the effort through the federal government’s settlement with Volkswagen related to environmental violations.

This year the state provided funds to add 50 charging stations and that effort picks up next year with the Volkswagen settlement dollars dedicated to the buildout.

Now, the initiative gains even more momentum with the $54 million slated for Arkansas under Biden’s plan.

Arkansas will develop a plan that installs DC fast chargers to support quick charges at key points across the state as well as developing overnight charging stations in communities and public areas where electric-car owners can plug in vehicles overnight. Plans also will include rebates for homeowners who charge their vehicles where they live, Keogh said.

HAPPY HOMB

Home BancShares Inc. is closer to moving into Texas.

The Conway bank announced Wednesday that its shareholders and the owners of Amarillo-based Happy Bancshares Inc. have both approved the proposed $918 million merger of the two banks.

On Thursday, the acquisition was approved by the Arkansas State Banking Board and the Arkansas State Bank Commissioner. Pending federal approval, closing is scheduled for the first quarter next year.

Home Bancshares, parent company of Centennial Bank, announced it would enter the Texas market with the all-stock acquisition of Happy Bancshares, which operates as Happy State Bank across the panhandle and other areas of Texas.

With Happy on board, Home BancShares will be one of the nation’s 75 largest banks with about $23.3 billion in assets, $13.4 billion in loans and $18.7 billion in deposits.

“I want to thank both the Happy shareholders and HOMB shareholders for their support of the merger,” Home BancShares Chairman John Allison said in a statement.

CIRCUMFERENCE GROWS

The Circumference Group, a Little Rock investment firm, is venturing out with a studio focused on identifying, developing and funding pre-seed and seed-stage companies.

The initiative, CG Ventures, will help entrepreneurs build strategic value creation and deliver scalable value to customers, the company said, adding that it wants to help create successful long-term businesses.

“Through CG Ventures, we will partner with driven entrepreneurs by providing capital and access to our team’s cross-functional expertise,” said Jeff Fox, Circumference chief executive officer and founder. “Circumference Group will provide its studio partners with an invaluable network of potential new end users and investors through the team’s global relationships and advisory roles.”

Arthur Ordinal, previously executive vice president and chief innovation officer of Avis Budget Group, will lead the effort at Circumference.

NLR BUILDING SALE

Diamant Properties is the new owner of a former Arvest bank branch in North Little Rock’s Park Hill neighborhood. The 2,532-square-foot building at 3502 John F. Kennedy Blvd. sold for $550,000.

Diamant Accounting will move operations to the building. The company, owned by Shane Diamant, provides accounting, financial processing, payroll and tax management services with a focus on small businesses and individuals.

Brandon Rogers of Colliers of Arkansas represented the seller in the transaction and Stuart S. Mackey of Hathaway Group represented the buyer.

“With its great visibility and easy access to and from Interstates 30 and 40, it is a fantastic purchase for its new ownership group,” Rogers said.

“This neighborhood location continues to show Shane’s interest in serving the local business owner,” Mackey added. “Hathaway Group was proud to have represented Diamant CPA to find a new home and enjoyed working with Colliers to meet both clients’ needs in this transaction.”

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