July 2019 Magazine

Arkansas Businesses Celebrating Anniversaries: Little Rock Port Authority – 60 Years


by Tristan Bennett

Little Rock Port Authority – 60 Years

This year many Arkansas businesses are celebrating big anniversaries alongside our state’s celebration of its territory bicentennial. Anniversaries are always an accomplishment, whether it’s one year, a centennial or more. 

Bought as part of the Louisiana Purchase, the land that became Arkansas was established as a territory on March 2, 1819, according to the “Encyclopedia of Arkansas.” To celebrate the bicentennial, Arkansans gathered at the State Capitol in March for a party complete with a birthday cake, historical displays and a speech from Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Several of the state’s businesses are holding their own anniversary celebrations this year. It’s a milestone many do not get to enjoy. Twenty percent of businesses never see their first anniversary, and only about half will make it to their fifth year, according to the Small Business Administration. Arkansas is lucky to have such a diverse economy made up of local, homegrown businesses that Arkansans have continued to support for many years. 


The Little Rock Port Authority has come a long way from its slow start in 1959. 

“We exist to buy and sell land to attract industries from around the world to come and locate in Little Rock, Arkansas, and create jobs,” says Bryan Day, Little Rock Port Authority executive director. 

Sixty years later, it is now home to more than 40 businesses from six countries, which employs 4,500 people and contribute $500 million a year to the economy. When Congress decided to build the 415-mile-long McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, the city of Little Rock arranged for the port authority to be established as the city’s industrial park, according to Day. The idea was not very popular in its early years, and it took more than 10 years for the port to land its first business.

The Port Authority struggled to build momentum for many years. Day says, “For someone to invest $100 million in a company at the Port, they want to have confidence that it’s the right place to be.” 

In 2008, Welspun, a company from India, took a chance on the Port Authority, showing the world that Little Rock is the place to be. International business is now booming in Arkansas thanks to the Port.

Day says the secrets to the Port Authority’s success are building trust with the community, taking risks and having a long-term strategy. 

“Dream big, never lose sight of that vision and just keep heading that way,” he says.


Leave a Comment