LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A nonprofit electric grid management organization plans to open a regional hub in Little Rock and hire as many as 50 workers who will earn an average of $85,000 per year, officials announced Wednesday.
Midcontinent Independent System Operator, known as MISO, is the second electric grid manager to locate in Arkansas' capital city. Southwest Power Pool opened a new $62 million headquarters last year, where it has a similar pay range for about 550 employees.
Regional grid managers buy wholesale electricity for member utilities and are intended to secure the lowest prices available and sustain a reliable supply.
MISO's board decided to open the regional office as Entergy Arkansas leaves its system agreement this year with parent company Entergy Corp.
From the Little Rock office, Carmel, Ind.-based MISO will manage electricity distribution to Entergy in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Regulators in all four states have approved Entergy's request to join MISO.
MISO President and Chief Executive Officer John R. Bear said the company doesn't yet have a site but plans to be running within 18 months. The nonprofit plans to spend between $5 million and $8 million on the regional headquarters.
MISO is receiving state incentives that include a cash rebate of 3.9 percent of payroll for new jobs for four years and a sales tax refund on building materials, taxable machinery and equipment.
"Little Rock was a very easy choice for us," Bear said during a gathering with Gov. Mike Beebe and other officials at the Capitol.
Bear said the city's geographical location, quality of life, available workforce and higher education factored into the decision.
"We love to hear the words high pay and high tech coupled together," Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said.
Bear said the facility will employ electrical engineers, people to work with regulators and others to work in customer relations with utilities. He said MISO will start hiring immediately.
Arkansas Economic Development Director Grant Tennille said having Entergy as a MISO member factored into negotiations that landed the $1.1 billion Big River Steel plant planned for Osceola. Entergy is to supply electricity to the facility and Tennille said the low rates that come with membership in a regional transmission group will be important in securing future projects, as well.
MISO's turf includes 15 states in the central part of the nation, from Michigan to the Gulf Coast. It also serves Manitoba, Canada.