Brian Chilson

Mike Preston, the former state Commerce Department secretary, has been hired by Stephens to head a new initiative in the Little Rock firm’s investment division, Arkansas Business reports.

Preston will head a Site & Incentive Advisory practice, according to a press release from the company, advising businesses on growth strategies “by helping them understand the opportunities and challenges with site selection.

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“This will include navigating complex incentive plans and assistance with negotiations in order to produce optimal solutions for their shareholders.”

Preston was hired by former Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2015 to head the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. He became secretary of the Department of Commerce in 2019 after Hutchinson reorganized state government.

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He routinely received fat bonuses for his work, but never any clawbacks for projects that didn’t materialize. Preston also presided over the troubled Workforce Services Division, which was a mess with compromised software for unemployment claims and a long record of mishandling unemployment benefits.

Governor Sanders named former Entergy executive Hugh McDonald to lead the Commerce Department and Clint O’Neal, a former deputy director at the Economic Development Commission, to lead the commission.

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