Expansion-minded drug store operator Express Rx announced plans Monday to consolidate its varied office locations in several states into a new headquarters location in Little Rock, adding some 24 new white-collar positions to the state’s tight labor pool.
During a press event at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott and other top city, county and state officials rolled out the red carpet to Express Rx CEO Galen Perkins whose fast-growing chain now has 18 retail locations across eight states.
"I am excited that you allow me to make this announcement and that you made this announcement possible… The key fact is that they are a growing business," Hutchinson told Perkins. "There is something special about getting a headquarters location. That means as they grow in Kansas, or they grow in Mississippi, or they grow in Oklahoma – that means they are growing in Arkansas at the same time."
Hutchinson also made mention that with Express Rx deciding to set up shop in Little Rock, state and local economic developers are focused on bringing “high-paying” positions to Arkansas’ 1.3 million civilian labor pool. Even with Arkansas voters approving a new minimum wage in the November 2018 election that will progressively rise to $11 in 2021, Hutchinson said the state is looking to outpace that standard.
"We are so far above that in the wages we are bringing into Arkansas. This drives the economy forward even to a greater extent," said Hutchinson, adding that economic developers across the state have made over 400 job announcements since he took office in early 2015.
"It is important to note that the vast majority of those companies have Arkansas roots,” continued Hutchinson, who recently returned to Arkansas from a Far East job recruiting trip. “They are here, they are expanding, and we brought in many companies from away as well. The homegrown talent pool and that entrepreneurial spirit will represent the growth for the future."
Mayor Scott also applauded Express Rx for creating a new headquarters location, boasting that Arkansas is rapidly becoming a hub for the healthcare industry that accounts for 20% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product growth. "And most of that 20% is located right here in the city of Little Rock,” said Scott. “Express Rx had a decision to make on where to locate its headquarters. Its decision to choose Little Rock is because of our educated workforce, favorable business climate and quality of life amenities."
In introducing his company, Perkins told the afternoon chamber crowd that Express Rx chose Arkansas as its new headquarters after a competitive process that ended with the decision to move its administrative and executive functions to Little Rock. The drug store retailer now is looking forward to gain market share nationally in a competitive landscape that includes chains like CVS and Walgreens and retail giants like Walmart and Target.
"As many of us know, the industrial-pharmaceutical complex has brought health care to the masses and increased our nation’s life expectancy, but there are still significant gaps in patient care," said Perkins. "At Express Rx, we want to meet that need. Our pharmacists are the most successful healthcare providers in their local communities."
"At Express Rx, we are focused on providing the highest quality health care services possible," added Perkins. "With its convenient location, able workforce and strong community support, our Little Rock headquarters will help fuel our continued growth."
Founded in May 2013, Perkins and Express Rx CFO John Trainor Namir led a group of former pharmaceutical executives to open the first Express Rx in Miami, Okla. In 2016, the drug store retailer built a Little Rock store with seed capital from strategic partner Franklin McLarty, the Arkansas investment banker with key holdings in the transportation, real estate, and automotive sectors, among others.
Since then, Express Rx has expanded to additional locations in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. A month ago, the drug store group more than doubled its size after joining with the MHR Fund Management LLC to acquire 10 Fred’s Pharmacies in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Founded in 1996, MHR is a New York-based private equity firm that manages $5 billion of capital and has holdings in public and private companies across a variety of industries.
In speaking with reporters, Perkins would not divulge the average salaries of the two-dozen executive and administrative positions that will be relocating to Little Rock, only agreeing that some would be in the “six-figure range” and below. Altogether, the company has about 150 employees at its 18 locations across mostly SEC states.
Perkins also said that incentives offered by the state Economic Development Commission and Little Rock played a role in Express Rx’s decision to merge its spread-out offices to one location in the city’s Riverdale area. AEDC spokeswoman Brandi Hinkle said Express Rx was offered state incentives through the department’s Create Rebate and Tax Back programs. The Create Rebate program provide qualified businesses a financial incentive equal to 3.9% to 5% of the annual payroll of new full-time permanent employees.
Under the Tax Back program, qualified businesses investing at least $100,000 with a job creation agreement through the Advantage Arkansas or Create Rebate programs can apply for a refund of sales and use tax within 24 months. Tax Back applicants must also obtain an endorsement resolution from a local governing authority authorizing the refund of its local taxes. The local incentive program is also a refund of sales and use taxes for the city and county.