‘A visionary servant leader’ – Johnny Adams receives chamber’s highest honor

The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce presented Johnny Adams with the Distinguished Service Award – the highest honor given annually to a member – at the organization’s annual meeting earlier this year. He was described as a “man of integrity” and a “motivator.”

“Johnny Adams was a worthy honoree. As the selection committee noted, he was a very important part of the Hewlett-Packard project as he led the financing team and helped pull together the consortium of local banks that made the deal possible,” said Brad Lacy, president and CEO of the chamber. “He also helped transform the chamber into a completely different organization during his time in leadership positions. He has a long history of public service to a list of organizations and to our community.

“He is a visionary servant leader, and I am happy to see him receive this recognition.”

A lifelong resident of Conway, Adams has been in banking since age 17. He has a graduate banking degree from the American Bankers Association Stonier Graduate Banking School at the University of Delaware. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance and economics from the University of Central Arkansas. He is president and CEO of First Security Bank in Conway.

A member of the charter class of the Faulkner County Leadership Institute, Adams has served a leadership role in a variety of organizations, including Arkansas Education Television Network Foundation, Faulkner County Day School, Conway Rotary Club, Main Street Conway and Conway Regional Medical Center. He is also a past elder board member of Fellowship Bible Church of Conway.

Adams and his wife, Stacia, served as event chairmen for Toad Suck Daze. The couple has two daughters, Emily and Elizabeth.

Adams served on the chamber board from 2006 through 2008, serving the last year as president.

“During those years I served on a committee to reorganize the chamber board (which included) making an umbrella agency where people can come and get things done,” he said.

The committee added seats by position, such as Conway mayor, Faulkner County judge and seats from boards such as the Conway Advertising and Promotion Commission.

The new structure enabled the chamber to grow from 850 members to 1,400.

“We have a strategic partnership with other groups interested in promoting Conway’s well-being … so the chamber could really have a voice.  It gave us the ability to act strategically and quickly,” he said.

The ability to act quickly was important when HP considered Conway, he continued.

“HP noticed Conway was speaking with one voice,” Adams said.

In 2008, Adams demonstrated his leadership skills as he led the effort to put together a financing package for the Conway Development Corporation’s recruitment of Hewlett-Packard.  He worked long nights and weekends to ensure that Conway was successful in landing the largest economic development project in recent memory. 

“Brad put together a team including myself, Bill Adkisson and estimators from Nabholz Construction,” Adams said. “My part was to put together what lease rate we could bid it at. In mid-June 2008, (Lacy) received a phone call that we had won. We were very pleased, obviously.”

Adams put together a consortium of local banks to finance the deal in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Depression. His tenacity and creativity were the difference between a win and a loss.

“The best thing for me was when I went to the grand opening,” he said. “Probably 600 employees (were there). Many were graduates of UCA who got a job in Conway and didn’t have to go out of state to work for a company like Hewlett-Packard.”

He added, “I think the community really came together when the people from Hewlett-Packard came to visit. There was a real sense of pride that showed HP what a special place Conway is. For people who worked on the project, we were all united by the fact of what was great for Conway.”

As for the moment he received the award at the chamber’s annual meeting, Adams said, “I had no clue. I have been rarely surprised in my life. I was deeply honored. It’s been a pleasure to be involved in Conway because of the people. It’s a special place. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

“One of the best parts of my job is seeing a community realize the best it can be.”