History of Conway Corp

The story of Conway Corporation is one of continuous growth and development, not only of industry, but of the town. More than 85 years ago, Conway faced an uncertain future with the threat of losing Hendrix College and Central Baptist College. City leaders, businessmen and residents joined together to find a solution to preserve the city’s economically-strapped educational institutions as well as attract future industries and jobs to the area. 

A town meeting was held, a committee was selected and eventually a recommendation was made. An article printed in the April 20, 1929, issue of the Log Cabin Democrat gave a detailed account of the meeting and the committee chair’s statement: 

Interior of the electric plant with the first steam generator, 1920.

“Conway has arrived at a crisis in her history. … Conway is built around her colleges; to remove any of them would … leave her … crippled, if not doomed to die, and impair, if not destroy, the civic pride and ambition essential to progress.

“In its municipal electric light plant, the City of Conway has an asset of inestimable value – one which has many times in past years bridged the city over financial crises. To it, in the belief of this committee, we must now turn in this major crisis.” 

The people of Conway agreed and banded together to create a unique vision – one no one had seen before. In the grips of the Great Depression, bonds were sold to create Conway Corp out of the city’s electric utility revenues and to generate enough money to keep the two universities in the city. Since then, those original 1929 monies have been reinvested time and time again to power education, economic growth and countless other projects in our community. 

Originally, power was only available between sundown and midnight. No electric meters were used, and customers were billed according to the number of lights they had. Residents were billed 35 cents per month for each 16 candlepower – 25 watt – lamps connected. All power was generated downtown where Conway Corp’s business office is currently located.

As the city grew, so did the needs of citizens in new and different ways. It started with turning the city’s modest Light Department into an economic development engine that then expanded into purchasing enough power to support a growing city and finding a reliable way to get water to and from an increasing population. Conway Corp began operating the city’s waterworks system in 1930 and has been continually planning for Conway’s future water needs since.

As technologies advanced, so did Conway Corp’s offerings. Cable was added in 1981, and Conway became the fifth city in North America to have broadband cable Internet service in 1997. Telephone service was added in 2008, and in 2016 residents were offered Conway Corp Home Security and Automation Service. 

As Conway Corp continues to grow and advance, the people of Conway benefit not only from services, but also from profits that are reinvested back into the community. What started as $215,000 worth of bonds given to local education institutions in 1929 has grown into millions of dollars invested and reinvested into the community over the years. 

Conway Corp is strongly invested in area education and is committed to providing world-class digital technology and other resources like grants and scholarships to local schools, universities and students. Most recently, Conway Corp pledged $1.5 million to Hendrix College for the construction of the Miller Creative Quad. It opened last fall as a mixed-use development combining creative art facilities, student living space and the Windgate Museum of Art.

Conway Corporation Hall encompasses the south wing of the complex on the second and third floors. The hall houses 54 students in 16 single dorm rooms and 19 double dorm rooms. The 15,745 square-foot area also includes five study spaces. 

In 1929, Conway leaders built a framework to benefit future generations over and over again. They created an opportunity powered by Conway Corp and its commitment to this community. Since then, Conway Corp and our employees have worked to honor that commitment and make a difference in the place we call home. We proudly continue the efforts of those leaders in 1929 who captured the spirit of Conway and created a vision of the city powered by Conway Corp. 

Beth Jimmerson
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