Transmission organization breaks ground for Little Rock facility


LITTLE ROCK — Regional transmission organization Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, broke ground Friday in Little Rock for a regional operations center it said would employ about 50 people at an average annual salary of $85,000.

Gov. Mike Beebe attended the groundbreaking ceremony and used an analogy to describe what the center would do.

“I liken what this is all about to air traffic controllers for electrons,” he said. “They’re going to be directing those electrons throughout multiple, multiple miles of systems with engineers and highly qualified, highly educated people to be able to deliver reliable, cost-effective energy to so many folks in the customer area.”

Beebe added that “we’re particularly grateful that they chose Little Rock and Arkansas as the location for their new footprint across the South. The opportunities existed for this to go in a lot of different places.”

John Bear, MISO’s president and CEO, said the work force, the schools, the presence of colleges with programs on power-system engineering, the quality of life and an environment friendly to high-tech companies were all factors that led MISO to choose Arkansas for the facility.

“We (will) get a very close, on-hands look the system as it operates down here, and when things happen in terms of storms or hurricanes or things in the Gulf, the nexus of information will be our command center here,” Bear said. “It will be a place where everybody can come and touch and feel and see what we’re doing, but also get the information, whether it’s system restoration, system damage, those kinds of things.”

State incentives that MISO is eligible to receive for the project include a cash rebate of 3.9 percent of payroll for new jobs created in the first four years and sales tax refunds on building materials, machinery and equipment associated with the project.

MISO is headquartered in Carmel, Ind., and has operations centers in Carmel and St. Paul, Minn. The nonprofit organization was approved as the nation’s first regional transmission organization in 2001 and now manages more than $18 billion in gross market energy transactions each year.

Also located in Little Rock is the headquarters of another regional transmission organization, Southwest Power Pool.