Darin Gray
Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods President Darin Gray

Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods has named Darin Gray as President of the firm. Wayne Woods, who will continue to serve as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, made the announcement of Gray's appointment. Gray assumes his duties immediately and will continue to live in Northwest Arkansas where the agency has an office location.

On February 3, Gray announced that the company he founded in 2004, Gray Matters, LLC, of Fayetteville, had been placed in a family trust to be administered by his wife, Tami. In 1997 Gray began serving as President and Publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal and its related publications. In June of 2004, Gray acquired the Northwest Arkansas division of Arkansas Business Publishing Group.

Woods said naming a President of the firm is part of a process that has been on-going for a number of months.

“For some time now, we have been planning to name a President of the firm so that we can best manage and plan our growth and development and prepare for the future,” Woods said. “During that process, we identified a number of qualities that we wanted in a President. Chief among them are executive experience in managing a multi-faceted business, proven leadership qualities, a working knowledge of Northwest Arkansas, and a deep understanding of the Arkansas business community and the state in general,” Woods said. “We knew what we wanted; we just didn’t know who that was.

“But we came to realize that we were not just describing the qualities we wanted in a President, but we were describing Darin Gray to a ‘T’. I am hard-pressed to think of anyone who has those qualifications and is more widely respected and genuinely admired around the state than Darin.

“When we learned that Darin was looking to explore other opportunities beyond the success he has had with the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal and Gray Matters, we approached him to gauge his interest in joining us,” said Woods. “We were thrilled that he was as interested in the opportunity as we were with him. This is a great day in our history and a great day for our clients and professional staff.”

In addition to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Gray Matters publishes the Northwest Arkansas Guest Guide, Northwest Arkansas Newcomers Guide and the Northwest Arkansas Book of Lists; seasonal supplements include the Northwest Arkansas How To Guide, Northwest Arkansas Business Resource Guide and the Northwest Arkansas Outsource Guide

“The cliché that ‘timing is everything’ certainly applies in this case,” said Gray. “At the time my family and I were talking through ‘what’s next?’ CJRW reached out to me. A casual conversation became a serious discussion and here we are today. I have long had deep respect for the agency, its founders and principals, and what it has meant to the business community and the entire state,” Gray said. “They have been involved in every business sector and have set the standard for communications excellence. I am honored to become part of its executive leadership team.”

As president, Gray becomes a member of CJRW’s Executive Committee and its Board of Directors. Continuing to serve on the Executive Committee will be Wayne Woods, chairmen Emeriti Wayne Cranford and Shelby Woods, and Steve Allen, senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Woods noted that he and Shelby Woods will continue to be involved in day-to-day operations of the agency, but fully anticipates that Gray will take on an expanding leadership role moving forward.

“One of the marks of a healthy, vibrant business enterprise is continuity of leadership that allows it to build on its successes moving forward,” said Woods.  “We have a 50-plus-year heritage of success in the communications business that is unmatched certainly in Arkansas, and in much of the region for that matter,” Woods said. “This announcement will help ensure that CJRW will continue to be the leader in the state when it comes to marketing, advertising and public relations strategy and service,” he said. 

Gray, his wife Tami and son, Caleb, live in Springdale and will maintain their residence there. Gray will split time between CJRW’s Northwest Arkansas office in Johnson and the agency’s downtown Little Rock location.

“Our Northwest Arkansas operation is a vital part of our overall operations,” Woods said. “We have a great team in place there and having additional executive leadership on the ground in Northwest Arkansas reflects our commitment to the area.”

Gray began his professional career in the economic development arena while working for the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. He also spent several years working in the Chamber of Commerce industry including a stint as the Economic Developer for the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. While serving in the economic development sector, Gray attended and graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute and the Arkansas Community Development Institute.

Gray is a past Chairman of the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission. He is also a founding member of the Northwest Arkansas CEO Forum and currently serves as a Board member of the Center for Missions Mobilization. He previously served as a Board member of the Roger-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce as well as the Secretary Treasure of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to the several periodicals published by Gray Matters, Gray was also involved in the development and management of several prominent “business-2-business” programs within the Northwest Arkansas business community, including the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s annual Forty Under 40 Event, Fast 15 and A" List Real Estate events. Gray Matters also hosts the b-2-b web site www.nwabusinessjournal.com.

In 2007 Gray earned his Private Pilot’s license and later added his Instrument and Multi-Engine ratings. In 2012, Gray served as the moderator for the first ever Arkansas/Oklahoma joint Aerospace Conference and has served as keynote speaker for the regional FAA Stand Down event speaking on the subject of General Aviation and Economic Development in Arkansas.

Gray is a former Governor of Boys State and President of the student body at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. At the University, he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication and a minor in Political Science.