As CJRW opened for business at its new home at Third and Main in downtown Little Rock Monday, the firm introduced Darin Gray as its new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. The announcement was made by Wayne Woods, 67, who has served as Chairman and CEO since 2010.
Gray, 50, was named President of CJRW in early 2014 as part of a long-term leadership transition plan that was put in place in 2013. Prior to joining CJRW, Gray was owner of Gray Matters, Inc., publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal and several niche publications.
“Over the course of the last 18 months, the decision to designate Darin as my successor as Chairman and CEO has been validated time and time again,” said Woods. “He has broad experience in leading, managing and growing businesses and has played an instrumental role not only in our move to Main Street, but in positioning us for continued success moving forward.”
Woods cited expansion of the firm’s digital and interactive division and realignment and reorganization of several divisions as part of that positioning. In addition to assuming the role of Chairman and CEO, Gray will also retain the position and duties as agency President.
Woods made the announcement to agency staff members as they gathered Monday morning to celebrate the firm’s move to downtown’s “Creative Corridor.” Since being named President of CJRW, Gray has split his time between the agency’s Northwest Arkansas office and its Little Rock headquarters. Effective immediately, he will be based primarily in Little Rock and continue to maintain an office in Northwest Arkansas.
“I could not be more humbled by the confidence Wayne and the Board of Directors have placed in me to lead this great firm,” Gray said. “CJRW is an iconic Arkansas business that has helped countless clients succeed since it was founded. It has clearly set the standard for excellence in our industry and we will continue to set that standard moving forward,” he said.
Woods, who has been with the firm since 1970, will assume Chairman Emeritus status and manage the agency’s publications division, publisher of numerous tourism-related publications annually.
“To be able to turn the reins over to Darin and step back into my first love and what I do best is extremely gratifying at this stage of my career,” said Woods. “That was my plan when we started this process and to see it come to fruition as we move into our new building is especially fitting.”
CJRW’s new office is on the southwest intersection of Third and Main in downtown Little Rock. City leaders and downtown interests have dubbed the intersection the “Gateway to the Creative Corridor.” The “Creative Corridor” extends south along Main from Third Street to Ninth. CJRW will occupy all three floors of 300 Main Street, which was previously home to Bennett’s Military Supply. CJRW had been located at 303 West Capitol Avenue since 1984.
CJRW will lease the building from Terraforma, L.L.C., a real estate development firm based in Maumelle. Terraforma will also manage the property. Kinco Construction has been the contractor. Flake-Kelley negotiated the lease terms and contract. “To be at the ‘Gateway’ to the Creative Corridor is especially fitting for a firm like ours,” said Gray. “We are pleased to be among the first new tenants of the corridor and look forward to seeing it fully develop.”
Earlier this month, CJRW unveiled a new brand logo to be used in conjunction with the opening of its new offices.
Woods and his brother, Shelby, have been prominent players in Arkansas’ tourism industry for decades. Shelby founded Woods Brothers Agency in 1967. In 1990, it merged with CJRW, creating one of the largest marketing firms in the region. Shelby Woods also previously served as Chairman and CEO of CJRW before assuming Chairman Emeritus status several years ago.
Earlier this year, CJRW acquired Heathcott Associates of Little Rock. CJRW represents clients in nearly every business category, including tourism, energy, education, banking, professional services, automobiles, transportation, philanthropy, entertainment, dining and special events.
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 Secretary Treasurer 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.
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.
Gray, a native of Bryant, and his wife Tami have one son, Caleb.