Not long after the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis opened its doors in 1914, the need for additional offices to serve the Eighth District became apparent. In 1919, the Bank opened a branch office in Little Rock, Ark., which joined Louisville, Ky., and Memphis, Tenn., as Eighth District cities hosting branches.
The specific roles served by the Little Rock Branch have evolved over its nearly 100 years of existence, but it continues to play an important role to the Eighth District and the Fed system at large.
Gathering in-depth information for a district covering more than 180,000 square miles would be a challenging task to accomplish from a single location, especially given the diverse nature of the businesses and local economies in the Eighth District. Therefore, one of the key ways branches assist the St. Louis Fed is through the gathering of economic information from around their zones. Branches allow not only for a more efficient collection of information, but also for deeper relationships through staff involvement in their local economies, producing a depth and breadth of information not possible from hundreds of miles away.
The Little Rock Branch’s board of directors provides one of the most direct ways for Branch staff to gauge the economic conditions of the area. Representing all parts of the Little Rock Zone, the seven members of the board play a major role in helping the St. Louis Fed monitor the economic pulse of the area.
The St. Louis Fed’s Industry Councils are also a significant part of the conversation. The four councils—Health Care, Real Estate, Transportation and Agribusiness, the last of which is headed by the Little Rock regional executive—consist of industry leaders around the District who gather semiannually to discuss business conditions.
In addition to its role within the Fed’s regional structure of gathering information, the Little Rock Branch also offers several programs for residents of the Little Rock Zone. The office hosts and sponsors community development events and facilitates partnerships with local and regional nonprofits to ensure fair and equal access to credit for low-income populations. Additionally, the economic education staff promotes the teaching and learning of economics and personal finance. By working with advisory boards of local educators, the staff produces online curriculum and other lesson plans to benefit students in the region. And finally, a team of banking examiners is based in the Little Rock office and conducts on-site examinations of Eighth District bank holding companies, thrifts and state member banks.
Regional Executive Robert Hopkins leads the Little Rock Branch. Hopkins joined the St. Louis Fed in 1985 and currently serves on the boards of the Heart of Arkansas United Way, EconomicsArkansas and Metro Little Rock Alliance. He is a member of the Downtown Little Rock Rotary Club.