Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield celebrated the grand opening Wednesday afternoon of an ArkansasBlue insurance store — the second in the state — on South Olive Street across from the Walmart Supercenter.

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield celebrated the grand opening Wednesday afternoon of an ArkansasBlue insurance store — the second in the state — on South Olive Street across from the Walmart Supercenter.

On hand for the event, which included a ribbon cutting ceremony, were company executives, Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and a large group of Redcoats, the goodwill ambassadors from the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce.

Company representatives said that the new store will allow customers to meet in person with health insurance experts to discuss their insurance options, receive assistance with claims and ask questions.

Chief Operating Officer Mike Brown reflected upon his company’s history in Pine Bluff.

“This is something of a momentous occasion,” Brown said. “Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield has a long history in Pine Bluff. We started out with a small sales office with two employees and in 1994 set up a regional office with 12 employees. We see Pine Bluff as a hub for Southeast Arkansas. Our staff is now up to 20 employees. We chose Pine Bluff as the location for our first ArkansasBlue insurance store outside of Little Rock. This represents our commitment to Southeast Arkansas.”

Chief Executive Officer Mark White said that his company’s Arkansas roots set them apart.

“This is an important day for us and for this community,” White said. “We are Arkansas-based and intend to cover the state as health care reform rolls out. Insurance is now more customer-centered with the health care reforms coming into force. This new store is intended to provide walk-in service for people who have questions about their insurance options. Next year we anticipate that hundreds of thousands of Arkansans will qualify for low- or no-cost insurance as a result of health care reform.”

Dwayne Pierce, Arkansas Blue Cross Southeast Arkansas regional executive, welcomed the public to the new facility.

“We are very proud of our new store and this community that we all call home,” Pierce said. “Most people in Arkansas carry insurance with us, and we are here to serve the insurance needs of this community. We want to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to do business with us.”

Hollingsworth welcomed the opening of the new facility.

“This is a wonderful day for our city,” Hollingsworth said. “Thank you for allowing our city to be a place you believe in and invest in. At ArkansasBlue, you have come up with innovative ways to serve people, and we thank you so much for believing in our city.”