The Friday Wire: Downtown Bentonville, and a Duck dilemma

Prepping for more growth in downtown Bentonville, the Duck Dynasty controversy and its potential impact on Wal-Mart, and the potential loss of a corporate headquarters are part of the Northwest Arkansas Friday Wire for Dec. 20.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
• Building upon success
There are fewer farms in and around Bentonville these days, but city officials haven’t forgotten the old farm saying, “Make hay while the sun shines.” Bentonville, buzzing with dizzying economic activity thanks to Wal-Mart, the vendor community and fancy (relatively) new world-class art museum, has more room to grow.

Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin and other city officials recently unveiled a redevelopment plan that encompasses the southeastern quadrant of the 18-acre downtown area. McCaslin said the city’s role in this process is to the put out vision which can be supported with infrastructure investment in roads, sidewalks and sewer. He said it will be private investment that will shape the final outcome, much like has happened on the town square.

Kudos to McCaslin and city staff for their efforts to plan ahead.

• Corporate loss?
Hopes are fading fast for those who wished Siloam Springs-based Allens Foods could emerge from bankruptcy and remain based in Northwest Arkansas. Allens, which filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 28, has agreed to an asset purchase deal valued at $148 million with Seneca Foods Corp. out of New York.

If the deal goes through, and it’s likely it will, it’s doubtful Seneca will need a second corporate office location. It will be interesting to see what will remain of Allens operations in Arkansas and Allens corporate jobs in Siloam Springs.

ICYMI
Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it ...

• Wal-Mart shareholder lawsuit allowed to proceed
A shareholder-derivative lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores and key officers of the global retailer may move forward, according to an opinion issued Wednesday (Dec. 18) by a three-judge panel with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

• ‘Save Your Do’
Obesity is a growing health epidemic in the U.S., and according to federal statistics roughly four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.

• Tourism award nominees
The nominees for the 2014 Henry Awards have been announced, with several cities and groups from the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas making the list.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$575,000: Royalty payments to the University of Arkansas from profits generated by NanoMech which sells nanotechnology-based products developed by UA researchers.

$44,000: The total amount of misspending allegedly committed by Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, R-Ark., according to an Ethics Commission report released Wednesday (Dec. 18). Darr told reporters as he left a hearing on the matter in Little Rock that he would not resign from the state's No. 2 Constitutional office.

37.5%: Percentage of respondents to a survey by CardRatings.com who have had the same credit card for at least 10 years.

40%: Percentage of Arkansas business leaders in the inaugural Talk Business "Business Leaders Confidence Survey" who expect significant or slight employee hiring. 35% see no change, while 24% expect a slight decline in headcount.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
• What will Wal-Mart do with Phil Robertson?
The big box giant is responsible for about 50% of this year’s incredible $400 million in Duck Dynasty-related retail sales, with Phil Robertson’s mug (along with his bearded relatives) gracing its bestselling t-shirt in both men’s and women’s apparel. Some Walmart stores in the south feature entire aisles devoted to the Louisiana duck hunters, selling everything from bedding to prayer devotionals adorned with their trademark camouflage and folksy catchphrases.

• Expanding Sam’s Clubs in China
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s China chief executive is looking to shake up operations in one of its toughest markets with an amped-up effort to sell Sam's Club warehouse stores to Chinese, among other measures. So far, the Bentonville, Ark., retailer has focused mostly on rolling out Wal-Mart-branded stores.

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• Why Al Jazeera America Doesn’t Care About Its Low Ratings
In the five months since its August 2013 debut, Al Jazeera America has already lost more than half the viewers of its notoriously low-rated predecessor, Current TV. The network’s ratings crested at a measly 18,000 average daily viewers and have since fallen to just 13,000, a number the media has gleefully and repeatedly pointed out as pathetic.

WORD ON THE WIRE
“There has been so much to learn with this Wal-Mart venture. Even though I have a business degree from University of California Berkley, I sometimes feel like an idiot. I will say coming in through the supplier diversity and woman’s empowerment doors, we have received a great deal of help along the way.”
– Jill Osur, CEO of Save Your Do, a small supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

“We continue to draw investment from inside and outside the region, today I attended an opening of a new restaurant (Taziki’s) in town. The owners are from Pulaski County, who spent some time in town and liked what they saw here. This makes their fifth restaurant in the state.”
– Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin on the city’s plans for more development in the downtown area

“Most of my clients want to add square footage. I had a call today from a lady who is retiring and wants to add 600 square feet to her home. Right now I am finishing up another master bedroom suite addition.”
– Steve Abshier, president of Abshier Construction in Rogers, about the growth in home renovation jobs in Northwest Arkansas

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