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The Friday Wire: Ice cream leadership, and a good luck wish for Doug

Thoughts on the soon-to-be new top boss at Wal-Mart Stores, the political fight over the federal farm bill, Northwest Arkansas tax collections and Costco wages are part of the Northwest Arkansas Friday Wire for Jan. 31.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
• All eyes on Doug
When 47-year-old Doug McMillon becomes the new Wal-Mart Stores CEO on Feb. 1, he’ll sit in a chair responsible for more than 2.2 million employees and be expected to provide direction for a company under competitive attacks from all fronts and under a legal cloud related to allegations of corruption in foreign markets.

No pressure, right?

McMillon has been described as a “cool character” and a “very appealing leader.” He’ll need those qualities, and a truckload full of luck. To say Wal-Mart faces a unique set of challenges is to ignore the history of a global retail company that has emerged stronger and larger through a long list of challenges that the media often claimed were insurmountable.

What we don’t know about McMillon is if he has an eye for talent. Sam’s success was largely driven by putting the right people in the right place at the right time. That’s a part of the job often overlooked by the Wall Street wizards. It’s the challenge that remains no matter the changes in technology, politics, world markets and the fickle nature of consumers.

Good luck, Doug.

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 ...
Political fight to continue on ‘far from a perfect’ federal farm bill
Democrats and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., will do all they can to make political hay with U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton’s vote Wednesday (Jan. 29) against the federal farm bill. And while Cotton, a Republican from Dardanelle, was the only member of Arkansas’ U.S. House delegation to post a ‘No’ vote, and while the bill was supported by the politically powerful Arkansas Farm Bureau, the political lines of the farm legislation are not as clear or as straight as the rows of a freshly planted soybean field.

Impressive job gains
Northwest Arkansas’ nonfarm job growth percentage ranked No. 11 in the nation last year out of 372 metro areas, according to figures posted Tuesday (Jan. 28) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Jonesboro region wasn’t far behind with a rank of 14.

The Supply Side: Hispanic market share
In the highly competitive retail climate suppliers and retailers that reach out to Latina shoppers stand to reap huge rewards among this growing demographic, according to Enedina Vega, publisher of Meredith Hispanic Media.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
• 7.4%: The Arkansas unemployment rate as of December 2013, the most recent month data was available. The rate is an increase from 7.1% in December 2012, making Arkansas only one of six states to post a year-over-year jobless rate increase.

• 5.6%: Collective increase in sales tax collections in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale in the January tax report from the respective cities.

• 133 million: Estimated population of Hispanics in the U.S. by 2050. The number will account for about 30% of the total U.S. population.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
The President and Costco
President Obama chose a Costco warehouse store in Maryland on Wednesday to push for a hike in the federal minimum wage, choosing Costco, the White House says, because it is "acting on its own to pay its workers a fair wage."

Officials discuss Texas-Mexico high-speed rail line
A high-speed rail line connecting San Antonio and Monterrey, Mexico, could be less than a decade away from welcoming its first passengers, according to federal and Texas officials who met with Mexican officials in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to discuss the project.

More on Hillary and 2016
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remained vague on Monday about whether she would run for president in 2016 and said the militant attack in Benghazi, Libya, was the biggest regret of her four years as the top U.S. diplomat.

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WORD ON THE WIRE
“All of our employment sectors are showing year-over-year growth. That kind of positive environment means that new and existing companies have enormous opportunities to thrive because of a strong regional customer base and increasing incomes.”
– Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, about job growth in Northwest Arkansas during 2013

“I want to know how I get a Jones Center in my community.”
– Ben & Jerry's Chairman Jeff Furman said as he took the stage Tuesday (Jan. 28) as part of the Serve2perform.com speaker series, hosted at the Jones Center

“Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club are making substantial investments in their online operations and continue to hire people as they should. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some downsizing of other departments as a result.”
– Ron Loveless, former Wal-Mart executive, about the potential for large job cuts at Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville

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