CEO Judy McReynolds on Arkansas Best's 2011 Turnaround, Emerging Markets

by Jan Cottingham  on Friday, Mar. 30, 2012 7:08 am  

Judy McReynolds, CEO of Arkansas Best Corp.

"Although a small portion of Arkansas Best Corporation's revenues, on a combined basis in 2011, these businesses grew approximately 30 percent in both revenues and profits compared to 2010," McReynolds noted in the annual report.

In September 2011, ABF Freight announced the opening of offices in Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka. The locations are in addition to ABF offices in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, ABF said in a news release.

McReynolds told Arkansas Business that this move was in response to customers' needs in emerging markets.

"What we're trying to do is capture that business in the Asian market," she said. Although ABF Freight doesn't have assets, meaning trucks, in those markets, it works with transportation partners to provide shipping services.

This unit of the company, Global Supply Chain Services Inc., gives "our customers a great level of visibility about their goods, when they're being completed in the manufacturing process, where they are in the shipping process as they're crossing the ocean and then also here in the domestic U.S.," McReynolds said. "As you can imagine there's just a great opportunity with shippers to do that and a connection to our historical asset base, less-than-truckload business here in the U.S."

Asked about the effect of rising fuel prices on Arkansas Best, McReynolds said she feared they could threaten the United States' nascent economic recovery and that would, in turn, threaten the company she leads.

"I think everyone can agree that that's money that is going to be spent on fuel by the consumer or by shippers that isn't going to be spent on something else that perhaps would drive the economy more."

Finally, asked what she knows now that she didn't know when she became CEO, McReynolds said that her service as a director of other companies, specifically OGE Energy Corp. of Oklahoma City and First National Bank of Fort Smith, had taught her that Arkansas Best wasn't alone in facing challenges. These challenges come in many forms - McReynolds cited health care cost increases and environmental regulatory challenges - but all companies face them.

"For some reason there's some comfort in knowing that."

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