Only in Arkansas: The Top 10 Business Stories of 2011

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 26, 2011 12:00 am  

Yarnell's ice cream was sold in Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Schulze & Burch Biscuit Co. of Chicago bought equipment, the Searcy plant, recipes and other assets for $1.34 million at an auction in November. Schulze & Burch has indicated an interest in reviving the Yarnell's brand, but firm plans to restart production have not been announced.

The pending Whirlpool closure in Fort Smith will affect many more workers.
As recently as 2007, Whirlpool was reported to be the ninth-largest employer in Arkansas, with 4,200 employees at the company's Fort Smith plant. But the number of employees working at the plant had declined. A year ago, the company said it employed 2,150 people in Fort Smith.

When the 45-year-old Fort Smith plant closes, about 1,000 employees will lose their jobs, and hundreds of jobs at companies dependent upon Whirlpool are also expected to disappear.

In an official statement, the company said, "This difficult but necessary announcement is being driven by a decrease in demand for the side-by-side refrigerator platforms that has resulted from the continued weakness in the global economy, and the aggressive pricing actions of global competitors."

No. 4
Shale Sales

2011 was dramatic for one of Arkansas' most lucrative resources: Billions of dollars were traded as some energy companies left the Fayetteville Shale Play and others moved in.

This year's first shakeup happened in February, when Chesapeake Energy Corp. of Oklahoma City announced it was selling all its Fayetteville Shale assets, including equity investments in Frac Tech Holdings LLC of Cisco, Texas, and Chaparral Energy Inc. of Oklahoma City.

Chesapeake's assets included about 487,000 net acres of leasehold and gas-producing properties. The company was producing about 415 million cubic feet of natural gas equivalent per day through 420 miles of underground pipeline.

The company said it was selling the assets as part of a plan to reduce its overall debt by 25 percent.

The news came shortly after Petrohawk Energy Corp. of Houston also pulled out of the shale, selling all its Arkansas assets to Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. for some $575 million.

Chesapeake's assets weren't on the market for long: Less than a month after the announced departure, BHP Billiton, a huge Australian energy company, swooped in, dropping $4.75 billion for its first entry into the U.S. market.

Later, Frontier Gas Services of Tulsa sold its midstream assets in the shale to Crestwood Midstream Partners of Houston, tallying up $338 million.
Initial reactions to the big changes showed fear that the shale might not have been as much of a golden goose as originally thought. What would happen to all those jobs? Why were companies deserting the shale?



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