Only in Arkansas: The Top 10 Business Stories of 2011

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

But experts were calm. The sales were a natural evolution, they said. The companies that explored the shale were simply done exploring, and were ready to hand over their treasures to long-term operators.

BHP, Exxon Mobile and Crestwood were settling in for the long haul, they said.

And they seem to be right, so far. By the end of 2011, XTO had hundreds of active wells in the state. In a presentation to investors, BHP lauded the cost-effectiveness of drilling in the shale. At only $3 million a pop, building new wells was a steal. Not only that, the company said it was hoping to build 14 more drilling rigs, adding to Chesapeake's original six.

No. 5
Windstream Expands Dramatically

In a hurricane of expansion, Little Rock's Windstream Corp. spent billions absorbing other companies throughout 2010 and making its largest acquisition yet in 2011.
The company has been working to build innovation as thousands of customers discontinue their traditional landline services.

"What happened over the last five years was clearly part of a five-year plan we put together to pretty radically change the focus at Windstream," President and CEO Jeff Gardner said in April.

During those years, the telecom invested more into rural broadband networks, as well as business services, data centers and cloud computing. To further this goal, the company acquired multiple companies with similar aims.

2010, Windstream absorbed Iowa Telecommunications Services Inc. for $1.2 billion; NuVox Inc. of Greenville, S.C., for $647 million; Q-Comm Corp. of Overland Park, Kan., for $782 million; and Hosted Solutions of Raleigh, N.C., for $310 million.

But the single largest purchase, by far, occurred in 2011. In August, Windstream announced it would merge with Paetec Holding Corp. of Fairport, N.Y., in a $2.3 billion deal.

The huge merger turned Windstream into an empire commanding 100,000 miles of fiber cables and promises to send the company into the Fortune 500.

But some opposition to the purchase was raised because Paetec had been planning a new headquarters building in Rochester, N.Y. The structure was to replace Midtown Plaza, a decaying downtown shopping mall, and was intended to house some of Paetec's 900 employees in the area.

With the 8.6-acre plot in limbo, locals in Rochester were worried the merger would stall downtown redevelopment. But in November, Windstream announced it would continue with the building project, completing the 335-person office. Gardner said Windstream would commit to a 15-year lease for 67,000 SF of office space in the building starting no later than August 2013.

Windstream also announced it would contribute $100,000 toward redevelopment of a Rochester community center. Rochester, in turn, withdrew all opposition.



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