The Top 10 Business Stories of 2010

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 27, 2010 12:00 am  

At the top of the list of line items for criticism was the generous allotment of 200 hours of compensatory time for very well-paid lottery staffers awarded by Ernie Passailaigue, lottery chief.

The recipients were Passailaigue, with his $324,000 salary, and two underlings who each draw $225,000 annually: David Barden, vice president of gambling operations, and Ernestine Middleton, vice president for administration.

More than aircraft was buzzing the Little Rock National Airport after the discovery of a $40,000 donation to Little Rock Christian Academy that masqueraded as a marketing expense.

Ron Mathieu, executive director of the airport, was called on the carpet for that and more as the free-spending ways of airport staffers was exposed by the Arkansas Times.

Tiajuana "T.J." Williams, manager-media and marketing, also drew fire for her unfriendly media stance regarding public business and a misguided play to back her boss and his obfuscations.

10. Entrepreneurial Development
Say hello to homegrown innovation. Arkansas startup companies - particularly those of the high-tech variety - began showing signs of significant nurturing received during the past few years.

The entrepreneurial environment in Arkansas may not yet be ready to emulate Boston, Austin or Silicon Valley, but seeds were sewn that began to reveal fruit in 2010.

University of Arkansas startups enjoyed a banner spring, led by firms such as Silicon Solar Solutions and BiologicsMD, winning nine of 14 international business plan competitions.

UA startup mentor Carol Reeves called it a feat that may never be matched. Jeff Amerine, who teaches aspiring entrepreneurs at the UA and advises startups in his role at Innovate Arkansas, went so far as to say that Arkansas startups opened up a "serious can of kick-butt" on business plan teams from schools such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford and the London School of Economics.

Several Arkansas startups - Arkansas Power Electronics International, NanoMech, Acumen Holdings among them - reached the cusp of major commercial success. Fayetteville's Virtual Incubation Co. lured former high-level public company executives to its board with its portfolio of promising ventures.

The UA expanded its Arkansas Research & Technology Park, opening the $16 million Enterprise Center, with its 65,000 SF of office and lab space for UA-affiliated startups, and Pulaski County announced plans to open the Innovation Conference Center at Verizon Arena.

Meanwhile, the Northwest Arkansas Entrepreneurship Alliance was launched in Fayetteville.



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