The Best and Worst of 2010

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

Best News for Art Lovers
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
in Bentonville finally announced an opening date: 11/11/11. That will be more than five years after construction began on the museum, expected to bring crowds of tourists to northwest Arkansas to see some of the finest American art anywhere.

Worst Sketch Comedy Debut
There is nothing funny about being fired. Certainly no one was laughing when three reporters and a photographer from KARK-TV, Channel 4, were fired over a newsroom spoof they filmed at their then-workplace, which was subsequently posted to YouTube for the world to see. There's a good chance nobody was laughing at their handiwork, either. The short spots lampooned the world of small-market TV news and dropped dozens of F-bombs but failed to hit any comic targets.

Best Retail Improvement
It wasn't that long ago that retail experts were preparing obituaries for Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock. Near the end of 2008, its stock price had sunk to $2.50 and sales were plummeting. But since then, the stock price has been climbing. Last week, it was trading at $37 a share. And for the first three quarters of Dillard's current fiscal year, Dillard's reported a net income of $70 million, up from a net loss of $11 million for the same period last year. 

Worst Marketing Decision
Little Rock National Airport
Executive Director Ron Mathieu's taxpayer-funded $40,000 ad buy for a 7-foot-by-10-foot spot on the football field at Little Rock Christian Academy, the private school his son attends. It didn't help his case that Mathieu obfuscated when, months before the Arkansas Times broke the story, he was quizzed by airport Commissioner Thomas Schueck about why the ad budget for the airport was $40,000 more than the year before. He mentioned something about pushing the airport's website. LRCA returned the money and Mathieu apologized and began repaying expenses he charged to airport credit cards.

Best New Martha Stewart
That would be P. Allen Smith, the founder of a growing - literally - media empire. Gardening guru, designer, writer, TV host, Smith has even impressed The New York Times, which in August devoted 2,400 words to the entrepreneur, based in Little Rock and with an estate in Roland.

Worst Public Scolding
Johnny Allison
, colorful chairman of Home BancShares Inc. of Conway, didn't seem to be joking when he realized that no investment banker from Stephens Inc. attended the bank holding company's annual shareholders' meeting in April. Representatives from Howe Barnes Hoefer Arnett of Chicago, RBC Capital Markets of New York and Keefe Bruyette & Woods of Richmond, Va., found their way to The Peabody Little Rock, but "I guess it's too far for Stephens to drive over here," Allison said, knowing full well that The Peabody is connected by a skywalk to the Stephens Inc. building across the street. "I'll remember that the next time I talk to them, and they'll remember it forever."


Best Educational Development I

Starting in the fall of 2010, Arkansas high school students are required to take a unit of economics in order to receive a diploma.

Best Educational Development II

The Ross Foundation and Southern Bancorp, both of Arkadelphia, announced in November that current seniors and future graduates of Arkadelphia High School who are eligible for Arkansas lottery-funded scholarships will have the balance of their college tuition and fees paid by the new Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship. Last week, Southern Bancorp's Delta Bridge Project announced a $263,000, three-year matching grant to establish the Great River Promise Scholarship program to help graduates of high schools in Phillips County to attend Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas.

Worst Educational Development
The average student who graduated from an Arkansas college or university in 2009 owed almost $20,000 in student loans.

Best Student Achievement
University of Arkansas
teams mentored by Carol Reeves won nine of 14 national and international business plan competitions they entered in 2010. "Can you imagine - against MIT, Harvard, Stanford, London School of Economics - that MBA students from little ol' UA have opened a serious can of kick-butt on all of them?" asked UA entrepreneurship instructor Jeff Amerine.



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