The Best & Worst of 2007

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 24, 2007 12:00 am  

Arkansas Traveler's Bill Valentine and North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays were big news in March when the $33 million Dickey-Stephens Park opened on the north side's downtown.

Worst Zoning
The city of Little Rock initially denied a rezoning request that would have permitted the operation of Go Green Biofuels, one of the first alternative fueling stations in Arkansas. Go Green's owner, Buddy Rawls, appealed to the Board of Directors, which overturned the Planning Commission's decision. Biofuels advocate Mark Johnson said, "We all sit around and complain about OPEC and foreign oil the cost of gas and everything, but it's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."

Worst News for Bees
Colony Collapse Disorder, a deadly honeybee syndrome that decimates hives, was confirmed in Arkansas. The disorder has struck throughout the United States and killed billions of bees, which are necessary to the pollination of scores of crops, particularly fruits and vegetables.

Best Geography Lesson
Louisiana State University football coach Les Miles kept referring to the Tigers' season-ending opponent as Ar-Kansas - Ar-Kansas this and Ar-Kansas that. Maybe Miles truly was ignorant about how to pronounce our state's name; if so, he was a slow learner. This was the third season Miles has played against the Razorbacks. Maybe Miles learned the error of his ways after unranked Arkansas defeated his No. 1 team 50-48 in triple overtime in Baton Rouge. We fantasized the game-ending handshake included this bit of dialogue from then-Razorbacks Head Coach Houston Nutt: "Good game, Coach. Do you know how to say Arkansas now?"

Best Private Development
The largest public U.S. real estate company, Simon Property Group Inc. of Indianapolis, wanted state and local subsidies for infrastructure improvements to develop the would-be Summit Mall site in west Little Rock. Clary Development Co. of Little Rock said government assistance would not be required, completing improvements to Interstate 430 ramps and Shackleford Road and opening the first space at its $100 million Shackleford Crossings project in 2007.

Best Place to Be a Bankruptcy Attorney
With the northwest Arkansas housing market taking a dive in 2007, bankruptcy attorneys there stayed plenty busy. At the end of the year, at least 16 residential contractors had filed for bankruptcy protection, each listing more than $1 million in debts. One bankruptcy attorney, Theresa L. Pickrus of Fayetteville told Arkansas Business in June: "I have visited with numerous clients related to the contraction industry. We haven't seen the end of it yet."

Worst Housing News
Housing starts in 2007 were off 19 percent, in what was described as the worst housing recession in 16 years.

Worst Nicknames
It was grab-bag effort to come up with a new nickname for the now politically incorrect Arkansas State University Indians. Those deemed among the worst suggestions were: Flying Elvis, Buzz, Wookies, Zeppelin, Vermillion, Underdog, Uncles, Swamp Doctors, Sizzle, Rolling Rouge, Ragin' Cicadas, Miracle Makers, Forest Chiggers, Barking Moonbats and Running Ducks.

Best Power Stare Down
In an effort to strong-arm one last major decision before retirement, outgoing University of Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles challenged longtime KATV-TV, Channel 7 General Manager Dale Nicholson in the naming of a new "Voice of the Arkansas Razorbacks" in June. Broyles steadfastly supported his man from northwest Arkansas - and eventual champion - Chuck Barrett, while Nicholson saw the promotional value in naming his station's main news anchor Scott Inman. Broyles, perhaps for the last time, got his way. But Inman is doing a bang-up job on ARSN's televised basketball broadcasts this season.

Best Reason to Get Up Early
Paul Latture, executive director of the Little Rock Port Authority, was checking his e-mail about 5 a.m. one morning in the fall of 2006. One was from "a guy in St. Louis" who wanted information on industrial facilities, and Latture responded immediately. By 10 a.m., Rajesh Chokhani, a location scout for Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd. of Mumbai, India, was on a flight to Little Rock. That early morning exchange came to fruition on June 30, when Welspun announced that the Port of Little Rock would be the site of a $100 million steel pipe manufacturing plant.

Best Green Initiative
Arkansas' 17 electric cooperatives have used various techniques to reduce energy use by 110 megawatts, and almost half of that savings was achieved by Woodruff Electric Cooperative Corp. of Forrest City, which has persuaded 84 percent of its farm customers to let the cooperative control the timing of irrigation pumps.

Best Sigh of Relief
In 2006, Fort Smith boosters worried that one of the city's leading corporate employers would leave town after rounds of staff cuts and an ownership change. But by 2007, Golden Horizons, the nursing home chain once known as Beverly Enterprises, was talking about expanding its presence.

Best Promise
The El Dorado Promise, of course. Murphy Oil Corp. pledged $50 million to make it financially possible for all graduates of El Dorado High School to attend college.



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