Bill Sowell of Sowell Management of North Little Rock and Larry Freeman of Synergy Saturday Inc. of Little Rock won executive of the year awards, and former banker and restaurant franchise owner Wallace Fowler of Jonesboro was honored for his lifetime of leadership Wednesday at the 32nd annual Arkansas Business of the Year Awards at the Little Rock Marriott.
Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock presents the awards each year to honor businesses, nonprofits and executives in Arkansas. Readers of Arkansas Business nominate executives and organizations for the awards, and an independent panel of judges determines the winners.
Sowell won the business executive of the year award for his work as CEO of the investment advisory firm he founded in 2001. The firm now has $3 billion under management, and Sowell aims to have $5 billion by the end of the year.
Freeman won nonprofit executive of the year for his work as CEO of a nonprofit that offers pop-up style health screening events throughout Arkansas. The organization held 2,200 screenings in 2019, up from just 200 in 2015, its first year.
"Health care must be both affordable and effective to be functional," he said. "Health care is a basic right and universal need that can only be solved by collaborative efforts and innovation."
Also Wednesday, Wallace Fowler won the "Legacy of Leadership" award in honor of a decades-long career in banking and restaurant franchises.
Fowler was chairman and CEO of Liberty Bancshares Inc., which he sold to Home BancShares Inc. of Conway in 2013, and he built a robust business on KFC and Taco Bell franchises that are now managed by his son.
For the second year, Arkansas Business partnered with the Women's Foundation of Arkansas to present the "Gender Equity" award, which honors a company that has worked hard to foster equality in the workplace. The foundation partnered with the Clinton School of Public Service to create a survey to measure equality based on company metrics including financial literacy, flexibility, job skills, leadership, mentoring and resources.
Law firm Wright Lindsey Jennings of Little Rock received the award.
Other winners at Wednesday night's event are listed below. Click their names to read their profiles and watch video from the awards event:
- EVO Business Environments of Little Rock in Category I (1-30 employees)
- TeleComp of Rogers in Category II (31-55 employees)
- Medic One LLC of Jonesboro in Category III (56-100 employees)
- Garver of North Little Rock in Category IV (101-499 employees)
- Women and Children First of Little Rock, named Nonprofit Organization of the Year
The Arkansas Community Foundation also presented its Smart Corporate Giving Awards to three businesses: