Bruce Murphy, CEO of Arkansas Heart Hospital of Little Rock, won the Business Executive of the Year Award, and Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty was honored for a lifetime of leadership in business and government at the 35th Arkansas Business of the Year Awards.
Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock presents the awards each year to honor businesses, nonprofits and executives. Readers of Arkansas Business nominate executives and organizations for the awards. An independent panel of judges determines the winners.
An event honoring nominees and award-winners took place Wednesday night at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
Business Executive of the Year winner Murphy has led Arkansas Heart Hospital since an ownership change in 2011. The hospital has expanded since then and now has about 1,400 employees across 30 clinics. It opened its $55 million Encore Medical Center in Bryant in 2021.
"Helping people is what our motto is," Murphy said Wednesday. "And surrounding yourself with people who want to help people is really what my life has been about and what our ambitions have been about."
McLarty received the Legacy of Leadership award in honor of a career spanning business and the highest levels of government, including five and a half years in the Clinton White House, first as the former president's chief of staff and then as counselor to the president and special envoy for the Americas.
McLarty drove a range of initiatives during the Clinton presidency, including the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. After leaving the administration, he established an international strategic advisory firm, McLarty Associates, where he is chairman. His other ventures include RML Automotive and McLarty Cos.
Speaking to the Arkansas Business of the Year audience, McLarty cited philosopher William James, who said, "The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it."
"If I can be allowed to think that perhaps my efforts … have helped to positively influence someone else’s progress, giving them a boost along the way, well that’s just about the best reward of all, and one that I will cherish and be grateful for," McLarty said.
Previous Legacy of Leadership honorees were Little Rock businessman and community leader Sherman Tate; billionaire businesswoman and philanthropist Johnelle Hunt; former banker and restaurant franchise owner Wallace Fowler; and former Simmons Bank executive Tommy May.
This year, Arkansas Business debuted a new category, Innovation Pacesetter, to honor companies that have developed innovative products or processes. The inaugural winner was Ozark Integrated Circuits of Fayetteville, a provider of integrated circuits and related products as well as hardware for extreme environment electronics.
"Our team works hard and our team will continue to work hard to make engineering great in Arkansas," Silke Spiesshoefer, IOC's director of product development, told attendees.
The Innovation Pacesetter award was sponsored by MHP/Team SI of Little Rock.
"At MHP/Team SI, we challenge ourselves to innovate every day, even after 50 years,” MHP/Team SI President and CEO Sharon Tallach Vogelpohl said. “We believe that innovation is an infinite process. It requires energy, passion — and maybe the hardest part, the willingness to fail and reinvent.
“The spirit of innovation isn't just for startups, it can exist inside organizations of all sizes and tenures. In honor of our 50th 'Innoversary,' we're proud to support this year's Innovation Pacesetter Award to celebrate and salute organizations and individuals — from startup to centennial — committed to continually inspiring and evolving," she said.
Arkansas Business also honored these Business of the Year category winners. Click the link to read their profile and watch them accept their awards.
- Portable Kitchens Inc. (PK Grills) of Little Rock in Category I (1-30 employees) — video
- Evo Business Environments of Little Rock in Category II (31-55 employees) — video
- AcreTrader of Fayetteville in Category III (56-150 employees) — video
- Pafford Medical Services Inc. of Hope in Category IV (151-499 employees) — video
- Pediatrics Plus of Little Rock in Category V (500+ employees) — video
Immerse Arkansas of Little Rock, which helps youth and young adults in crisis, was named Nonprofit Organization of the Year (video).
This year’s panel of judges were Kenny Kinley of Edafio Technology Partners, Bill Sowell of Sowell Management, Matt Dozier of East Initiative and Sherman Tate of Tate & Associates.
Click here to see the digital edition of this year's Arkansas Business of the Year awards program, which includes profiles of each of the nominees. Click here to watch the complete awards ceremony.
The Complete List of Honorees
(* Denotes category winner)
Category I (1-30 Employees)
Category II (31-55 Employees)
Category III (56-150 Employees)
Category IV (151-499 Employees)
Category V (500+ Employees)
- ArcBest Corp.
- Arkansas Children’s Hospital
- Pediatrics Plus*
- Rock Dental Brands
- Travel Nurse Across America LLC (TNAA)
Nonprofit Organization of the Year
- Arkansas Support Network
- Excellerate Foundation
- Goodwill Industries of Arkansas
- Habitat for Humanity of Greater Jonesboro
- Immerse Arkansas*
Business Executive of the Year
- Levi Bauer, OrthoArkansas
- Jordan Franklin, Stratice
- Bradley Gentry, Gentry Professional Services
- Dr. Bruce Murphy, Arkansas Heart Hospital*
- Jamie Pafford-Gresham, Pafford Medical Services Inc.
Legacy of Leadership