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2021: A Good Year for Big Private CompaniesLock Icon

4 min read

With 2022 nearly half over and inflation and the threat of recession in the headlines daily, it’s hard to remember just what a good year 2021 was for business.

And that’s not just compared with 2020, when government and business alike sought to “flatten the curve,” resulting in wild revenue swings. For most of the businesses on this year’s list of Arkansas’ 75 largest private companies, top-line revenue in 2021 was significantly better than in 2019, before any of us had heard of COVID-19.

For the second year, Mountaire Corp. of Little Rock is the largest private company headquartered in Arkansas as measured by revenue. It reported that revenue increased from $2.45 billion in 2020 to at least $3 billion in 2021, the first time a company on the list has crossed that threshold since Truman Arnold Cos. in 2011. (TAC, which was actually headquartered on the Texas side of Texarkana, subsequently moved its headquarters to Dallas.)

Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Little Rock maintained the No. 2 position with revenue that exceeded $2.5 billion for the first time since 2017.

Last year’s No. 3, Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, dropped to No. 6, but only because Arkansas Business has maintained the same revenue estimate of $2.25 billion for the famously guarded business since 2013. It is the least reliable revenue figure on the list.

Moving up on the list were last year’s Nos. 4, 5 and 6: Simmons Foods Inc. of Siloam Springs and two businesses associated with the McLarty family, RML Automotive and McLarty Automotive Group, which share a headquarters address in Little Rock. RML and McLarty Automotive both reported more than $2.3 billion in revenue last year and both saw sales increase by more than 20% year over year.

Baptist Health of Little Rock and George’s Inc. of Springdale remain at Nos. 7 and 8 despite healthy revenue increases in excess of 13%. But the No. 9 and No. 10 slots have new occupants thanks to eye-popping revenue increases: Priority Wire & Cable Inc. of Little Rock, up almost 74% to $1.6 billion, and Bruce Oakley Inc., up almost 49% to a new record $1.37 billion after a 2020 slump.

Priority Wire and Bruce Oakley displaced Arvest Bank Group Inc. of Bentonville and Harps Food Stores Inc. of Springdale, which dropped to No. 11 and No. 12 despite solid increases in revenue. Harps, in fact, enjoyed revenue growth of 16.5% in the fiscal year that ended in August 2021 — about the time food prices began to inflate dramatically.

Double-digit revenue growth was the rule rather than the exception last year, but one company’s revenue growth overshadowed them all. Travel Nurse Across America shot from No. 46 last year to No. 26 because its revenue nearly tripled — up 179% — as nursing shortages nationwide created unprecedented demand for temporary placements.

In and Out

Four companies make their first appearance on the list, and for two of them it will also be the last.

 Westrock Coffee Holdings LLC of Little Rock, which debuts at No. 24, announced in May that it will go public later this year by merging with Riverview Acquisition Corp., a Memphis SPAC. As part of that deal, Westrock revealed that it had revenue of $698 million in 2021, up from $550.8 million in 2020 (see story, Page 10).

 No. 59 Intimidator Group of Batesville was acquired for $400 million in January by The Toro Co. of Bloomington, Minnesota. Publicly traded Toro revealed that Intimidator, a maker of zero-turn mowers and related products, had 2021 revenue of about $200 million.

 Kinco Constructors of Little Rock reached No. 70 on the strength of a 59% increase in revenue compared with 2020.

 4R Marketing LLC of Smackover, a manufacturer and marketer of base oils and waxes, enters at No. 72 after a 64% increase in sales last year brought its revenue to $110 million.

The four newcomers displaced companies whose reported or estimated revenue simply didn’t make the cut: Saline Memorial Hospital of Benton; Magnolia Banking Corp., the holding company for Farmers Bank & Trust of Magnolia; Fourjay LLC/Dixie Chicken LLC, the North Little Rock franchisee of Wendy’s and Slim Chickens restaurants; and First Paragould Bancshares Inc., holding company for First National Bank of Paragould.

Biggest Revenue Gains in 2021*

1. Travel Nurse Across America, North Little Rock
2. Priority Wire & Cable Inc., Little Rock
3. 4R Marketing LLC, Smackover
4. Kinco Constructors, Little Rock
5. Summerwood Partners LLC (Big Red Stores), Bryant
6. Bruce Oakley Inc., Little Rock
7. Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., Little Rock
8. Mississippi County Electric Cooperative Inc.
9. Tankersley Foodservice LLC, Van Buren
10. Coulson Oil Co. Inc., North Little Rock
11. Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc., Jonesboro
12. Clark Contractors LLC, Little Rock
13. Crain Management Group, Sherwood
14. First Electric Cooperative Corp., Jacksonville
15. Westrock Coffee Holdings LLC, Little Rock

*Companies whose revenue was estimated for either 2020 or 2021 were omitted from this ranking.

Sources: the companies

How the list is compiled

Arkansas Business introduced its annual list of the state’s largest private companies in 1988 and continues that tradition this week.

The list originally sought the 50 largest companies that are owned and headquartered in Arkansas, but it was expanded to 75 companies in 1996.

The list seeks to be comprehensive and authoritative, but the very privacy of the private companies means that it has never been either.

There are undoubtedly companies that belong on this list that we haven’t identified, and others consistently decline to share their top-line revenue figure, which is the number used to rank the list.

More than 140 companies were surveyed for this year’s list. Of the 75 that made the final cut, 64 either volunteered revenue data or reported it publicly. The rest are estimates and are footnoted as such.

If you know of a company that should be on the list, or comes close and should be surveyed for future lists, please contact Editor Lance Turner at lturner@abpg.com.

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