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Joe Ford, Conway Regional Honored at Arkansas Business of the Year Awards

3 min read

Joe Ford, former chairman and CEO of Alltel Corp. and co-founder of Westrock Coffee Co., was honored for a lifetime of leadership in business at the 36th Arkansas Business of the Year Awards, and Conway Regional Health System was recognized as the Arkansas Business of the Year with more than 500 employees. 

Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock presents the awards each year to honor businesses of all sizes and nonprofits. 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.

Ford received the Legacy of Leadership award in honor of a career that included building a small Arkansas telephone company into one of the largest wireless carriers in the country.

“I’m like that turtle you see on a fence post. You know it did not get there by itself,” Ford said in accepting the award. He particularly recognized the importance of his business relationship with Jack Stephens and Stephens Inc.

Previous Legacy of Leadership honorees were auto dealer and former White House Chief of Staff Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty; Little Rock businessman and community leader Sherman Tate; businesswoman and philanthropist Johnelle Hunt; former banker and restaurant franchise owner Wallace Fowler; and former Simmons Bank executive Tommy May.

Arkansas Business also honored these Business of the Year category winners:

  • Chris West Plumbing Inc. of Jonesboro in Category I (1-30 employees) 
  • Nelson Intelligence Solutions of Little Rock in Category II (31-55 employees) 
  • SupplyPike of Rogers in Category III (56-150 employees)
  • Eat My Catfish in Category IV (151-499 employees) 
  • Conway Regional Health System in Category V (500+ employees) 

ARCare of Augusta was named Nonprofit Organization of the Year and CelluDot of Fayetteville received the second annual Innovation Pacesetter award.

The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas used the event to present the Friday Eldredge & Clark law firm with its Olivia Myers Farrell Gender Equity Award, named for the former CEO of Arkansas Business Publishing Group.

More: Click here for video of the winners accepting their awards.

This year’s panel of judges represent previous winners in the Arkansas Business of the Year program: Carrie Stout, founder and CEO of Consolidated Admin Services of Cabot; Clay Hobbs, chief operating officer of Pafford Medical Services of Hope; David Peacock, President of Hytrol Conveyor Co. of Jonesboro; and Sara Adams-Moitoza, founder of The Shops at BrickCity of Fort Smith.

The 36th Arkansas Business of the Year Awards were presented by The Hatcher Agency and UnitedHealthcare.

The complete list of honorees is below.

Category I (1-30 Employees)

  • Chris West Plumbing Inc., Jonesboro — winner
  • The Conductor, Conway
  • Encore Technology Solutions, North Little Rock
  • Simporter Inc., Bentonville
  • Today’s Power Inc., North Little Rock

Category II (31-55 Employees)

  • AWP Wood Products, Little Rock
  • Nelson Intelligence Solutions, Little Rock — winner
  • WER Architects, Little Rock

Category III (56-150 Employees)

  • ARMI Contractors, Fayetteville
  • Edafio, North Little Rock
  • SupplyPike, Rogers — winner

Category IV (151-499 Employees)

  • Boston Mountain Rural Health Center, Marshall
  • Chenal Family Therapy, Little Rock
  • Eat My Catfish, Little Rock — winner
  • Southern Aluminum, Magnolia

Category V (500+ Employees)

  • Arkansas Children’s, Little Rock
  • Arkansas Heart Hospital, Little Rock
  • Conway Regional Health System — winner
  • Lexicon Inc., Little Rock

Nonprofit Organization of the Year

  • ARcare, Augusta — winner
  • Arkansas Foodbank, Little Rock
  • Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock
  • Farm 2 Table Project, Holland
  • Habitat for Humanity of Central Arkansas, Little Rock
  • Youth Home Inc., Little Rock

Innovation Pacesetter

  • ArcBest Corp., Fort Smith
  • Celludot LLC, Fayetteville — winner
  • Cobb-Vantress Inc., Siloam Springs
  • HDrop Technologies Inc., Little Rock
  • Namida Lab Inc., Fayetteville


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