Daddy Warbucks

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Wal-Mart again No. 1; Ex-ing out Exxon as largest corporation

In Bentonville, there were smiles and lots of low-key glad handing going on as the world’s largest retailer took back its coveted spot at the economic pinnacle, as the world’s largest economic engine.
Those pesky oil companies — making all that profit on higher fuel prices — especially Exxon/Mobil — had temporarily dethroned Wal-Mart. But “no more!”, crowed one jubilant Benton County reader of these meanderings said last week. Not that Wal-Mart hasn’t struggled in the past year (lots of bad press and some internal setbacks) but the firm tried hard, insiders say, to reclaim that No. 1 image. It is vitally important to stay an economic force, other insiders said.
To augment their argument, one Wal-Mart(ian) challenged anyone to remember who No. 3, 4, or 5 was this year — or heck, even a year ago? Daddy W. has to admit he might be able to guess the top 5 leading corporations from a year ago. And, well, everyone knows only Oaklawn pays a win, place and show tickets … But in business it is all about the winners, not the also-rans, that get the ink and the revenue.

Wal-Mart Ph.D.
Yes, there will soon be a doctorate in Wal-Mart’s House — Dr. H. Lee Scott, Ph.D., will receive a doctorate from the University of Arkansas next month at graduation ceremonies. The UA is breaking with its own tradition in prematurely announcing the honorary degrees it bestows. These spring PR edicts are usually kept under wraps a little while longer as graduation nears, but, oh, what the heck, Dr. H. Lee Scott’s calendar is a little full this year.
Observers of the business scene should remember how former UA Business Dean Doyle Williams railed against anyone suggesting that the UA caters to Wal-Mart’s beck and call. That diatribe was sort of like suggesting that “chicken has done a lot for the UA.” Or as Chancellor John White likes to say, “the UA has done a lot for chicken.”

WHY BUY? JUST LEASE … Arvest Bank has announced a new business service — equipment leasing. Rather than finance new equipment, the bank, owned by Jim Walton, will now lease you some needed business equipment. Lots of rental folks are nervous at the announcement.
Daddy W. doesn’t have to wonder why.

MUSHROOM CALL … A small ad in the area sports pages recently called on wild mushrooms for the 36 Club eatery. The price was a wild $35 a pound. Daddy W. has to wonder if the cold snap has curtailed Boston Mountain mushroom gatherers? Or did some toe-sack-totin’ local fill the gourmet chef’s request?

AMP GOT ITS DUE …So someone ponied up the $58,000 needed for the Arkansas Music Pavilion. OK. Now we wait on the schedule of shows and musical acts. REO Speedwagon is a good start, but hardly the kind of music that’s going to carry the outdoor pavilion.

MORE HUCK HELPERS … With Bill Schwyhart’s big gathering of $500-per-plate donations for former Gov. Mike Huckabee this week, the 188 Arkansans who have contributed to the Huckabee For President Campaign war chest will grow. But not by much $$ or more in number, Daddy W. predicts. Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, is way behind in the GOP presidential money race. Recent campaign finance reports show him raising only $544,157. Area big-business names attached are the usual suspects: Jim and Lynne Walton; Don and Johnny Tyson, Jay Allen (former Wal-Mart exec) and Schwyhart are among the list.

TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT … The 26th Regional Economic Summit is tonight at the Embassy Suites in Rogers. The 6-8:30 p.m. dinner sponsored by the Regional Chamber of Commerce will hear from Don Hendrix (Arkansas World Trade Center), Becky Baltz (Missouri highway department), Jeff Hawkins (Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning) and Scott VanLaningham (Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport manager). Tickets are always available for the banquet. Movers and shakers will be there.

WENDY’S NEW CFO … A former Wal-Mart executive, Jay Fitzsimmons, has been tagged as the new chief financial officer at Wendy’s — the hamburger chain. The well-liked Fitzsimmons (who is media-savvy) retired from Wal-Mart. His jump to the midwest burger chain surprised some of his former workers, but Fitzsimmons came to Wal-Mart with some restaurant management experience.

MADE IT … J.B. Hunt Transport executives were happy this past week as they made Wall Street’s expectations for the first quarter. Even in a “downturn” economy, the Lowell-based trucking giant made the Wall Street expectations on revenue and shareholders’ dividends. The first and fourth quarters are always the hardest to meet in the transportation sector.

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