Arkansas is known as the Land of Opportunity. Many people from Arkansas have taken advantage of that opportunity on their way to fame and fortune. Entrepreneurs thrive in Arkansas.
Sam Walton (1918-1992) began his retailing career in 1940 at a JC Penney store in Des Moines, Iowa.
When he died in 1992, he was the richest man in America with more than 1,600 stores in 32 states.
In 1945, a regional retail firm that owned a chain of variety stores offered Walton a Ben Franklin store in Newport, Arkansas. Disagreement over the lease renewal and the inability to find an alternative location forced Walton to open another Ben Franklin franchise in Bentonville, Arkansas. He called it "Walton's Five and Dime."
Walton succeeded by selling items at smaller markups than competitors, thereby increasing sales volume.
In 1962, Walton opened his first WALMART store in Rogers, Arkansas. Over the next five years, WALMART expanded to 24 stores in Arkansas.
By 1968, WALMART opened its first stores outside of Arkansas, in Sikeston, Mo., and Claremore, OK.
In 1969, the company was incorporated as WALMART Stores, Inc.
And the rest is history.
Today, WALMART is the largest retailer and the second largest corporation in the world, with 8,500 stores operating in 15 countries and serving some 200 million worldwide, including 100 million customers in the USA alone, on a weekly basis.
WALMART is the largest private employer in the USA, employing 2.2 million people worldwide, called "associates." The vast majority of managers started as hourly associates.
In an effort to bring affordable health care to consumers, WALMART initiated a program which offers 331 generic prescription drugs to customers for only $4 per 30-day period. Initially launched in Florida in September of 2006, this program has expanded to a majority of WALMART pharmacies and will continue to grow.
Fiscal year sales in 2012 were approximately $444 billion. WALMART is the largest corporate cash charity donor in the USA. In 2011, the company gave $$958.9 million in charitable contributions, including $872.2 million in the USA.
WALMART is an American success story.
It started from humble beginnings and blossomed through a combination of hard work, enthusiasm, smaller profit margins, quality products at affordable prices, being attentive to customers, an efficient distribution system, no slotting fee for suppliers (as many retailers do), etc.
Another reason for success was the small-town market niche Sam Walton targeted.
WALMART stores were developed in rural areas where many of the goods WALMART carried were not available in local markets. These areas tended to be lower in per capita income and welcomed a centralized merchandiser with modest prices.
But with success comes criticism. Urbanites in trendy cities often object to a rural discount store in their area. According to a Zogby election poll in 2000, 76% of voters who shop at WALMART voted for Bush, while 80% of voters who never shopped at WALMART voted for Kerry, reflecting conservative/liberal, rural/urban, income-level cultural biases.
Labor unions can't seem to ignore the success of WALMART either and lust for a piece of the action. Unions continually yearn to expand their suffocating tentacles into large flourishing businesses.
Others oppose global free trade. WALMART imports products from foreign countries, particularly China, and has opened stores in foreign locations.
But foreign trade is a win-win situation, as long as it remains fair to all sides. As foreign countries emerge economically, everyone prospers and global tensions subside.
Some people just can't stand to see others succeed -- if you don't like WALMART don't work there and don't shop there, but don't spoil it for the rest of us. Foreign workers and American consumers are people too.
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Other successful Arkansas entrepreneurs include Don Tyson, CEO of Tyson Foods, the largest poultry processor in the country, and J.B. Hunt, founder of the largest truck carrier in North America.
Arkansas has produced its share of musical artists.
Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland in 1932, to a family of sharecroppers who later moved to Dyess. A legend in country music, he was elected to the Country Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
Others include Glen Campbell and Conway Twitty.
Many other famous people have been spawned in Arkansas. A partial list includes:
• Gen. Douglas MacArthur (soldier)
• Alan Ladd (actor)
• John Grisham (novelist)
• Paul “Bear” Bryant (football coach)
• Dizzy Dean (baseball player)
• Mark Martin (racecar driver)
• Helen Gurley Brown (publisher)
• Jennifer Flowers (concubine)
By the way, the forty-second President of the United States was from Arkansas. He spent eight years either feeling your pain or giving you a pain, depending on your level of gullibility. He now resides elsewhere with his wife Hillary, where he is currently writing his memoirs.
"Arkansas is a state where politics is retail." Mike Huckabee
There’s also a long list of people from Arkansas who remain unknown to the general public, but their contributions to humanity have forever changed the course of human events.
Harley Farley – In 1947, Farley had indoor plumbing installed in his house in Viola. He tore the old outhouse down and used the lumber to enclose his back porch, including his washing machine. Thus the first utility room in Arkansas came into existence, a trend that appears to have caught on nationally.
Abner Skittles – On July 24, 2001, Skittles caught a largemouth bass on Bulls Shoals Lake that weighed 38 pounds and 11 ounces, a new world record. Unfortunately, Skittles wasn’t too bright. The largemouth bass turned out to be a Goodyear tire. However, due to a clerical error, it’s still listed as the world record.
Lloyd Floyd – Born in Toad Suck in 1807, Floyd was the inspiration for the invention of the spittoon. He always had a mouthful of chaw and paid no attention to his surroundings whenever he needed to relieve himself of some of it. The receptacle made little difference though; Floyd tended to drool and was a bad shot anyway.
Betty Sue Ledbetter – Having made over 220 predictions, Ledbetter is the world’s most accurate negative psychic. Nothing she foresees has ever come true. She once predicted that America would have a six-month drought. Two days later, it rained so hard her mobile home in Horseshoe Bend became a houseboat.
Waylon Smucker – As a young musician from Calico Rock, Smucker formed a band in 1957 that had an annoying beat and would shout words instead of singing them. They called their style “rap music” because they were often told to “rap it up and get out of here.” Forty years later, rap music became popular once again.
Billy Clodhopper – Raised on a hill near Gepp, Billy had a cousin named Billy who lived down in a hollow. To keep from being confused, a common occurrence among the Clodhopper clan, they call the two cousins “Hillbilly” and “Hollowbilly.” Hillbilly eventually became part of the English language to describe a backwoods dunderhead.
Gus “Bubba” Ballas – As a breeder of exotic animals on his farm near Moko, Ballas crossbred a possum with a raccoon. He called it a poon. It looked like a sewer rat wearing a mask. Today, he’s the largest breeder of poons in the world. He also crossed a possum with a skunk, called a punk, but it smelled like a French armpit.
Quote for the Day – "In my hometown of Hope, Arkansas, the three sacred heroes were Jesus, Elvis and FDR, not necessarily in that order." Mike Huckabee (former Governor of Arkansas)
Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and an imaginary girlfriend named Tequila Mockingbird.