TheatreSquared Seeks $13 Million to Finish Our Next Stage Campaign

A ceremony was held Friday to break ground on Northwest Arkansas' first dedicated, permanent home for its professional theatre company.

The event, held in the late afternoon in Fayetteville, kicked off the public launch of the Our Next Stage Campaign. The $34 million campaign is an effort to fully fund construction and establish an artistic, operating and education reserve for the theatre. TheatreSquared on Friday announced its raised about $21 million so far.

Karen Minkel of the Walton Family Foundation was among those who talked at Friday's groundbreaking ceremony about TheatreSquared, the region's only professional theatre company.

Karen Minkel of the Walton Family Foundation was among those who talked at Friday's groundbreaking ceremony about TheatreSquared, the region's only professional theatre company.

Construction on the region’s 50,000 square-foot, two-venue facility, designed by international design award recipients Marvel Architects and Charcoalblue, will begin immediately and continue through 2019. The new theatre will be located at 477 W. Spring St.

The public phase of the Our Next Stage Campaign will be led by a committee of volunteer civic leaders, including Ted Belden, Leslie Belden, Kirk Thompson, Brett Burch, Joel Carver, Lynn Carver, Carolyn Cole, Nick Cole, Denise Garner, Hershey Garner, Susan Hall, Orville Hall, Greg Lee, Hannah Lee, Scott Price, Shizuko Price, Margaret Rutherford, Dick Rutherford, Judy Schwab, Bill Schwab, Todd Simmons, Shelley Simmons, Tod Yeslow, Jackie Telfair and Jenifer Tucker.

TheatreSquared’s home will unite two state-of-the-art theatres, the company’s first dedicated rehearsal space, staff offices, education and community space, on-site design and building workshops, eight dedicated guest artist apartments and outdoor public spaces at three levels. There will also be an open-all-day café/bar.

Plans for Northwest Arkansas’ permanent regional theatre began to take form in 2015, when a special community task force recommended launching an exploratory process toward building a new home for TheatreSquared. TheatreSquared that fall won an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and was selected as an inaugural participant in the Walton Family Foundation’s Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program. The program provides financial support to develop space for public purposes, with funds earmarked for all phases of design work. 

In 2016, the Fayetteville City Council voted to approve a 100-year lease on a downtown site directly across from the theatre's current venue at Walton Arts Center's Nadine Baum Studios. The site is steps from Dickson Street and not far from  the Fayetteville Public Library, the downtown Square, and the University of Arkansas campus.

In 2017, the Fayetteville City Council responded to a $12.5 million commitment from the Walton Family Foundation with a $3.1 million commitment toward the project, followed by a $3 million commitment from the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotions Commission.

TheatreSquared created a detailed website with design images and the TheatreSquared backstory.

Council Hires Nelson Peacock as President and CEO

Arkansas native Nelson Peacock will lead one of Northwest Arkansas’ leading nonprofit organizations.

Peacock takes over as the Northwest Arkansas Council’s president and CEO, starting in July. Nick Hobbs and other members of the Council’s search committee announced his hiring at a press conference today.

Nick Hobbs, the chairman of a Northwest Arkansas Council search committee, announces the hiring of Nelson Peacock as the Council's new president and CEO. The announcement was made at a news conference today.

Nick Hobbs, the chairman of a Northwest Arkansas Council search committee, announces the hiring of Nelson Peacock as the Council's new president and CEO. The announcement was made at a news conference today.

The Council, which was established in 1990, is recognized for its leadership in advancing job opportunities, infrastructure investment and quality of life in the state and region.

Peacock grew up in Arkansas and earned degrees at the University of Arkansas and University of Arkansas School of Law. He brings a track record of political, government relations and management experience to the Council.  Peacock will be moving from California where he serves as a senior vice president for the University of California Office of the President.

“We undertook a nationwide search for our new president and CEO, and Nelson stands out for the breadth of experience he brings to the job, and because of his understanding of the state,” said Hobbs, the head of the search committee. “Nelson has the perfect combination of background, skills and vision to lead the Council. We are excited that he will be returning home to put his great experience to work in Northwest Arkansas.”

“I am looking forward to building on the region’s excellent track record of success,” Peacock said. “I am honored to be able to join with regional leaders and partners as we continue to work together to improve quality of life and job opportunities for Arkansans across the region.”

Peacock will soon leave his position as senior vice president government relations at the University of California Office of the President.  In the role, he oversees all aspects of state and federal governmental relations for the $32.5 billion University of California system, which includes 10 UC campuses, five academic medical centers and three national laboratories. 

Prior to this, Peacock was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the Office of Legislative Affairs for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In this role, he was responsible for all aspects of the department’s interactions with Congress on issues related to counter terrorism, immigration, cyber security and natural disasters. Peacock oversaw the congressional teams of seven operational agencies of DHS, including the United States Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Peacock also served as senior counsel to Senator Joe Biden on the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate where he advised the future Vice President on homeland security, crime and intellectual property issues.

Peacock is just the third president and CEO hired to lead the 27-year-old Northwest Arkansas Council. The first was Uvalde Lindsey, currently a state senator who led the Council from 1990-2005. Peacock replaces Mike Malone, who was the Council’s president and CEO from 2006-2016. Malone resigned to become Northwest Arkansas coordinator for Runway Group, LLC in Bentonville.

Peacock has a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas and Masters of Arts from the George Washington University School of Law.

Peacock, his wife Susan and their two young daughters will move to Northwest Arkansas in July.


Fortune 500: Walmart Sits on Top for Fifth Year in a Row

The annual Fortune 500 list published this week has Northwest Arkansas’ leading company right where it belongs.

Walmart took the No. 1 position once again, topping the list for the fifth consecutive year. The Northwest Arkansas company’s revenue last year was near $486 million.

Its growth over two decades is nothing short of remarkable. Walmart has tripled its revenue and doubled its number of employees since 2000, when its $166.8 million in revenue ranked No. 2 on the Fortune list behind General Motors.

Two other Northwest Arkansas companies — No. 82 Tyson Foods and No. 407 J.B. Hunt Transport Services — made this year’s list.

Tyson Foods in 2000 ranked No. 241 on the list with revenue of $7.3 billion. That’s now swelled to more than $36 billion.

J.B. Hunt first joined the Fortune 500 in 2013 at No. 485. It’s moved up on the list in every subsequent year.

The three companies that turned Northwest Arkansas into one of the world’s most important places for business.

What’s interesting is just how big those companies are on a national stage.

Consider these facts:

  • Walmart employs about the number of people (2.3 million) as the combined total of Kroger, Home Depot, Lowe’s, McDonald’s, Target, Walgreens and Starbucks.
  • Walmart’s 2016 revenue was $100 billion more than the total of the next five largest retailers: Costco, Home Depot, Target, Lowe’s and Best Buy.
  • Tyson Foods would be the largest company in Phoenix, Denver, Kansas City, Tampa, Miami and Orlando. Tyson Foods would rank second if it was in the Chicago metropolitan area.
  • The nation’s top four food, beverage and tobacco companies in terms of annual revenue are Pepsi, Archer Daniels Midland, Coca-Cola and Tyson Foods.
  • Just 12 transportation companies in the U.S. are bigger than J.B. Hunt. 

Bentonville Adds Most Residents in State

What’s most remarkable in the new population estimates made public by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier today is the reported one-year growth in the small city of Tontitown and in much larger Bentonville.

The Census Bureau estimates Tontitown, which is just west of Springdale, saw its population swell by 25.1 percent between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016. It added more people to its population in a single year (702 new residents) than it did in the previous five years combined (335).

Among Arkansas’ largest cities, Bentonville is the fast-growth superstar.

Spurred by the openings of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Scott Family Amazeum and by incredible investments into the city’s fantastic downtown area over the past several years, Bentonville reached 47,093 people as of July 2016.

No city in the state added more new residents than the 2,427 people who moved to Bentonville between July 2015 and July 2016. Rogers (1,642 new residents), Benton (1,628), Fayetteville (1,370), Jonesboro (1,081) and Springdale (1,075) were the other cities in the state to add more than 1,000 residents in that year, the bureau estimates.

Yet, Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin suggests the Census estimate is likely below the true population.

"The current population is likely well in excess of the reported 47,000," McCaslin said. "The city utilities billing department currently has more than 23,300 accounts. The factors used by the U.S. Census would put us well over 50,000 based on the number of accounts.

"The growth we see in our public schools is consistent with our projection. I confidently predict the 2020 Census will record Bentonville’s population to be in the low- to mid-50,000 range."

A collection of small cities and towns in Northwest Arkansas experienced solid growth in that same year, and most of them serve as bedroom communities to their larger neighbors. In addition to Tontitown’s more than 25 percent growth, the estimated one-year growth rates were impressive in Cave Springs (17.3 percent), Centerton (6.7 percent), Goshen (5.7 percent), Lowell (4.1 percent) and Prairie Grove (3.7 percent).

Much of that Northwest Arkansas growth over the past several years can be attributed to expansions at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and at the region’s largest companies. Bentonville-based Walmart remains at the top of the Fortune 500 list, and Springdale-based Tyson Foods is investing in new downtown offices that's expected to spur downtown growth in Springdale. Meanwhile, Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services is putting the finishing touches on a new office tower where hundreds of new employees will work.

Additionally, the region’s Walmart supplier community has continued to expand for two decades. There were about 450 Walmart supplier offices in the region in 2000; there are now more than 1,600 suppliers, including several offices with more than 100 employees.

City governments and school districts have certainly played an important role in the continuing growth with their investments in better roads, water quality protection, new schools, emergency services and parks.

That’s been combined with the good work and investments of regional partners such as the Beaver Water District, the Benton-Washington Regional Public Water Authority, the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority, the Walton Family Foundation and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission. They all helped make the population growth possible by providing services needed by new residents and the amenities wanted by those who are moving to the region.

There’s no indication that the population growth will slow anytime soon, either. The regional planning commission estimates the four-county Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area will by near 800,000 residents by 2040. It’s near 525,000 residents today.


Northwest Arkansas' Biggest Companies Continue Adding to Portfolios

Northwest Arkansas' two largest companies have made five major acquisitions in nine months, expanding their already impressive operations across the U.S.

Walmart's purchases of, ShoeBuy, Moosejaw and Modcloth was joined on Tuesday by the biggest of them all: The $4.2 billion acquisition of Cincinnati-based AdvancePierre by Springdale-based Tyson Foods.

In Tuesday's deal, Tyson Foods, Inc. and AdvancePierre Foods Holdings, Inc. announced that they had entered into a definitive merger agreement. The New York Times said Tyson Foods had "found a delectable new bite to swallow in its quest to become America’s premier protein provider from the farmyard to the kitchen table."

The $4.2 billion value of the transaction, which has been approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, includes $3.2 billion in equity value and $1.1 billion in assumption of AdvancePierre debt. 

“We are very pleased to announce this combination with AdvancePierre," said Tom Hayes, Tyson Foods president and CEO. "The AdvancePierre leadership team has created significant value through the implementation of a new business management model, focus on quality and service and attention to the growth opportunities in convenience foods.  The addition of AdvancePierre aligns with our strategic intent to sustainably feed the world with the fastest growing portfolio of protein-packed brands."

While the Tyson Foods acquisition is the biggest of the deals, Walmart made four major acquisitions in just eight months.

The biggest of the Walmart deals came in August when it acquired for $3 billion in cash and another $300 million in Walmart stock. Walmart described the deal as one that positioned the company well for expanded e-commerce growth and customer reach.

In January, Walmart acquired Boston-based footwear retailer ShoeBuy for about $70 million. It was viewed as a way to make Walmart even stronger with its online shoe sales business.

Walmart waited only a month before announcing the $51 million acquisition of Michigan-based Moosejaw, a leading online outdoor retailer. Moose jaw sells more than 400 brands, including Patagonia, The North Face and Marmot. The company's 350-plus employee remain in Michigan and continue to operate the Moosejaw website.

Walmart just last month took in womenswear website ModCloth. Neither company revealed the financial terms of that deal. The Los Angeles Times reported that Walmart was gaining "style cred with a string of e-commerce purchases" that included the ModCloth purchase.

Just as Walmart has said the acquisitions fit well within their e-commerce goals, Tyson Foods said AdvancePierre is a good one for the company.

"We believe that AdvancePierre and Tyson are a natural strategic fit and together will accelerate growth for customers by delivering on-trend, high-quality products consumers love," Hayes said.

AdvancePierre President and CEO Christopher D. Sliva said, “We couldn’t be more delighted to join Tyson.  By combining our complementary, market-leading portfolios, both companies will realize greater opportunities.  This combination will allow AdvancePierre to accelerate its growth and broaden its distribution network by leveraging Tyson’s existing distribution infrastructure and go-to-market capabilities.  Importantly, the transaction also offers compelling and certain value for our shareholders and will provide long-term benefits for our team members and customers.”