Simmons Dedicates its New $300 Million Operation in Benton County

Simmons Prepared Foods held a dedication ceremony at the site where a chicken processing plant will eventually employ about 2,300 people.

 Todd Simmons, the CEO and vice chairman of Simmons Foods, holds one of the commemorative blocks that will be given to Benton County and the cities of Decatur and Gentry to show the company's commitment to building a strong foundation in each of the communities.

Todd Simmons, the CEO and vice chairman of Simmons Foods, holds one of the commemorative blocks that will be given to Benton County and the cities of Decatur and Gentry to show the company's commitment to building a strong foundation in each of the communities.

Today’s ceremony, attended by Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston, Benton County Judge Barry Moehring, local mayors and about 80 other people, was held under rainy skies at the site that’s midway between the cities of Gentry and Decatur.

“Benton County has been our home for nearly 70 years, and we are proud to build on that strong foundation and look forward to this new facility being a vital part of Benton County’s growth,” said Todd Simmons, the company’s CEO and vice chairman.

The company is investing $300 million into the plant, and it expects to create 1,500 new jobs. An additional 700 employees who work at a Simmons operation that’s about two miles north of the site will be relocated to the new facility that sits on 870 acres.

The plant won’t be fully operational until 2022, the company said.

“Arkansas is a great place to do business, and we are pleased that Simmons Prepared Foods made the decision to invest in this community and our state,” Preston said. “New jobs and additional opportunities will be available when the facility starts operating in 2019.”

Simmons Prepared Foods first announced the project in September 2017.

As part of today’s ceremony, Simmons lifted up one of the four heavy commemorative blocks created from materials that will be used in the building’s construction. The blocks will be given to the cities of Gentry and Decatur and to Benton County as a symbol of the company’s commitment to building on its strong foundation in each community in the coming years. The fourth block will remain at the site of the new chicken plant, the company said.

The company’s headquarters is in Siloam Springs, but its local operations extend into Missouri and Oklahoma. The company’s six processing plants produce 750 million pounds of finished product each year.

The company has remained involved with the Northwest Arkansas Council since Mark Simmons and a collection of other regional business leaders founded the nonprofit organization in 1990. Mark Simmons, the company’s chairman, served one year as the Council’s presiding co-chair from July 2013 to July 2014. Todd Simmons is a member of the Council’s Executive Committee.

Crystal Bridges Debuts O'Keeffe, 20 Contemporary Artists with 'The Beyond'

Artists who saw how their works were being displayed at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art alongside Georgia O’Keeffe's made clear they were thrilled to be in such respected company.

"The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art" was shared with the media on Thursday, two days prior to Saturday’s public opening of the major exhibition highlighting O’Keeffe and the work of 20 contemporary artists.

Artists at the museum on Thursday, including Baltimore’s Cynthia Daignault, New York’s Sharona Eliassaf and Oakland’s Anna Valdez, were thrilled to see their work directly across the gallery from painting by O'Keeffe, the mother of American Modernism.

“I’m a little bit shocked in a good way,” said Eliassaf as she stood near her own oil painting called Stars to Dust, Dust to Stars that stood out against the museum’s dark purple walls. “It’s gorgeous. I've never seen the painting on the wall with the different color and it works very well."

Created by Crystal Bridges, "The Beyond" brings together sculptures, murals, photographs, paintings and more by O’Keeffe and the other featured artists. The exhibition will be on view from Saturday through Sept. 3. Tickets are $10, but there’s no cost for Crystal Bridges members and guests ages 18 and younger.

Building on works from the museum’s collection and borrowing from public and private collections, the exhibition features 36 O’Keeffe works spanning her career. Works include Radiator Building—Night, New York (1927), Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932), Flying Backbone (1944), and a 1972 painting The Beyond, which inspired the exhibition’s title and was one of the last works completed unassisted by O’Keeffe as her eyesight began to fail.

“Crystal Bridges is excited to present this extraordinary blend of iconic, rare and contemporary works in one exhibition,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer.

O’Keeffe created some of the most enduring art of the 20th Century with images of enormous flowers, luscious colors, landscapes, feminine forms and still lifes.

 Baltimore's Cynthia Daignault talked Thursday about her 2014 trip in which she painted something she saw about every 25 miles. Called  Light Atlas , the 360 small paintings are part of "The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Art" at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Baltimore's Cynthia Daignault talked Thursday about her 2014 trip in which she painted something she saw about every 25 miles. Called Light Atlas, the 360 small paintings are part of "The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Art" at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Among the more unique displays from the contemporary artists are 360 small oil paintings by Cynthia Daignault. She calls it Light Atlas, and she started work on it as she traveled across the U.S. She started in New York and painted something she saw about every 25 miles during a 2014 road trip. Some Light Atlas pieces will be recognizable to many people such as the one showing the downtown Houston skyline, but most of the paintings look like they could be anywhere. There's one of a cow near the fence in a field and another is a green barn. They aren't intended to be postcards, but they do demonstrate the vastness of the American landscape.

Throughout the galleries, O’Keeffe’s pioneering work is interspersed among the contemporary works in six themed sections: Flowers, Finding the Figure, The Intangible Thing, Still Lifes, Cities & Deserts and The Beyond.

Lauren Haynes, the museum’s curator of contemporary art, and Chad Alligood, an independent curator who worked at Crystal Bridges for four years, led Thursday’s media tour. The served as co-curators on "The Beyond" project.

“O’Keeffe is a touchstone of Modern art,” Haynes said. “We hope visitors will walk away from 'The Beyond' with a broader understanding of her diverse body of work, and we encourage visitors to discover new artists who are working today, in their own unique artistic language, expanding upon O’Keeffe’s exploration of these particular themes.”  

O’Keeffe is best known for her flower paintings, which she began painting in 1924. The flower section includes works by artists responding to subjects ranging from police violence to the contemporary economy.

“The pairing of an American icon with a group of 20 contemporary makers who have their own diverse set of practices and life experiences, opens up new conversations and possibilities, encouraging visitors to look closely,” Haynes said. “Eleven of the artists from 'The Beyond' will be leading talks and workshops at the museum, giving visitors a rare chance to hear directly from them for a deeper understanding of the ongoing relevance of O’Keeffe’s work and connections between our collective history and our present.”

Walmart Tops $500B, Stays No. 1 on Fortune 500

Walmart became the first company in U.S. history to produce $500 billion in revenue, far exceeding every other company to maintain its spot atop the Fortune 500.

Walmart, which is planning to build a new headquarters in its hometown of Bentonville, finished No. 1 on the annual list published by Fortune magazine for the sixth year in the row. It’s held the top position 14 times in all.

The Fortune list was made public today.

Walmart remains far and away the nation’s largest company. Its $500.3 billion in revenue is more than double the revenue of No. 2 Exxon Mobil ($244.4 billion).

Two other Northwest Arkansas companies were among the six Arkansas companies on the Fortune 500 list of the nation’s largest corporations.

No. 80 Tyson Foods had revenue of nearly $38.3 billion last year and moved up two spots from No. 82. The company first appeared on the list in 1982 at No. 471 with annual revenue at $501.7 million.

No. 395 J.B. Hunt Transport Services, which is based on Lowell and held the No. 407 spot this time, had revenue approaching $7.2 billion. The fast-growing company was on the Fortune 500 for the sixth time.

“J.B. Hunt continues to help our customers find value in their supply chain operations, even in today’s challenging landscape,” J.B. Hunt President and CEO John Roberts said in a press release. “Moving up the Fortune 500 list for the sixth consecutive year reflects our focus, dedication, and commitment to excellence, and together we will continue building a bigger, stronger, and better J.B. Hunt.”

Other facts gleaned from the Fortune 500 list published this year:

  • Tyson Foods would be the largest company if it were in far larger metropolitan areas: Birmingham, Denver, Miami, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City and Tampa.
  • Walmart’s revenue exceeded the combined total of Amazon, Costco, Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Lowe’s.
  • J.B. Hunt, which has consistently moved up the Fortune 500 since its arrival on the list, is larger than JetBlue, Harley-Davidson and Yum Brands.
  • There’s just one trucking company (Ryder System) that’s larger than J.B. Hunt.

The Fortune 500 list was first published in 1955 and just 21 companies had revenue in excess of $1 billion that year.

Northwest Arkansas Among Best Midsize Cities for Jobs, Forbes Says

Northwest Arkansas is ranked by Forbes as one of the nation’s best when it comes to its impressive job growth.

The region sits at No. 2 for the third consecutive year on a Forbes' list of Best Midsize Cities for Jobs. Northwest Arkansas ranks No. 10 overall this year. The magazine published the ranking last week.

The Forbes ranking is based on short-, medium- and long-term job growth dating back to 2006, and the publication evaluated all of the nation’s 422 metropolitan statistical areas. The Northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA) job growth was 2.14 percent in 2017, Forbes reported.

The only midsize metro to perform better than Northwest Arkansas this year was the Provo-Orem MSA in Utah.

Northwest Arkansas is a consistent strong performer on the Forbes' list of Best Midsize Cities for Jobs. Prior to ranking No. 2 for the past three years, it ranked No. 3 in 2015, and No. 10 in 2014.

Janet Jackson, Chris Stapleton Lead Impressive Walmart AMP Lineup

Janet Jackson, Chris Stapleton Lead Impressive Walmart AMP Lineup

The team at the Walmart AMP has put together what is arguably its strongest group of summertime acts since the outdoor music venue’s 2014 opening in Rogers.

Janet Jackson, Chris Stapleton and Kesha headline this year’s impressive concert lineup, but it also includes country music star Kenny Chesney, rock band Modest Mouse, alternative rockers Pixies and Australian pop band 5 Seconds of Summer.