Northwest Arkansas Companies Leading Hurricane Response

Northwest Arkansas largest companies are often among the first to step up during a natural disaster with Walmart Stores, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transport Services leading the way.

Their work was only gaining steam as Hurricane Harvey began moving north and away from the Gulf Coast.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced last week that they would provide $1 million to organizations helping in response to Hurricane Harvey, and that was just the beginning. The company and foundation announced on Wednesday that they'd provide up to $20 million toward Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery.

“In the midst of the worst storm this region has ever seen, it is wonderful to see corporate partners such as Walmart step up and help Houstonians,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “We are rebuilding and with these funds we will be able to help Houstonians return to normality. I would like to thank Walmart President and CEO, Doug McMillon for his generosity and challenge others to join in this effort.”

Walmart is working closely with organizations such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Convoy of Hope while coordinating efforts with elected officials and governmental entities to help meet the needs of those affected.

J.B. Hunt often flies under the radar with its natural disaster contributions, but it's common for the company's customers to donate loads of bottled water, animal feed and other products, and for J.B. Hunt to ship them to disaster-struck regions at no cost to its customers. In the past, the company has donated trucks and provided vehicle maintenance to Northwest Arkansas disaster relief organizations for responses to events such as Hurricane Harvey.

Tyson Foods, meanwhile, always takes a leading role in helping communities recover from devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other weather-related disasters. The company is providing $50,000 to the American Red Cross and $50,000 to the Salvation Army in support of those organizations' work in Texas.

A company spokesman said on Wednesday that Tyson Foods will be setting up and cooking free, hot meals at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, Texas, and its operation should start on Friday morning. A distribution system is being established to provide meals to people in the Houston metropolitan area.

The Tyson Foods team members who travel to Texas will come from company operations in four Arkansas cities: Clarksville, Dardanelle, Scranton and Texarkana. The company's Meals that Matter mobile relief truck and three Tyson Foods tractor-trailers, carrying ice and bottled water, are heading to the region. The company said it's working closely with four primary disaster relief partners: Bimbo Bakeries USA, Harris Baking Co., Hugg & Hall Equipment, and Peppersource.

The responses of corporate America is being noted by television stations and other media outlets. CBS News and NPR noted Walmart’s $1 million gift of cash and products,

Walmart has a long history of providing such relief. In 2005, Walmart dispatched 2,450 truckloads of supplies to help victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita after those storms ravaged Louisiana and other areas of the Gulf Coast.

Walmart’s work after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 drew national praise for being impressive in both speed and volume. The Washington Post described Walmart as “being held up as a model for logistical efficiency and nimble disaster planning, which have allowed it to quickly deliver staples such as water, fuel and toilet paper to thousands of evacuees.”

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are showing similar excellence this time. The company, for example, established pharmacy to help in meeting the medical needs of individuals who are now sheltered at a Dallas convention center.

Tyson Foods team members have helped after disasters for years, but the company first started using its Meals that Matter disaster relief semi-trailer after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012.

Workers at Tyson Foods facilities, including the company’s headquarters in Springdale, provided much-needed meal assistance to victims and volunteers after hurricanes Katrina, Ike, and Sandy; ice storms in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky in 2009; the Joplin, Mo. and northern Alabama tornadoes in 2011; and other disasters across the U.S.