If you ever find yourself at a gathering full of Forbes 500 types, you can call out the name “Stephens” or “Walton” or “Murphy” and get a nod of recognition for these prominent business names who found their start in the Natural State. There are many companies that started in Arkansas that now have global recognition. Of course the political-minded
Rockefellers brought their New York City money to Arkansas and helped spread their vast fortune around the state (and consequently the equally political-minded Clintons took their Arkansas money to New York City over half a century later), but nothing quite beats those who built their business from the ground up by themselves in Arkansas. Check out these business titans that built their fortunes right here in our home state.
1. Walmart: Whether you love it or hate it, you've got to admit you know where the nearest Walmart is in your town. Thank Sam Walton for that, as he officialy founded the Wal-Mart chain of stores in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas.
In 1970 the company opened its first distribution center and its home office, both located in Bentonville. 1983 would see the opening of the first Sam's Club wholesale store and 1988 introduced America to the Wal-Mart Supercenter. The company's name was officially changed to "Walmart" in 2008. The business has become such a booming success that it's hard to imagine a time before there were Walmarts dotting every town in America. These supercenters did accomplish one important thing, which was to bring accessibly priced goods to people of all kinds in all areas of the country.
2. Stephens Incorporated: With 25 offices worldwide, this privately held, independent financial services firm is one of the largest privately owned investment banks in America.
Founded by brothers Witt & Jack Stephens in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1953 initially as an independent oil and gas company, the businessmen also purchased a controlling interest in the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company a year later. Over the next six decades Stephens, Inc. became a national financial powerhouse, overseeing investment banking, capital management, public finance, and other businesses. It's quite a departure from the original oil business, but you can say it certainly pays the bills.
3. Hiland Dairy: The Arkansas locals still call it "Coleman Dairy". The oldest continuously operating dairy by the same family west of the Mississippi River, five generations of Colemans have operated the business since its beginning in the early 1860s. Coleman Dairy became a division of Hiland Dairy in 2007 and the name officially changed in 2013.
Walt Coleman (whose other profession is an NFL referee) and Cherb Coleman, members of the fifth generation of the family to operate Coleman, manage the Little Rock plant. It's pretty cool that the company, which started so small and has grown into such a huge corporation, has always been a family business. Out of all the companies
4. Tyson Foods: Based in Springdale, Arkansas, and founded in 1935, this company is the world's second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork.
Tyson Foods is the second-largest food production company listed in the Fortune 500, the largest meat producer in the world, and according to Forbes one of the 100 largest companies in the United States. Any grocery store you visit in the country, you'll be able to spot Tyson products in the frozen food aisle.
5. Dillards Incorporated: Founded in 1938 in Little Rock's Riverdale neighborhood by William Dillard, this upscale department store remains headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Dillard's locations are concentrated in Texas and Florida with a major presence in other states as well. Like most department stores it offers a wide range of upscale merchandise from fashion and beauty to home goods.
6. Murphy Oil Corporation: Developed from family timberlands in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana that were owned by Charles H. Murphy Sr., this corporation was officially formed in 1950 by Murphy Sr.'s children.
The Murphy Oil Corporation now operates oil production facilities and processing plants across the world. It's come a long way from those tiny origins in the woods of Arkansas.
7. Riceland Foods: Headquartered in Stuttgart, Arkansas, Riceland is the world’s largest rice miller and rice marketer. The company also operates one of the world’s largest rice mills, which is located in Jonesboro.
Founded in 1921 as a farmers’ cooperative to market crops, Riceland is the largest supplier of rice for the food industry in the United States, a major rice exporter to foreign countries, one of the nation’s largest grain storage companies, and is also one of the Mid-South’s largest soybean processors. You can say with certainty that they have the rice market on lock.
8. Yarnell's: A perennial Arkansas favorite founded in 1932, the company's corporate headquarters were located along the east side of Spring Park in downtown Searcy, Arkansas. The company was also the only independent ice cream company in the state.
To the sadness of many Arkansans, Yarnell Ice Cream Co. ceased operations on June 30, 2011. Later that year, Chicago-based snack manufacturer Schulze & Burch Biscuit Co. bought out the company, including its headquarters as well as all ice cream flavor recipes. Yarnell's resumed operations under its new management in April 2012. Though it's not the original owners, it's still nice to be able to enjoy Yarnell's ice cream on a sultry summer day. Out of all the companies based in Arkansas, this may be the sweetest.
9. Diamond Bear Brewing Company: Located in North Little Rock, Arkansas, this microbrewery has been operating since 2000, offering tours of the brewery and renowned European-style brews on tap & in bottles.
Diamond Bear derives its name from the fact Arkansas is the only state in the United States where diamonds are naturally found, and the fact Arkansas was once known as The Bear State. That's right, Arkansas has both glamour and the ruggedness to offer.
10. Atkins Pickle Company: Once the major industry in the town of Atkins, Arkansas for more than fifty years, the pickle company's legacy survives in the annual Picklefest celebration that began in 1992.
The building that housed the pickle plant now houses Atkins Prepared Foods. The new company employs more people than the pickle plant did at its end, but it does not provide the same level of recognition for the town once dubbed the "Pickle Capital of the World" and known as the home of the fried dill pickle. That's quite a flavorful legacy. And though the original plant isn't in operation, at least the land is still being used for the delicious recipes of the Atkins company.
11. J.B. Hunt Transport Services: Founded by Johnnie Bryan Hunt, and based in the Northwest Arkansas city of Lowell in 1961, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. was incorporated in Arkansas on August 10 of that year. By 1983, J.B. Hunt had grown into the 80th largest trucking firm in the U.S. and earned $63 million in revenue.
Today this company has grown into one of the largest transportation companies in the United States with annual revenues of over $3 billion. J.B. Hunt primarily operates large semi-trailer trucks, and provides transportation services throughout the continental United States, Canada and Mexico. They've consistently kept up their prowess even as the transportation industry has grown and developed.
12. Mountain Valley Spring Water: In production since 1871 from the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, this brand of bottled water is currently owned by Clear Mountain Spring Water Company of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Mountain Valley Spring Water is distributed across the United States.
Mountain Valley water originates at a protected spring just west of Highway 7 North, approximately twelve miles from downtown Hot Springs.
Arkansas has numerous credits in the business world and these are just a few names to show off. A growing number of local restaurants, bakeries, and locally-owned arts/crafts stores around the Natural State are gaining nationwide recognition as well!
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Companies That Started In Arkansas
January 03, 2023
What other successful and exciting companies were started in Arkansas?
Arkansas has a robust business economy and many companies have been founded right here in the Natural State. These are a few other companies founded in Arkansas in addition to the famous businesses we listed above.
ABF Freight System
Alliance Rubber Company
Mountain Valley Spring Water
Shake’s Frozen Custard