LR/NLR has two Amazon facilities hiring right now for two different hubs, 1500 jobs. Now, they only pay $15/hr, and I read in the paper today that the average unemployed person is making $18/hr in Arkansas, thanks to the government. Lots of jobs available, no takers in that price range.
Many of the states that are losing ground proportionally on population have better educated work forces as a whole than Arkansas. Those states lost a lot of trained, well educated people because the jobs went elsewhere, the industry those folks worked in changed, or they could go someplace they liked living better and do the same work.
A better educated work force is a good thing, but you still have to have businesses that are willing to expand domestically and see something about a location in Arkansas that makes it a compelling choice. There’s a lot of places in east and south Arkansas that have a very tough time finding companies that can/will answer yes to those two checklist items, regardless of the quality of the local work force.
One other major factor is the Arkansas state sales tax. Hutchison has been gradually lowering the top rate and Bebee cut sales tax on unprepared food. These steps help but our tax rates are much higher than our surrounding states. Texas has 0% income tax and Tennessee does not tax salaries. We are gradually becoming more competitive but we can not compete as long as Texas’ rate is zero and Arkansas’ rate is still around 5%.
Hmm, sort of, taxes are taxes, whether they are property taxes, or sales tax, or income tax. Tennessee and Texas get their money from you, just in different ways.
Totally accurate post!
Vividly remember my dad being upset about it. At the time. Accused the LR GOB network of keeping out FedEx due to their fear of losing their control of LR.
Jeff nailed it on Fed Ex…complete failure for the PTB in LR. And as a guy raised in Pine Bluff in the 50’s and 60’s it’s amazing to see how it’s dried up economically which has led to poverty and crime. We were married there in 71 and left for good in 83. Had to feed the family without fear of being shot in a Supermarket robbery. Yep…robbed twice with a gun to my head when I was a manager at Weingartens PB. (my dear friend was shot 4 times in the first robbery but thankfully lived) Population there when we were married around 75,000 now below 36,000. As noted the Delta is dying. Helena is another example. Spent a lot of time there as a child and teenager. It’s a shadow of it’s former self.
I have always understood the “we could have had FedEx” complaint as an urban myth with little basis in fact. Fedex’s needs quickly exceeded the capacity of the Little Rock airport and they moved to Memphis where the number of runways then and projected far exceeded their needs then. States and cities don’t build or expand airport runways, the federal government does. There were no GOB’s in Little Rock who could fund airport runways to decline the honor just to keep their power. It takes huge federal funds to do that.
Fed Ex founder Fred Smith was born and raised in in Memphis. Why did he try to originate Fed Ex in LR?
Maybe that IS an urban myth.
I did a little research on that. Memphis was already expanding its airport, with a 9200-foot runway that opened in 1972, and invested a lot more money in and around the airport. I think that investment (the article characterized it as a gamble by the city) paid off big-time, and it’s there for the city whether FedEx is still around in 30 years or not. Memphis is still investing in FedEx; they built a new 11000-foot runway about 10 years ago largely for FedEx’s international traffic.
The city of Memphis also gave Smith a $6 million loan as part of the deal.
The article I read pointed out that FedEx might not have worked in a larger city. They needed somewhere that the runways were vacant all night except for cargo traffic; New York or LA or Chicago or Atlanta had too many other planes. Little Rock certainly would have met that requirement.
Little Rock ended up getting that new runway, in 1991. About 18 years too late.
Why didn’t the Arkansas State Officials not coordinate their desires with their Federal Representatives for any required airport expansion? Rep Wilbur Mills (Chair of Ways and Means-$$$) and Senator William Fulbright exerted a ton of influence and power in the early 70s.
I always respect your knowledge and research ability, but I think the illogic of that Urban Myth still stands. Does anyone in their right mind think that Little Rock was going to out bid Memphis? $100,000,000 in 1973 is $619,822,462.08 in today’s dollars. Even if Little Rock or the State, even, was willing to offer that to a prospective industry, do you really think more prosperous and larger cities and states could not outbid it today?
There was no bidding. Fred went to Memphis because Little Rock turned him down. He started the business here, not there. And he could have kept it in Little Rock if he got what he needed.
I think one other thing happened. Few, if any, realized the potential for FedEX as the idea was brand new and never been tried previously. I worked for Eastern Arlines at that time and we had several B727’s that were passenger planes daytimes and converted to freighters at midnight but UPS owned zero aircraft at that time, they leased planes for years and FedEx did not exist yet.
OK. A friend of mine is the editor of Arkansas Business magazine and I went to her for the story. She says we’re kinda both right. Memphis had this new runway coming on line and some surplus space and needed someone to use it. He did go to the LR PTB and they weren’t in a position to build the new runway and do the other things he needed, so they turned him down, and he went to Memphis which was in position to help him. It would have been a much bigger gamble for Little Rock than it was for Memphis, but it was a gamble either way.
Hindsight is always 20/20 but imagine if a Fedex wannabe demanded “$682 million from Little Rock or it will go to Memphis” today, what GOB or any powers that be has the ability, now, to make that gamble?
I don’t know the situation in LR in 1972. They probably didn’t think they needed a new runway or could pay for it. I don’t know if Memphis got FAA money in 72 or did the new runway on its own. Maybe LR could have sold it to the FAA, maybe not. Fred was a 20-something with an unproven business plan, but somebody in Memphis thought enough of him to take a little bit of a chance. Would have been a heckuva gamble for Little Rock, a lot bigger than Memphis took, but boy would it have paid off. And even if FedEx had failed, LR would have been in a better position for future ventures down the road, or just more airline traffic which is why they built the second runway in '91.
I don’t really blame anyone for the loss of FedEx. We now know what it became but in 1972 it was nothing more than an idea. Memphis was in a better position to provide the facilities than we were. Sometimes things work out. After all, NWA has Wal-Mart, but it’s not because of some great foresight by Bentonville city fathers. It’s just where Sam began his expansion of the 5 & dime.
This. I moved from Arkansas with a State Income tax to Texas that does not. My total tax bill is way higher in Texas. Just because there is no state income tax doesn’t mean they are not taxing you. Texas soaks you on real estate, sales taxes, and fees(That they really do not like calling “Taxes”)
Please excuse my ignorance here guys. Is the Fred Smith ya’ll are talking about the same one that did so much for the U of A and Las Vegas?
No. It’s a different Fred Smith for the UA. I don’t know about Las Vegas.