This year Walmart shareholders are not only celebrating their annual meeting in Northwest Arkansas, but it’s the retail giant’s 50th anniversary. And Walmart and the region are looking forward to another 50 years of growth.
Over the past 50 years, Walmart has grown from a small discount store to become the world’s largest retailer with more than 10,000 stores in the United States and 27 other countries.
The late-Sam Walton founded Walmart in 1962 and headquartered his company in Bentonville. Through the decades, Walton expanded his hometown store into a global empire.
As the company grew, the region blossomed as well. State Senator Uvalde Lindsey says area leaders came together to help the company and region expand.
“Sam [Walton] said, ‘We’ve just completed our five-year and our 10-year plan, and we can’t do that absent a good airport to get us where we need to go’,” Lindsey recalls. “And we’re the largest metropolitan area in the country without a link to the four- lane interstate highway system.”
Walmart’s success also attracted top employers to the area and new business growth, including hundreds of vendors who opened their doors in the region.
“Those vendors then became another growing part of that catalyst that helped all of us work harder, work smarter and to achieve great results in a short period of time,” Lindsey says.
And the partnership between Walmart and the region continues today. The Northwest Arkansas Council says it is helping prepare for the next half century by attracting top talent and promoting the region.
“Have the marketing materials distributed at trade events or whatever they are attending…have that stuff in-house, so they can send it to those employees and make that available to them,” said Mike Harvey, chief operating officer at the Northwest Arkansas Council. “So for us that’s how they’ve been supporting us over the years and this is how we can support them.”
The Northwest Arkansas Council says it’s planning to focus on the region’s strengths in retail, food and logistics. In the next decade, the hope is to develop businesses to support those industries.