Exhibit notes history of ArcBest, from 10 employees to more than 13,000

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,915 views 

The history of one of Fort Smith’s top companies will be on display through late summer 2020 at the Fort Smith Museum of History. The exhibit showcases the history of ArcBest and its less-than-truckload carrier ABF Freight, as well as illustrates the company’s innovations in its first century.

The museum hosted an opening reception for the new exhibit, “The ArcBest Story: A Century of Innovation,” Thursday (Oct. 10) allowing those attending their first glimpse of the exhibit that took almost a year to piece together.

Since it was founded as a Fort Smith freight hauler in 1923, the company has transformed into a full-scale provider of end-to-end supply chain services designed to help customers solve their logistics challenges, a press release said.

The company began as OK Transfer with one location on North Second Street, near where the Blue Lion at UAFS Downtown now stands, with one truck delivering locally around Fort Smith. In 1935, it had two trucks and 10 employees. Today, the company, still headquartered in Fort Smith, has 13,000 employees at 240 locations, with 1,600 employees in the two Fort Smith locations.

The years have seen the company’s headquarters move to 21st Street, then to a newly built location on Old Greenwood Road in 1995 and to McClure Drive in 2017, said Jennifer Faldon, manager of corporate communications for ArcBest.

Then ArcBest Board Chairman Robert A. Young III took time in April 2015 to pose with the shovel he used for the formal groundbreaking ceremony for the company’s new $30-million plus corporate headquarters on McClure Drive.

“Our company is part of the fabric and history of Fort Smith,” said Judy McReynolds, chairman, president and CEO.

The museum exhibit tells the story of ArcBest — its roots, foundation and hard work, McReynolds said.

“It tells the story of the grit and dedication of our employees. (It shows) the beginning that laid the foundation of what we are today,” she told those attending Thursday’s opening. “One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that foundation, that value set that is so familiar to all our employees.”

Included in that history, is a history of a company that cares about the community of which it is a part.

“We have 1,600 employees in Fort Smith. These are people spending dollars here, raising families here and volunteering in the community,” Faldon said. “ArcBest has always been a supporter of this company, all the way back to Robert Young Jr. in the 1950s supporting the Community Chest (which was the forerunner to the United Way in Fort Smith.) We have a long history of being involved in the community.”

In 1951, Robert Young Jr. purchased Arkansas Motor Freight, which OK Transfer acquired and assumed its name in 1935. Robert A. Young III eventually took over as CEO of the company, retiring in 2006 after a 42-year career. The company made about 30 acquisitions over those years, McReynolds said.

“Expansion really started there. It is a really great part of the exhibit, which you will see,” she said.

A big part of the history of the company is due to Fort Smith, McReynolds said, noting that the company has been a part of the community and benefitted from it as well.

“This is a warm community that gets behind its great companies and the great projects here,” she said.

The publicly held company has, as of Friday (Oct. 11), a market capitalization of $735.24 million. Company shares (NASDAQ: ARCB) closed Friday at $28.81, up 82 cents. The share price in the past 52 weeks has ranged between $44.41 and $24.69. The company went public on May 13, 1992.

ArcBest ended fiscal 2018 on a five-year winning streak, with net income between 2014 and 2018 totaling more than $270 million, a far better outcome than the more than $82 million in losses posted between 2008 and 2013. Full-year net income in 2018 for the company was $103.006 million, ahead of the $59.726 million in 2017, with per share income of $3.86 beating the consensus estimate of $3.78. Including one-time charges of $28.161 million for a multiemployer pension and a $13.512 million settlement on a nonunion pension, net income fell to $67.262 million. Revenue for the year was $3.093 billion, up from $2.826 billion and the first time revenue topped the $3 billion mark.