Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Jan. 6 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Initially, Tom Allen molded his 22-year career as a real estate developer while working for the world’s largest company. He has continued to flourish, working for one of America’s richest and most philanthropic businesswomen.
Only in Arkansas.
But that was not the career path he was on in 1997. That year, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal published its inaugural class of Forty Under 40 honorees. Allen, who had moved to Rogers just three years earlier, was among the recipients.
A Russellville native and 1985 University of Arkansas graduate, Allen spent two years as a store management trainee for Walmart. He later moved from south Louisiana back to Arkansas for a job with CJRW in Little Rock.
In 1994, Allen and his wife moved to Northwest Arkansas and opened their first business in Rogers, a Back Yard Burgers franchise. Two years later, they opened a second store in Bentonville.
Those entrepreneurial endeavors were successful. Allen also opened a Shell convenience store on Walton Boulevard in Bentonville in 1998. Later that year, though, Allen seized on an opportunity to return to Walmart, working this time in the company’s real estate division. At the time, real estate was a booming section of the company, which was growing at a rapid pace, mainly because of the retailer’s expansion of the Supercenter format.
For the next eight years, Allen worked in a variety of roles as a real estate manager. They included selling out lots and parcels of existing Walmart stores and land acquisitions for future Supercenters.
In the early part of 2006, Allen left Walmart for a job in sales and marketing with The Pinnacle Group. A group of businessmen that included trucking magnate J.B. Hunt started the development company in 2001, focusing on new developments in Rogers along the Interstate 49 corridor.
In the wake of Hunt’s death in December 2006, the partnership dissolved a year later. Johnelle Hunt took over her late husband’s duties as chairwoman, and the business rebranded in 2010 as Hunt Ventures.
Allen remains part of the team working on behalf of the Hunt family to develop property in and around the area of Rogers known as Pinnacle Hills. In the past five years, it has become arguably the hottest area for commercial real estate development in Arkansas, with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of office, retail, restaurant, multifamily and entertainment projects completed or in various stages of development.
Hunt Ventures has become synonymous with the majority of the work.
“We always knew that area had great potential and was in great demand,” Allen said. “We didn’t exactly know what that was going to be. What we are seeing today, [building] vertical and creating a little skyline … We didn’t know it was going to be that.”
Hunt Ventures and Sage Partners, one of the state’s leading commercial real estate firms, merged in August 2016. As executive vice president and principal of the company, Allen manages the real estate firm’s Hunt Ventures account. That involves asset management of existing buildings, development of new buildings and land sales, with a focus on retail and office development. The Hunt Ventures portfolio, Allen said, is about 1.4 million square feet.
A big chunk of the development in Pinnacle Hills originated on Hunt Ventures landholdings. Some of the notable properties include the 10-story Hunt Tower office building and Topgolf. Hunt Ventures is leasing the land to the Dallas-based golf entertainment company, which is developing 11 acres south of the Walmart AMP.
The Hunt family also donated the land for the Walmart AMP, which opened in 2014.
Allen, 57, said the most enjoyable part of his job is getting to work for Hunt.
“She is a leader in so many aspects of business,” he said. ‘The character she has and her family. I’m very blessed to work for them. Without her and her family, this wouldn’t be possible.”
Allen, who holds the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation, was elected to the Rogers City Council in 1996 and served for four years. He’s also one of 15 elected members of the Benton County Quorum Court, the legislative body of county government. He has been a Justice of the Peace since 2009 and is chairman of the finance committee.
He was also recently added to the board of Springdale-based United Bank.