J.B. Hunt exec Shelley Simpson honored at Economics Arkansas luncheon
It’s been a long way to the top for Shelley Simpson, president of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, who started her career in logistics as an hourly customer service employee 27 years ago after graduating from the University of Arkansas.
Simpson was honored with the Excellence in Free Enterprise Award from Economics Arkansas at a Wednesday (March 15) luncheon in Rogers that also featured Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders’ first official appearance in the region since her inauguration in January.
Simpson said she was humbled and honored to receive the award that J.B. Hunt Transport founders J.B. and Johnelle Hunt received many years ago. She said the company’s culture, discipline and structure were put in place 60 years ago by the founders, which laid the groundwork for the tremendous growth the company has experienced in the past two decades.
Simpson said the seeds for business were sown early in her life as she helped her mom fill and deliver Avon orders as a child growing up in Pine Bluff. She also thanked teachers who helped shape her desire for business and personal fortitude.
“My third-grade teacher Mrs. Harris didn’t pass over me, a minority child in my classroom. I was a shy little girl, but she allowed me to help grade papers, and then she paid me with a Coke or snack. I guess she was my first employer. My 7th-grade basketball coach also taught me what hustle and heart can do to set you apart when you are not six feet tall,” Simpson said.
Simpson said she is fortunate to be part of 37,000 Hunt employees who are reshaping the supply chain – 7,000 of which are located in Northwest Arkansas.
“On behalf of Hunt, I could not be more excited to accelerate together because we are just getting started,” Simpson said.
Simpson has been a fixture of innovative strategy during the past two decades at J.B. Hunt, according to Hunt CEO John Roberts. He said she had run nearly all of the major Hunt divisions and has always shown business acumen, financial discipline and technical expertise, and then been able to apply those to better serve the company’s vast customer base. Roberts said Simpson’s work has been instrumental in helping the company grow revenue to more than $14 billion. He said the disruptive culture Simpson and other leaders at Hunt embrace continues to open up new areas of growth.
Gov. Sanders said the business success of J.B. Hunt Transport, Tyson Foods and Walmart set the region apart from other areas in the state. She said the business leaders and founders of the iconic companies were not reckless but were fearless and continue to be a model for the rest of the state. She said too many Americans graduated without a firm grasp of the economy, and organizations like Economics Arkansas are working to bridge that gap for students K-12.
Economics Arkansas is about teaching students of all ages financial life lessons and business and economic foundations at an appropriate grade level. Fifth-grade students from Grace Hill Elementary School in Rogers also spoke at the luncheon about the Entrepreneurs Club started by teacher Amy Mileham.
Mileham said there is not enough time during the class day for the club, so they meet after school. She said the students learn basic economic fundamentals and then develop their business ideas, write a business plan and bring those ideas to life in the spring with a business fair, where the students sell their wares. She said there are 20 students in the club, which is composed of fourt- and fifth-grade students.