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Emerging leaders for the 1990s.

Emerging Leaders For The 1990s

Early this month, a group of Little Rock business leaders - Jim Moses, Wally Allen and Mark Grobmyer, with the help of Mayor Buddy Villines - unveiled the ambitious $100-million Diamond development project that was described as visionary by its supporters and unfundable by its detractors.

What no one disputes is the project's conception showed leadership on the part of the three businessmen, a quality that many say has been sorely lacking in central Arkansas.

Significantly, all three men's ages hover close to 40 (Moses and Allen are 41; Grobmyer is 39) and some who read the tea leaves of the business community say a changing of the guard delivering the reins of power to a new generation is underway.

Question: Is a new crop of progressive leaders raised in the shadows of Vietnam, Watergate and Woodstock emerging in the capital city?

Answer: Maybe.

"I find it very encouraging that such a substantial group of business people are being involved in community affairs," says Walter Smiley, 52, founder of Systematics Inc. and president of Fifty For The Future. "I think it holds tremendous promise for the future of the city."

Since leaving Systematics, Smiley has been thinking about leadership in the state, and he says a dividing line of those over and under the age of 50 is now taking hold.

As acknowledged aging business legends like Bill Dillard, Jack and Witt Stephens, and Bill Bowen (all well past 60) cope with flagging energies, forced retirement of declining health, new leaders - or those with the potential for leadership - throughout central Arkansas' business community are appearing.

Leaders in fields like:

* Banking. Worthen's Curt Bradbury, First Commercial's Barnett Grace, OneBank's William Scholl, and Union's Hall McAdams;

* Public Service. Arkla's Sherman Tate and Skip Rutherford, AP&L's Kay Kelly Arnold and John Marshall;

* Business Growth: Dennis Davis at Arkansas Modification, Warren Stephens in financial services, Barbara Graves in retailing.

All are in their early 40s or younger, and all are now poised to make an impact.

How will the new group differ from the old?

Most observers say the younger generation - which is still primarily white and male despite three decades of the women's movement and civil rights legislation - is more cooperative with each other, has a membership based more on achievement than bloodlines and is bettered educated. Also, the group tends to focus on the long view, unlike many of its predecessors who struggled and fought for short-term gains, often at the expense of the city.

"If indeed I'm in the group, that means it is based on meritocracy, not aristocracy," says Bradbury. "For damn sure, I'm not a blueblood or an aristocrat."

Born in southwest Little Rock, Bradbury, 41, has worked hard over the past five years to turn around once near-bankrupt Worthen and says if he has achieved any measure of stature it has come from long hours in the office.

"All that I have proven as an individuals is the difference in the income statement and the balance sheet," he says.

While some Little Rock leaders may miss the days of the 1960s when strong-willed Billy Rector reportedly ran the city on a tight leash, today's emerging leaders will probably rule more by coalition and consensus. Witness the recent Diamond project, the drive to pass the 1-cent county jail tax and the successful school millage vote.

Hoping to get a fix on the phenomenon, Arkansas Business has assembled a list of 30 young leaders that we think will make their mark on the city and the state in the coming decade.

How The List Was Assembled

Necessarily arbitrary, our list is based on subjective impressions of business leaders in central Arkansas under the age of 50 who are now emerging as trend setters in either the business, political or social arena.

We tried to select current business leaders who will play a significant role in shaping our business climate over the next 10 years.

We consulted various lists (the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce's membership list, Fifty For The Future's membership roster, etc.), called business associates and friends for input, and discussed it among ourselves. We refined our list several times, scratching some names off and adding others.

Those business executives who we felt had already "arrived" (like Sheffield Nelson or Mack McLarty) or who we doubted would accomplish much beyond expanding their current businesses, were left off the list. Again, this was an arbitrary choice and we're sure many will disagree with our selections.

Also, included (see sidebars) are people we considered, but for various reasons chose note to include.

We hope you'll find this list as interesting to read as we did putting it together.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:young business leaders in Central Arkansas
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Nov 26, 1990
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