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Practicing what they preach: Fort Smith companies honored for business tactics.

Two Fort Smith companies recently were recognized for their innovative business practices -- practices that they will be sharing soon with the rest of the country.

The Harry G. Barr Co. and Spurling Fire & Burglar Alarm Co. received word March 20 that they had been chosen as state representatives of the 1992 Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative.

The Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative is a national campaign sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Connecticut Mutual Life Co. and Nation's Business.

Two other state businesses were honored: Master Printing Co. of Jonesboro and Security Airport Parking of Little Rock.

Barr and Spurling were among the nearly 200 American companies honored for their ability "to persevere and succeed as a business," says Tim Maurer, director of the Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative in Hartford, Conn.

"We recognize more than just sales," says Maurer, who is employed by Connecticut Mutual.

The Arkansas representatives as well as companies from Mississippi and Louisiana will be recognized at a regional ceremony May 5 in Jackson, Miss.

Each company will receive a trophy. The top company from each state will be profiled in "First Business," a business news segment on the USA Network.

The business tactics of the regional honorees also will be featured in a book, which may be purchased by calling 1-800-AWARD-93.

Created in 1990, the Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative is designed to assist small businesses through a networking alliance that allows them to share their successful strategies.

Making The Move To Vinyl

Barr, which has been in the construction business for 58 years, was commended for its move from aluminum to vinyl replacement windows.

"It was of an old design, it was not thermally improved and it was obsolete," says company president Tom Barr of the antiquated aluminum storm windows and doors. "Vinyl windows are more energy efficient. Vinyl has the thermal properties of wood, which is about as efficient as you can get."

Barr says the move to vinyl products in 1984 has made a big difference in sales, which saw a substantial decrease in the early '80s.

Sales increased by 17 percent in 1991, he says. And, the first two months of this year show a 79 percent increase over the same two months in 1991.

Spurling, which has offices in Little Rock, Springdale and Rogers besides Fort Smith, drew the attention of the Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative for its committee concept style of business management.

Each month, owner W.K. "Mac" McGehee Jr. meets with the firm's sales manager, the northwest Arkansas office manager, the central Arkansas manager and the general manager. The meetings have led to moves such as updating the outdated equipment of customers and expanding into the field of electronically tracking criminals.

The sessions also led to regular meetings with the company's workers, which have benefitted the company, McGehee says.

"|The employees~ came up with some great ideas," says McGehee. "I guess a bunch of heads are better than one."

One idea that came of the worker meetings was something of a public relations move -- presenting each customer with a set of company coffee mugs.

With the mugs came a conservation message informing the customer that, by using the mugs rather than plastic cups, the company could save an estimated 780,000 miles of landfill space.

"It's a small thing, but we've had a lot of comments on it," McGehee says. "It's just amazing what will come out of these meetings."
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Title Annotation:Harry G. Barr Co., Spurling Fire & Burglar Alarm Co.
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 20, 1992
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