Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones delivered some homespun business tips and wisecracks Friday to a full house of area leaders attending the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce's 156th annual meeting at the Statehouse Convention Center.
Jones noted the flight into Little Rock descended to just 90 feet above his old Rose City neighborhood in North Little Rock, where in his early years the family lived above a grocery store Jones' mom and dad operated on East Broadway Street.
"That building looks like hell now," Jones quipped in remarks filled with amusing – and useful – advice.
The Arkansas-bred businessman is widely recognized for his business development, sales and marketing skills, most notably with the Cowboys, the National Football League team he purchased in 1989 for $145 million. Today it is worth about $6 billion and is the world's most valuable sports team.
Shortly after buying the team, Jones said his dad lent some keen insight.
"Whether it's successful or not," Pat Jones told his son, "you need to use smoke, mirrors and wire to make it look successful."
As a member of the national champion Arkansas Razorbacks football team in 1964, Jones drew inspiration from a visit to the Houston Astrodome, which had not yet begun hosting games and events.
The building, at the time, was referred to as the eighth wonder of the world and set the stage for today's sports megaplazas and indoor/outdoor stadiums. Recalling his visit and marveling over the world's first multi-purpose domed stadium, Jones said the memory never left.
"It sticks and it sticks for a long time," he said of the inspiration, which fueled his imagination in building the Cowboys' home field, AT&T Stadium, which Jones noted could fit five Astrodomes in it.
Intangibles such as imagination fuel business success, Jones said.
"I'm a one and one is three guy; not a one and one is two guy," he said, noting that passion, effort and enthusiasm are vital elements that get you to three.
Jones left the crowd laughing and on their feet applauding the five most important selling tips – "and there are only five," he emphasized – he has learned throughout his career: "One, ask for the money – I forgot the other four."
The chamber's annual meeting recognizes business and economic development efforts over the past year, highlighting key investment and job-creation events in 2021.
Major businesses announced significant projects for Little Rock and Central Arkansas during the year. Those included:
• Amazon expanding its distribution facilities, with plans to ultimately have 5 million square feet of warehousing and distribution space in Arkansas and create about 5,000 jobs.
• Trex's announcement it will build its third U.S. facility at the Port of Little Rock with a $400 million investment and more than 500 jobs planned.
• Costco opening its first Arkansas location, a 165,000-square-foot store on Chenal Parkway in Little Rock that employs hundreds.
"Little Rock is a community that works," outgoing Chairman John Burgess said in summing up the year's efforts. "We have helped and continue to help our community achieve greatness."
Economic development projects planned for Central Arkansas will lead to new capital investment of more than $1 billion, the chamber noted in reflecting on the year.
Those investments are planned to create 6,123 new jobs and $197 million in new payroll for the area. To support existing businesses, the chamber says it made 407 business retention and expansion visits and 65 visits with businesses interested in locating in the region.
Jim Cargill, president and chief executive officer of Arvest Bank operations in Central Arkansas, will serve as 2022 chairman of the chamber's board of directors.