WSJ's Insider's Guide To Wal-Mart's Home Town

Bentonville, Ark., is the home of Wal-Mart and an "A-list destination for top executives." The economic power of of the County is belied by its rural history, although that is changing as it hurtles "rapidly toward an urban renaissance."

"Every week -- generally the early part of the week, when supplier meetings take place -- a who's who of American business descends on Benton County, population 179,756. From Jack Welch and Jeffrey Katzenberg to Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs, they come to mingle and make deals with the top executives of Wal-Mart. What they find is surprising, considering what a corporate capital the town has become.

...For decades, Mr. Walton preferred that his company retain its culture by discouraging suppliers from setting up shop in the area. But by the 1990s, Wal-Mart had relaxed its stance as its rapid growth into a global retailer made an advantage of close proximity to suppliers. The reverberations for Benton County were seismic.

...One reason more luxurious hotels and restaurants haven't moved in: High living goes against Wal-Mart's culture, and many business partners seek to score points by emulating the company's legendary thriftiness.

...Bentonville is, at once, a rural community hurtling rapidly toward an urban renaissance and an insular company town. Whereas a decade ago Bentonville counted a family-owned barbecue restaurant as its finest eatery, it now hosts half a dozen sushi restaurants."

[Editor's note: This article is availble to non-subscribers for a period of 5 days.]

Full Story: Greetings From Bentonville

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