Jim Gaston Named as Arkansas Business Executive of Year
Well-known local businessman Jim Gaston of Lakeview has been named Arkansas Business Executive of the Year.
Sponsored by Arkansas Business Publishing Group in Little Rock since 1988, the annual awards ceremony honors Arkansas business, non-profit organizations and business leaders in six categories including businesses with 1 to 25 employees, 26 to 75 employees and 76 to 300 employees, non-profit organization, Non-profit Executive of the Year and Business Executive of the Year. Nominations are made by readers of Arkansas Business.
This year's nominees along with Jim Gaston were Alan Hope from Powers of Arkansas; Elise Mitchell of Mitchell Communications Group; Paul Strack from Custom XM and Kenny Tomlin of Rockfish Interactive.
The 2011 winner, selected by an independent panel of judges, was announced at the 2010 Arkansas Business of the Year Awards reception and dinner that was held February 22 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
in the Arkansas State House.
Jim Gaston, owner of Gaston's White River Resort at Lakeview, was honored Tuesday night by Arkansas Business News Journal as the publication's Business Executive of 2010.
The ceremony, presented by Centennial Bank and Arkansas Business, was held at the Statehouse Convention Center's Wally Allen Ballroom. About 840 guests were in attendance.
Gaston was made to wear a tuxedo during the ceremony.
In a biographical sketch of Gaston at the Arkansas Business website, the biographer characterized Gaston as "ambassador supreme for Arkansas tourism" and credited Gaston for transforming Gaston's White River Resort into a world-class destination for trout fishing.
It started as a rustic resort with a boat dock, six cottages and a few acres when his father, Al, bought the property in the winter of 1958, according to the Arkansas Business report.
"Today, Gaston's covers more than 400 acres with amenities galore: a dock facility supporting 70 fishing boats, 79 cottages, a 125-seat conference center and its own restaurant, private club, a 3,200-feet airstrip and more, backed by a seasonal staff of 75 to 100," Arkansas Business biographers wrote. "The resort wasn't in such good shape after a hard winter in 1965, with damage that included a sunken, washed-away boat dock. Added emotional challenges came during the first six months of 1966 with the death of Gaston's father and best friend mixed in with a bank trying to foreclose."
Arkansas Business said Gaston was in his early 20s with little business experience when he developed a plan to rebuild that involved getting a $15,000 loan from a Mountain Home bank. After making his pitch, the banker gave him the loan without objection. Gaston told Arkansas Business, he "went to his car and sobbed with relief."
Over the years, Gaston has held various leadership positions with the Arkansas Hospitality Association and the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Business said.
He serves as a volunteer at the Bull Shoals State Park visitor center that bears his name and as president of the Arkansas Tourism Development Foundation since its founding in 1970.
Back at home Thursday, Gaston said being named the Arkansas Business Executive of the Year was the "honor of a lifetime."
A video of the award presentation to Gaston may be viewed at the following Internet address from the Arkansas Business website: http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/people_bizofyear.asp?id=450
During the 9-minute acceptance speech, Gaston spent much of his time conceding that he does not possess a "gift of culture" and that his wife, Jill, had brought all her cultural qualities to bear upon his appearance in a tuxedo.
"I don't have anything but blue jeans," Gaston told the crowd, "and that's the truth."
Gaston explained that after completing a number of mathematical equations, he was fitted with a rented tuxedo, but concerns about the staying power of low-riding slacks that came with the outfit mandated Gaston wear the tan ostrich belt with a large metal buckle that is common Gaston attire which he displayed for the crowd.
"And that was the one and only Jim Gaston," said Jeff Hankins, Arkansas Business publisher.