We are accustomed these days to read and hear of job losses, layoffs, reductions, closing and cutbacks of all sorts.
Ranger Boats, for goodness sake, seemingly as solid a business as you could imagine, has extended a layoff of several hundred workers up at Flippin.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo, a major event in the neighboring state, has been canceled for 2009 and also for 2010.
Loss of several sponsors was listed as a reason for the Texas cancellation, so that leads to a bit of thought. Bass tournaments, not everybody's cup of tea but significant in the outdoor world, exist because of sponsors. BASS and FLW are the major leagues, but sponsors are vital to he smaller circuits as well.
Lose some sponsors, and it stands to reason that the prizes will shrivel.
We hasten to add that we have not heard of this happening to BASS and FLW. There may have been some sponsors who canceled out, but several new ones have been announced recently by both outfits.
Looking at FLW and Ranger now. These are sister operations controlled by Minneapolis entrepreneur Irwin Jacobs, whose Genmar holding company recently filed for bankruptcy, the Chapter 11 variety. Jacobs was quick to point out to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Genmar operates separately from his other companies like FLW Outdoors, but it does include Ranger and a number of other boat manufacturing operations, some of which produce mega-yachts.
Bankruptcy is not the equivalent of a death sentence, we realize. Companies and individuals who go the bankruptcy route can and frequently do come back and even prosper in future times.
Ranger's layoffs at Flippin are bound to hit that small north Arkansas town hard, and Ranger employees live all over the area too, so other communities are being affected.
Back to the Texas expo. This was something the state wildlife and parks agency began in 1992, and it quickly became highly popular, drawing crows of 35,000 or so on October weekends - football season in Texas. The sponsor revenue declined sharply, so the state agency had the choice of pulling major money from other projects and operations to prop it up or to cancel it. You can see the thinking of Texas Parks and Wildlife's governing board.
Are we facing anything similar in Arkansas? Not yet, that we know of.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has nothing like the Texas expo, but we have the late summer Big Buck Classic, a private enterprise that also works with sponsorships. Its crowds get up there in the tens of thousands.
Making comparisons of Arkansas and Texas are not our favorite activity. So many times Arkansas comes out on the short end of the stick. Wildlife and parks are different is this regard. Texas has its under one umbrella. Arkansas, like most states, has separate agencies. But Arkansas, like only one other state, Missouri, has constitutional fractional sales tax funding for wildlife and parks, and what a difference that is making.
Among the wildlife agencies of the 50 states, 48 of them are struggling, scratching to make ends meet, trimming expenses, undergoing hiring freezes. Arkansas and Missouri are not.
Traditionally, the income from hunting and fishing licenses has been the mainstay of state wildlife agencies. Hunting and fishing license sales have declined for several years now in most states while operating costs climb like everything else. This decline in Arkansas has been less than in other states, and a recent report at the Game and fish Commission even showed a slight rise in hunting license sales.
The economy is affecting all of us, but at this point, we in Arkansas are in pretty good shape with our hunting and fishing and related activities.