J. Keith Smith
Taking a one-room feed store with an incubator and turning it into a multimillion dollar business, the late J. Keith Smith of Hot Springs, pioneered the development of the broiler industry in southern and eastern Arkansas. Keith Smith Company, Inc. was among the first multifunction corporations in the broiler industry before it became the standard. Smith put together a hatchery, broiler parent stock, feed milling and live grow-out to provide product to some of the first commercial processing plants built in the southern and eastern parts of the state.
During the early years of the Arkansas poultry business, Smith provided broiler chicks, live broilers and broiler hatching eggs to companies, allowing them to focus on other operations beyond the initial stage of chick production. This provided stability and growth for the poultry industry. Now, 38,000 Arkansans are employed by the poultry industry, and it contributes more than $$3.3 billion to the state’s economy.
Smith helped provide parent stock for the central U.S. that would produce hundreds of millions of broilers. As a result, Smith is credited with aiding in the development of the emerging markets of products like range-fed, organic, Amish-grown and kosher chickens. His company also provided hatching eggs for export markets, allowing poultry company expansion into Latin America.
Smith went to great lengths to assist employees, customers and members of the community if they were having difficulties. Smith also helped with Arkansas Foodbank, Starting Over Ministries and World Vision. Smith founded the Keith Smith Company, Inc. in 1948. He remained CEO until 1981 when he appointed his son, James Keith Smith, II, as president.