P. Allen Smith, arguably Arkansas’ most famous gardener, was rebuffed Wednesday before a legislative committee meeting. After his request for a hefty contract increase was denied by Stacy Hurst, Secretary of the newly revamped Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, Smith told legislators that he might move his media operation to another state.
Smith requested an increase in his annual marketing contract with the state of $645,000, from $200,000 to $845,000.
Hurst wants to renegotiate Smith’s contract with a more stringent look at the measurable benefits of Arkansas’ financial investment into Smith’s organization, which claims to attract tourism and interest from out of state.
Smith is an influential figure in the gardening-lifestyle world with a multimedia organization producing magazines, books, a restaurant and three television shows. Smith claimed before the joint meeting of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee that he brought an annual worth of $1.3 million in revenue to the state through his media productions.
Hurst defended her decision, defending her department as “ever mindful that we must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We do not spend frivolously.”
Smith asserted that his organization is more than worth the additional investment. Hurst said she followed up with the advertising agencies representing the parks and heritage components of her department, and neither agency endorsed the increase.
“We were not getting a return that we hoped for,” she told lawmakers.
Hurst stressed her desire to remain in business with Smith, but only after renegotiating prices and contracts. That may not be an option, however. Smith said that if the new contract wasn’t approved, he wouldn’t be interested in continuing to advertise and promote Arkansas cities and attractions throughout his media platforms.