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Local CEO to enter outdoor hall of fame

by Max Bryan | August 7, 2016 at 4:00 a.m.

The CEO of a local boat manufacturer was shocked to learn he will be inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame this week.

Rodney Herndon, CEO of Xpress Boats, who has been with the company for 37 years, said he is humbled to be receiving the award.

"I tell people, 'All I did was come to work every day,'" Herndon said, with a chuckle. "It was quite a shock to me that I had been selected for the hall of fame."

Herndon will be formally inducted at the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be 6 p.m. Friday at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

When Herndon joined Xpress Boats in 1979, the company was owned by Kermit Bryant, his father-in-law. Although the company had accomplished the feat of manufacturing an all-welded aluminum boat, which was the first of its kind, they still were barely recognized in the boating industry.

Herndon, who was promptly made president, began to expand the company's vision. Since joining the company, Herndon has made innovative moves to keep Xpress on par with the best in the business, such as introducing the company's hyper lift hull, bay boats and pontoon line.

Thanks to Herndon's innovation and drive, Xpress Boats has quietly risen to become one of the top 10 boat companies in the United States for the past 20 years. Clay Connor, director of marketing at Xpress, said that the subtle nature of the company's rise to success is telling of the way Herndon and his family have managed the business.

"The business that they have built over the past 50 years is built on innovation and performance, but it's a very quiet business," Connor said.

Xpress Boats, which is now owned by Herndon's son, Rory, as of December 2015, is currently one of the top five boat manufacturers in the country, according to Rodney Herndon.

Herndon's accomplishments in his business, along with his passion for the outdoors, led the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to place him on the roster for induction into the hall of fame this year. He will be inducted with Scott Simon, director of Arkansas' chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and Steve "Wildman" Wilson, a TV and radio personality in the outdoor world.

Chuck Dicus, president of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, said that Herndon fits in perfectly with the rest of the hall of fame's inductees.

"Rodney is an avid outdoorsman," Dicus said. "He values the same things that we do -- outdoor conservation and activities. He was a perfect fit."

Dicus also said that Herndon has been on the waiting list to be inducted for some time now. He said that Herndon's contribution to his home state is one of the things that put him up for consideration in the first place.

"So much can be said about Rodney and his history in Arkansas, and certainly in the boat building business," Dicus said. "What's important to know is that what they've done is they've given Arkansas sportsmen an opportunity to enjoy water sports."

Herndon said that he couldn't have received the nomination without the help of the people that show up to work every day for Xpress Boats.

"It's an honor; it's humbling," Herndon said. "I've got a lot of thanks to a lot of people in this organization."

Local on 08/07/2016

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