Talk Business & Politics Staff

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Arvest Bank

ARVEST TOPS $1 BILLION IN MORTGAGE LOANS FOR 13TH STRAIGHT YEAR

Arvest Bank’s mortgage division topped $1 billion in mortgage loans for the 13th consecutive year, the privately held Bentonville-based financial concern recently announced. Arvest reached the $1 billion milestone more than a month earlier this year than it did in 2014 on Aug. 21, closing on a total of 6,380 loans with a value of $1,008,591,434. In 2014, Arvest didn’t hit the $1 billion mark until Sept. 30.

NASA

Two University of Arkansas researchers working on a promising new material to create more efficient solar cells will lead a corps of Arkansas scientists chosen to develop the next generation of photovoltaic devices used in space missions, the university announced on Thursday.

Organizers for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, scheduled for October 9-18, announced high profile guests who will be participating.

From a festival press release:

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art recently acquired Maya Angelou’s Quilt of Life, 1989, (acrylic on canvas and painted, dyed and pieced fabrics) by Faith Ringgold, from the art collection of the late author and activist, Maya Angelou. The work hung in Angelou’s home and was commissioned by Oprah Winfrey for Angelou’s 61st birthday.

According to the museum, Ringgold is well-known for her painted story quilts, “which unite a tradition of representational painting with the rich history of quilting in the African-American community.”

The combined impact of proposed mergers among four of the nation’s largest health insurance companies would exceed federal antitrust guidelines designed to preserve competition in as many as 97 metropolitan areas within 17 states, according to new special report on commercial health insurance markets issued recently by the American Medical Association (AMA).

Officials with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announced Wednesday that it has welcomed more than two million visitors since opening on November 11, 2011.

Former Fayetteville Shale producer Chesapeake Energy Corp. has finalized two new gas gathering agreements with Tulsa-based Williams Companies for its production in the Haynesville Shale and its dry gas operations in the Utica Shale located in eastern Ohio.

rocket lockheed martin
Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin announced that it had received a $227 million contract from the U.S. Army for the first order of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System alternative warhead, which will be produced at the defense contractor’s missile production facility in Camden.

“GMLRS is a combat proven precision-strike system,” said Ken Musculus, vice president of Tactical Missiles for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “We are confident that the new GMLRS Alternative Warhead will also provide reliable, highly accurate capability for our domestic and international customers.”

UAMS researcher Vladimir Zharov, Ph.D., D.Sc., was awarded a $1.7 million grant by the National Cancer Institute to clinically test a technology that uses lasers to detect and destroy melanomas without harming normal cells.

Former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge, a Democrat, announced Wednesday (Sept. 9) that he will challenge incumbent U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Arkansas, in 2016.

In a press release put out Wednesday morning, Eldridge said, “Washington is broken. I’m running for the Senate because I’m committed to doing everything I can to fix it for Arkansas and for our country.”

marijuana
npr.org

While Arkansas voters are not for completely legalizing marijuana, they are overwhelmingly supportive of a restrictive usage of marijuana for medical purposes, according to a new Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College/Impact Management Group survey.

In the latest poll of 400 registered voters conducted on Aug. 20-23, 2015, 84% said they agreed with legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

Q: Do you agree or disagree that adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician prescribes it?

56% Strongly Agree (84% Agree)

Average U.S. gas prices this week are at the lowest levels for this time of year since 2004 due to the steep decline in the cost of crude oil, according to AAA.

Gas prices have dropped recently despite ongoing refinery problems, and prices should continue to fall this autumn due to declining demand and the switchover to winter-blend gasoline. Today’s national average price of gas is $2.53 per gallon, which is 12 cents less than a week ago and 90 cents less than a year ago. Pump prices are now 33 cents per gallon below the 2015 peak price reached on June 15.

On Wednesday, Democrat Dianne Curry announced she will run for the U.S. Congress in District 2, the seat currently held by first-term Cong. French Hill, R-Little Rock.

No other Democrats have announced for the seat.

Curry was elected to the Little Rock School Board in 2006 where she served three terms. She retired from state government after 27 years of service in education and the public audit of banks.

File photo. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Monday announced that she, along with 48 other State Attorneys General, have reached a $71 million settlement with Amgen Inc. to resolve allegations that Amgen unlawfully promoted biologic medications Aranesp and Enbrel.

Under the terms of the Consent Judgment, Arkansas will receive $959,758.24 from the settlement. Aranesp is used to treat certain types of anemia by stimulating bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Enbrel is used to treat a number of conditions, including plaque psoriasis.

Mike Huckabee (right) talks with Arkansas's GOP Chair Doyle Webb (left) at the tail end of the 2014 election cycle.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet, are turning 60 years old and the Republican presidential contender’s grandchildren are planning an Arkansas celebration and fundraiser next Monday from 6-8 p.m. in Little Rock.

The event is an invitation only affair to be held at Next Level Events. Triple Threat, a singing trio from Benton that recently gained traction on America’s Got Talent, will perform.

Arkansas River
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The long rain-induced nightmare for port, barge and other operators on the Arkansas River may soon be over, but the impact of heavy rains earlier this year pushed river tonnage down more than 25% in July.

Tonnage shipped on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System between January and July totaled 5.135 million in July, down 23% compared to the same period in 2014, according to a monthly report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

John Correnti Big River Steel
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The CEO of the state’s first superproject, Big River Steel CEO John Correnti, was found dead on an out-of-state business trip Tuesday morning, Talk Business & Politics has confirmed.

Correnti, 68, was the driving force for the $1.3 billion steel mill superproject, which is being built near Osceola (Mississippi Co.). As a former CEO of rival Nucor Steel, Correnti was a big fan of Arkansas where he once headed Nucor’s operations in the 1990’s.

Several cities and counties around the state will receive a total of $1,380,000 to help with infrastructure projects, officials said Monday.

Governor Asa Hutchinson presented grants to seven Arkansas cities and counties at a ceremony Monday at the State Capitol.

The funds originate from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

The grants will be administered by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Grants Division.

UAMS campus in Little Rock.
uams.edu / UAMS

  More than 200 physicians have completed their medical residencies at UAMS, and more than half of those will practice in Arkansas, the university announced in a press release.

The 214 physicians who finished their training June 30 practice more than 50 specialities between them. Fifty-six practice family medicine, and of those, 33 will remain in Arkansas, including seven who will practice in small towns.

The press release cited American Association of Medical Colleges’ statistics saying that only seven states had higher retention rates than UAMS.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub announced that Jeff Stinson will become the director of The Silver Mine, which will provide facilities and programs to support entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures in Arkansas.

A plan to extend the Earned Income Tax Credit in Arkansas failed in the last legislative session, but the idea has seen support in other states, according to a national group.

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report last week titled “With More Money, States Weigh Expanded Tax Credits for Working Families.”

A short-term highway bill and a bill revamping the Department of Veterans Affairs is on its way to the Senate, as House members overwhelmingly approved both bills Wednesday.

The House voted 385-34, with one present, (H.R. 3236) on the highway bill and 256-170 (H.R. 1994) on the VA bill.

Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, voted yes on both bills.

According to a summary of the highway bill, the $8 billion measure would fund highway programs through Oct. 29, 2015.

Metova CEO John Adams
Talk Business & Politics

Officials with Metova, Inc. and the city of Conway announced Thursday that the emerging tech firm is looking to add 100 employees to its workforce in the next few months.

Metova builds apps for major companies like Yelp, Dropbox, eHarmony and Microsoft and it is active in cybersecurity protection for private firms and the federal government.

A Wall Street-based nonprofit initiative funded and chaired by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Clinton administration Treasurer Hank Paulson released a report Tuesday that says Arkansas’ soybean production could decline by 25% due to warmer temperatures caused by climate change.

Arkansas’ two United States Senators have requested an investigation into Planned Parenthood as a left-leaning media group challenged the veracity of a video that showed officials with Planned Parenthood discussing the group’s role in harvesting organs of unborn babies.

Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark. and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked for the look into Planned Parenthood.

At least nine colleges and universities in the state will receive help from the U.S. Department of Education Student Support Services Program, the state’s congressional delegation said Wednesday.

Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark. and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., along with Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, announced more than $2 million in funding for Arkansas higher education under the U.S. Department of Education Student Support Services Program.

The colleges and universities to receive funding were:

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas broke ground on a new $8.5 million housing facility on the campus of Arkansas Children’s Hospital on Tuesday.

The new facility, which houses families of sick patients at the pediatric hospital, will triple in size.

To date, roughly $7.5 million has been raised towards the $8.5 million goal. On Tuesday, Tyson Foods contributed $500,000 and announced it would stock the kitchen pantry of the House for a full year.

jobs unemployment employment
www.purdue.edu

Arkansas’ unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point in June as the state’s civilian labor pool grew by 200 workers, according to U.S. labor force data released Tuesday by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.

Editor’s note: Each Tuesday, Talk Business & Politics provides “Campus Talk,” a recap and deep-dive into education topics in our email newsletter, which you can sign up to receive daily for free here.

Big Rock Interchange I-630 I-430
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A short-term funding bill that will authorize appropriations for federal-aid highway, highway safety and public transportation programs passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House Wednesday.

The 312-119 vote on H.R. 3038 drew support from members of the state’s congressional delegation as Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, all voted yes.

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