Talk Business & Politics Staff

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Medical Marijuana
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The final results from the latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll indicate strong support among Arkansas voters for medical marijuana. 

Outside the Arkansas House chamber in the state Capitol building.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A longstanding legislative battle may be getting easier in the court of public opinion and a future legislative battle has widespread citizen support in one direction. Talk Business & Politics reports.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll, conducted Tuesday, June 21, 2016, among 751 likely Arkansas voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.

Survey respondents were asked:

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Traffic at Arkansas’ three largest commercial airports improved in May, and shipping on the Arkansas River has recovered from the rain-induced slowdown in 2015, according to information in the June edition of the Arkansas Transportation Report.

Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore (file photo).
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Michael Poore has packed up his office in Bentonville where he served as superintendent since 2011. He will soon transition into the role of superintendent for the academically challenged Little Rock public school system that continues to lose students.

UAMS campus in Little Rock.

Talk Business and Politics reports

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is about to embark on a critical time for revenue, Dr. Dan Rahn, the school’s chancellor, told members of a newly formed “Friends of UAMS” chapter in Fort Smith.

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Confidence among Arkansas consumers about the economy and their personal finances continues to increase, according to the latest Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey completed this spring.

The report compiled by the University of Arkansas Center for Business and Economic Research twice a year. According to the survey conducted in March, 38% of Arkansas consumers expect their personal financial situation to improve over the next 12 months, up from 28% in September.

Talk Business and Politics reports

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Fort Smith on Wednesday (June 1) by laying out a strategy for the future of Arkansas economic development.

Talk Business and Politics reports:

A new report by the United Health Foundation shows that Arkansas is among the unhealthiest states for seniors, mainly due to the high prevalence of obesity, physical inactivity and food insecurity.

Talk Business and Politics reports:

Retail giant Walmart is betting big on grocery pickup as a way to fend off Amazon’s fresh home delivery offering. But while the efforts are being accelerated by Walmart, consumers are slow to adopt the new service, according to a study by Fayetteville-based Field Agent and consultants close to the situation.

Cummins arkansas department of correction prison
Arkansas Department of Correction

Talk Business and Politics reports:

A mental health summit held Wednesday (May 25) in Fort Smith covered treatment and incarceration issues with which resolution likely requiring new laws and new thinking at the state level.

Leon Evans, who spoke to legislators and other state and Sebastian County officials at the summit, dealt with such issues as he worked to implement the Bexar County (San Antonio) Jail Diversion Program in 2003.

Continued growth in prepared foods and improved beef numbers helped Tyson Foods post a better-than-expected second fiscal quarter net income of $432 million, up almost 40% compared to the $310 million posted in the same quarter of last year.

The unadjusted per share net income of $1.07 beat the consensus estimate of 96 cents per share. The strong second quarter follows a first quarter in which net income of $461 million was up 49%.

Tyson Foods

Talk Business and Politics reports:

Before the market opens Monday, Tyson Foods is expected to post $403 million in net income for the second quarter of fiscal 2016 which ended. That equates to a Wall Street consensus of $1.03 per share, up 38% over the 75 cents per share reported in the same quarter of 2015.

The company posted net income of $313 million in the year-ago period.

Foreclosure activity in Arkansas’ three largest metro areas and in the nation is below recession-related highs, according to Irvine, Calif.,-based There were 289,116 U.S. foreclosure filings recorded in the first three months of the year, down 8% from a year ago, the lowest quarterly total since the fourth quarter of 2006.

One month does not make a trend, but a more than 21% gain in home sales during January in Arkansas’ four large markets continues the momentum of 2015 in which home sales were up almost 10% – with a December that had an almost 20% gain.

Home sales in Arkansas’ four largest markets totaled 1,484 in January, up 21.24% compared to January 2015 and up 18.3% compared to January 2014. All four markets posted double-digit growth in January, according to The Arkansas Home Sales Report.

solar array aerojets solar field
Aerojet Rocketdyne

The switch will soon be flipped on 151,200 solar panels that will provide electricity to the growing defense industry operations in East Camden. The 12-megawatt solar field will generate electricity equivalent to powering 2,400 homes.

Officials with Aerojet Rocketdyne, the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation and Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corporation will gather March 31 at the 100-acre site in south Arkansas for the formal commissioning.

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Revised federal data show that Benton County’s per capita personal income in 2014 was 149.3% of the national average, and only seven other counties in a 12–state southeast U.S. region had a higher percentage. The new numbers also show Arkansas was 82% of the U.S. average in 2014, down from an historic high of 82.2% in 2013.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) discussing changes to eligibility verification for Medicaid in the Governor's Conference Room at the Capitol in early August.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Details on a $10.5 million economic development project in Jonesboro will be announced Wednesday, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson set to take part in the “Project Timesquare” reveal.

Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the announcement will be made at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center Hames Room.

However, the process on the project begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday when the Jonesboro Metropolitan Area Planning Commission reviews a site plan for the project.

Arkansas Guns
Talk Business & Politics

Fresh new polling from Talk Business & Politics in conjunction with several partners presents attitudes from Arkansans on a variety of gun-related topics. TB&P, Hendrix College, Impact Management Group, and KATV Channel 7 partnered on the survey, which was conducted Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

Fuel prices are ratcheting up at the fastest pace since November in Arkansas as gas station owners are raising prices ahead of the oil industry’s upcoming refinery maintenance season.

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Arkansas’ average jobless rate in 2015 was 5.2%, below the 6.1% in 2014 and well below the 7.4% average in 2013. It is the first time the annual average dropped below 6% since 2008.

Also, broad revisions of labor market data shows that Arkansas’ jobless rate fell below 5% sooner than previously noted, and December’s jobless rate was 4.7% instead of the previously reported 4.8%.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and partners across the nation will direct up to $720 million towards 84 conservation projects around the country, including three projects in Arkansas.

According to a media release, the projects will help communities improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability and are part of the second round of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program created by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Arkansas projects include:

walmart wal-mart

Wal-Mart Stores’ full fiscal year revenue fell 0.7% to $482.13 billion, with net income of $14.694 billion down 9.2% compared to fiscal year 2015. Although sales were up 3.6% in its U.S. stores, fourth quarter income and revenue fell below market estimates.

The company reported early Thursday (Feb. 18) fiscal year per share net income of $4.57, below the $4.58 consensus estimate of the 21 analysts who cover the company. The full year revenue also missed the consensus estimate of $483.38 billion.

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce for the first time is making independent expenditures in state legislative races. The expenditures are paying for mailers backing candidates who support Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Medicaid expansion plan, Arkansas Works.

Chamber President and CEO Randy Zook said Thursday that the expenditures were being made in “a couple, three Senate races; a couple, three House races.” He said the expenditures were being made to “people who have been targeted by other groups for defeat because of that single vote.”

Talk Business and Politics

Editor’s note: The Arkansas Transportation report is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by the Arkansas Trucking Association and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/AIA. Other transportation industry related stories can be found on the Arkansas Transportation Report landing page.

Editor’s note: Each Friday, Talk Business & Politics provides “Energy In-depth,” a round-up of energy and regulatory news. 

medical money medicine
Talk Business & Politics

Springdale-based NOWDiagnostics, manufacturer of blood test kits, has moved all of its plastic housing production from China to its home base in Arkansas. The company cited efforts to improve quality control and to bring additional jobs to the state as the primary reasons for the move.

“By moving all of our production to Arkansas, we have better control over the quality of our products, which is our chief concern,” said Kevin Clark, CEO of NOWDiagnostics.

Natural Gas Drilling Mt. Vernon in Faulkner County
Arkansas Times

Southwestern Energy Co. said Thursday it is laying off around 1,100 workers companywide with 600 of those jobs to cut in Arkansas. The Texas driller’s Fayetteville Shale operations in Arkansas had more than 1,500 workers a year ago.

“Natural gas prices have continued to decline over the past year, creating conditions where cash flow to fund projects will be significantly lower that it has been the past few years,” said company spokeswoman Christina Fowler. “This has led to a need to reduce the company’s overall workforce.”

Just five days after Wal-Mart Stores announced it was exiting the small store business, the company called attention to the second phase of its $2.7 billion “investment” in employees. Pay raises and other benefits are set to begin Feb. 20, with Wal-Mart hailing it as the “largest single-day, private-sector pay increases ever.”

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport Sign

It was a mixed bag for Arkansas’ three largest airports in 2015. Clinton National Airport in Little Rock fell below a million enplanements, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) for the second consecutive year set a new record for traffic, and the Fort Smith Regional Airport saw traffic fall more than 7%.

March for Life pro-life anti-abortion abortion
Talk Business & Politics

Several thousand people, along with most of the state’s leading elected officials, marched in opposition to abortion Sunday at the 38th Annual March for Life at the state Capitol.

The marchers wound behind the Capitol and then gathered at the steps, where they heard short speeches by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Reps. French Hill, R-Little Rock, and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs.