Arkansas Business

Structurlam Mass Timber Corp., a company selected to help build Walmart’s expansive new corporate campus in Bentonville, will expand into the United States with a $90 million investment in an existing building in Conway that will open in 2021.

Little Rock Regional Chamber
Arkansas Business

While Black Friday draws in shoppers as early as Thursday night, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce hopes shoppers save some of their dollars for some local businesses later in the weekend.

Small Business Saturday, happening this weekend, began in 2010. According to Brandon Campbell, director of small business and inclusion for the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the chamber aims to promote local shopping throughout the Little Rock area in order to support local business owners.

Walter Hussman
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is nearing the day when it will no longer deliver a daily printed paper. The newspaper has been transitioning its weekday service to an app-only format and plans to print only a Sunday edition of the paper by the beginning of next year.

Express RX CEO Galen Perkins speaking at Monday's announcement at the Little Rock Regional Chamber.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Expansion-minded drug store operator Express Rx announced plans Monday to consolidate its varied office locations in several states into a new headquarters location in Little Rock, adding some 24 new white-collar positions to the state’s tight labor pool.

During a press event at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott and other top city, county and state officials rolled out the red carpet to Express Rx CEO Galen Perkins whose fast-growing chain now has 18 retail locations across eight states.

Hefei Risever Machinery (Risever), a Chinese-based heavy equipment parts manufacturer is on the verge of starting operations at its $20 million facility in Jonesboro. The company held a grand opening Wednesday and it should be fully operational by January, newly hired plant manager Chris Taylor told Talk Business & Politics.

"We plan to start production at the start of 2020," he said. "The building is complete and we’re installing equipment."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking at Tuesday's announcement that DXC Technology is adding 1,200 jobs in Conway.
Governor's Office

Fortune 150 technology giant DXC Technology will expand its Conway operations by adding 1,200 new jobs to its current workforce of roughly 400. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and company officials made the formal announcement on Tuesday at press conference in Conway.

The U.S. Government is the world’s largest purchaser as it contracts out for all types of products and services – both large and small. It is also required by law to set aside opportunities for small businesses.

Between October 2017-September 2018, there was approximately $895 million available in federal government contracts for work to be done in the state of Arkansas.

To bid for a government contract, small businesses must complete an intricate registration process and wade through lengthy solicitations.

Domtar Corporation announced Thursday that it will permanently shut down two of its paper machines with one of the closures being in Ashdown, Arkansas. The other closure will be in Port Huron, Michigan.

The company said these measures will reduce its annual uncoated freesheet paper capacity by approximately 204,000 short tons and will result in a workforce reduction of approximately 100 employees.

The closure of the Ashdown paper machine will be effective immediately and the closure of the Port Huron machine by mid-November.

Walmart says it will discontinue the sale of handgun ammunition and also publicly request that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms in stores even where state laws allow it.

The announcement comes just days after a mass shooting claimed seven lives in Odessa, Texas and follows two other back-to-back shootings last month, one of them at a Walmart store.

Union Pacific Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Union Pacific Chairman and CEO Lance Fritz told a luncheon crowd in Little Rock on Monday that open trade is central to the continued growth of the Arkansas and U.S. economy, citing risks that President Donald Trump is taking with ongoing trade wars between China and U.S. neighbors in Canada and Mexico.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Martial artists from around the world began gathering in Little Rock Monday for the annual ATA World Expo. Little Rock’s largest annual convention is expected to draw roughly 20,000 visitors per day over the next week for a variety of Taekwondo events.

The convention includes two days of training and seminars followed by four days of competitions, which are open to the public.

Lockheed Martin Camden patriot missile
Lockheed Martin

Only days after Gov. Asa Hutchinson returned from a European trade mission where Lockheed Martin announced a multimillion-dollar deal to expand its operations in Camden, the Pentagon awarded the defense giant another blockbuster contract to manufacture warheads at its South Arkansas military industrial complex.

Georgia Pacific Crossett
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Georgia-Pacific announced Tuesday it is permanently shutting down the equipment and processes supporting the bleached board operations at its Crossett facility in south Arkansas as of October 2019. About 555 jobs will be impacted by the closure. Also, the timber and paper giant will close a particleboard facility in Hope, laying off 100 workers.

The Crossett decision was based on an assessment of the mill’s ability to compete effectively in the bleached board market, the company said.

Southland Gaming and Racing
Wikipedia

Los Angeles-based specialty construction giant Tutor Perini Corp. announced last week that one of its subsidiary companies, Gulfport Miss.-based Roy Anderson Corp. (RAC), has been awarded a $200 million contract to build Delaware North’s new Southland Gaming Casino and Hotel Project in West Memphis.

CZ-USA gun maker
Talk Business & Politics

Cold beer, good food, and bike trails may have sealed the deal for Arkansas’ newest foreign investment.

On Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and local economic leaders announced in a state capitol press conference that CZ-USA, a Czech Republic-based gun manufacturer would locate its North American headquarters in the Little Rock Port Authority. The $90 million facility will manufacture, warehouse and distribute the company’s high-end, precision firearms, while employing up to 565 workers over the next six years.

Sig Sauer

Ammunitions manufacturer SIG Sauer cut the ribbon on its expanded Jacksonville, Ark. facility on Tuesday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, and local government and economic development officials participated in the ceremony for the state-of-the-art facility.

Financial terms of the expansion were not disclosed.

Rock Region Metro
Rock Region Metro

Central Arkansas public transit could benefit from national bipartisan support for infrastructure spending. Charles Frazier, the CEO of Rock Region Metro, traveled to Washington D.C. as part of a national delegation of transit officials requesting federal funding.

"There are backlogged 'state of good repair' projects – upwards of $90 billion – and without the appropriate support from the federal government that work gets kicked down the road," Frazier said.

Frazier was one of several members of the American Public Transportation Association to present data from a report generated by the APTA to members of the U.S. Congress. In addition to repair projects, federal dollars could also help pay for new projects, like an expansion of the transit hub in Arkansas's capital city.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Arkansas could join 10 other states with refundable bottle deposits as the result of legislation filed Monday in the state legislature. Rep. Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff) is sponsoring the bill to introduce a Container Deposit Law.

The proposal would increase the cost of certain bottles by 6 cents. A refund of 5 cents would be available at certified drop-off locations. Flowers said the program could reduce litter on Arkansas roads, bring recycling to many rural communities that currently have no access, and generate revenue for a variety of state and local organizations.

Windstream Holdings Inc. said Monday that it plans to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection immediately as the Little Rock-based rural telecom provider deals with the fallout of an adverse federal court ruling on Feb. 15.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

The Department of Finance and Administration says Arkansas was $13.1 million below projections for January, but the state's revenue is still up for the fiscal year. According to the DFA, the year-to-date net available general revenue is $3.4 billion, which is 4.1 percent higher than this time last year.

John Shelnutt, an economist with the department, said a drop in January revenue was forecasted, but not to this degree.

Betsy Ward, president and CEO of USA Rice Federation, speaking at the Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting Tuesday in Stuttgart.
Arkansas Farm Bureau

The Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting took place Tuesday in Stuttgart. It’s a key event for industry and government leaders to discuss the state of agriculture.

Organizers say about 400 people attended the meeting, included several top state officials, state senators and state representatives.

UAMS
UAMS.edu

Arkansas legislators will be meeting next week as part of an ongoing inquiry into a partnership between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway. Arkansas Business delves into the conflict in this week’s issue:

Union Pacific
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Union Pacific is cutting 60 jobs in central Arkansas as part of a second round of layoffs nationwide. A spokeswoman said Monday the local positions come from the railroad’s locomotive servicing and car repair shops in North Little Rock.

The company is eliminating 675 positions nationwide during the fourth quarter of the year. A further reduction in the size of its workforce is planned, company officials say, as Union Pacific works to improve profitability.

The railroad serves 23 states in the western two-thirds of the U.S. and employs about 2,500 people in Arkansas.

Rubber bands
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Executives with a Hot Springs-based rubber band manufacturer were in Washington, DC on Tuesday appealing for help against what they say is unfair competition from foreign companies. Leaders of Alliance Rubber Company met with representatives of the International Trade Commission for the meeting which was focused on whether the company has been injured or faces the threat of injury from the foreign competitors.

Jason Risner, director of business strategy for Alliance Rubber Company, says imported rubber bands are being sold at unreasonable prices.

File photo. Construction of Big River Steel plant in Mississippi County.
bigriversteel.com

Several high-profile steelmakers and investment groups are said to be bidding for the assets of Big River Steel LLC in northeast Arkansas, as billions of dollars pour into the industry after President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on cheap steel imports from China and U.S. allies.

In a response to Talk Business & Politics, a Big River spokesperson said the company was fielding funding offers and reviewing “strategic alternatives” amid the domestic steel industry’s recent upswing as the gap between U.S. and international steel prices has widened.

Downtown Little Rock
Wikimedia Commons

Central Arkansas leaders fear the region is fighting a problem of perception. While northwest Arkansas is viewed as booming, the Little Rock metro area – at least according to some around the country – appears to be struggling.

Arkansas Business reporter Kyle Massey digs into that for a story in this week’s issue. He spoke with KUAR's Michael Hibblen during Morning Edition, which you can hear above.

Interview Highlights

Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson at Wednesday's announcement that the company will be expanding its south Arkansas facility.
Governor's Office

Arkansas’s ongoing efforts to grow the state’s aerospace and defense sector got a big boost Wednesday after Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet Rocketdyne unveiled plans to expand the company’s solar-powered rocket motor manufacturing facility in East Camden.

In a press event at the Governor’s Conference room at the State Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Aerojet CEO and President Eileen Drake announced that the California defense contractor would invest more than $50 million to expand its sprawling south Arkansas armaments factory and hire 140 new workers over the next three years.

McDonald's
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

McDonald’s on Tuesday announced plans to invest $69 million in 100 of the more than 170 stores in Arkansas by 2019. The work is part of a $6 billion plan to modernize many U.S. McDonald’s restaurants by 2020.

Work on the Arkansas stores is set to begin this year. David Stokes, a Cabot-based franchisee, said the work will use local professional services and help the state’s construction industry.

Stone Bank
Arkansas Business

Despite predictions that brick-and-mortar bank branches would be rapidly declining in this online era, the number of bank locations in Arkansas actually increased over the last budget year. Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz wrote about that in this week’s issue, which was released Monday.

Like ink-on-paper publications, brick-and-mortar bank branches are taking much longer to die out than predicted when the millennium was new.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola unveils the city's first "digital citizen engagement" kiosk. It provides wifi service and allows people to learn about area events and businesses, get directions, and take selfies.
David Monteith / KUAR News

Making Little Rock a leader in technology is the goal of a new project in the downtown area, the city's mayor announced Monday.

Little Rock's first "digital citizen engagement" kiosk is now active outside the Statehouse Convention Center. In addition to being a wi-fi hotspot, the touch-screen kiosk allows passersby to preview area businesses and events, get directions, and take selfie photographs that are sent to their phones.

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