Arkansas Business

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.

walmart
Walmart

Walmart is paying $16 billion for a controlling stake in India's giant online retailer Flipkart, breaking into a fast-growing economy where it has struggled to establish a foothold. Online sales have exploded in India.

Walmart and Amazon have been fighting hard to catch up to Flipkart. Its delivery drivers, with their motorcycles and oversized backpacks, have become ubiquitous across the nation of 1.3 billion people. 

Walmart said Wednesday that it will own approximately 77 percent of Flipkart.

Fortune.com

Following Tuesday's resignation of casino mogul Steve Wynn amid accusations of sexual misconduct, a native Arkansan is now chief executive of Wynn’s $17 billion global enterprise.

Mena native Matthew Maddox has worked for Wynn Resorts Ltd. since 2002, eventually serving as chief financial officer and president. The company’s board of directors named the 42-year-old Maddox CEO late Tuesday following Wynn’s resignation.

Sun Paper
Governor's Office

Sun Paper plans to boost its investment in a proposed Arkansas mill from around $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion. The new plans announced Tuesday also include projected employment rising from 250 to 350 new jobs.

Tyson
Tyson Foods

Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc. has invested in a food-tech startup that's developing methods to produce meat directly from animal cells.

Springdale-based Tyson announced Monday that its venture capital arm, Tyson Ventures, now has a minority stake in Memphis Meats. The terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Memphis Meats says it expects to use the funds to accelerate product development.

Tyson says the investment reflects the company's commitment to find new, innovative ways of meeting a growing global demand for protein.

Does Traditional Bell-Ringing Still Work For Salvation Army?

Dec 14, 2017

As the Salvation Army holds its largest fundraiser of the year, known as the Red Kettle Campaign, a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army of Central Arkansas says the holiday bell-ringing tradition remains effective, despite many consumers carrying less cash.

Michelle Scroggins, director of community relations, says they haven't been seeing a negative impact on donations locally. In other parts of the country, donations to red kettle campaigns have declined.

Nearly two years after singing the praises of new downtown offices in Little Rock’s River Market District, First Orion announced Monday that it is moving its global headquarters across the river to North Little Rock’s Argenta District due to growing space needs.

In a ceremony with North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith and First Orion CEO Charles Morgan, the growing Central Arkansas tech firm said it has selected a building site at the 500 block of Main Street in North Little Rock to house its future workforce of more than 200 people.

A robot scanning a Walmart store shelf.
Walmart

Select Arkansas Walmart stores in Sherwood, Searcy, and Pine Bluff are expected to receive robots Tuesday to aid associates in their work. It’s part of an expanded test that started in Pennsylvania, with the retail giant implementing robots in 50 of its locations. The robots will use automation to scan store shelves, help keep track of inventory levels, check prices that could be wrong, or where labels are missing.

USDA - McKeand

A timber company with deep Arkansas ties and a headquarters in El Dorado is being acquired in a $1.18 billion deal by Potlatch Corporation. The Spokane, Washington-based operation, now to be known as PotlatchDeltic Corporation, will have 1,500 employees combined, 2-million acres of timberland, and is estimated to be worth $4 billion. Deltic’s contribution is 530,000 acres in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Potlatch CEO Mike Covey will stay at the helm of the combined company. He told investors on Monday that he expects more activity out of south Arkansas forests and mills.

Grass Roots Farmers' Cooperative in Clinton consider so-called locavores and farm-to-table chefs who want assurance their meat is raised organically their target demographic, and they're turning to the emerging information system blockchain technology for its ease and thoroughness of reporting.

Blockchain works by providing a shared digital ledger of trusted information that cannot be edited and is not controlled by any one person.  It promises to provide at the speed of a webpage load a full history of a product, service or idea. 

This same technology is also being tried by the world's largest food retailers like Walmart who are perhaps more concerned with quickly tracking the source of food contamination in the event of an outbreak or health scare.

Delta Regional Authority
dra.gov

The White House has nominated a member of U.S. Sen. John Boozman's staff to serve as co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority.

Officials announced the nomination Wednesday of Chris Caldwell, who now serves as director of special projects for Boozman. The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that works to improve regional economic opportunity in the Mississippi River Delta region.

Fayetteville-based Arvest Bank is acquiring Little Rock-based Bear State Bank in a deal valued at $391 million that is expected to close no later than the first quarter of 2018, and will push Arvest to almost $20 billion in assets.

The deal was announced early Tuesday and equals $10.28 per share of Bear State stock.

Thinly-traded Bear State shares (NASDAQ: BSF) closed Monday at $9.20 and were up almost 11% in Tuesday morning trading. During the past 52 weeks, the share price ranged between $8.65 and $10.95.

Hope Union Pacific
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Union Pacific Corp., which operates more than 1,300 miles of railroad track in Arkansas, announced plans to cut up to 750 jobs that will impact management and administrative positions across the company’s operations.

According to an 8K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Union Pacific’s board of directors approved and initiated the personnel reorganization plan to further its “ongoing efforts to increase efficiency and more effectively align company resources.”

Stock Photo

An online company that delivers groceries is making its way into the central Arkansas market tomorrow, hoping to appeal to customers by changing the way they view shopping. 

The San Francisco-based company Instacart, already in 33 states and the nation’s capital, is expanding into markets across the country at a rapid pace.

rice fields
Mickey Liaw / Flickr.com

After efforts to normalize trade relations between the United States and Cuba were stalled by President Donald Trump, members of Arkansas’s Congressional Delegation have set their sights on a new trade partner: China.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is beginning a two-day agriculture tour of farms in the rice-producing regions of east and northeast Arkansas. A statement from the governor’s office says he plans to discuss critical issues for the agriculture community, including flooding this year, row crop farming, and the possibility of rice sales to China.

North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

North Little Rock voters will decide the fate of a proposed sales tax increase Tuesday. If approved, the city’s portion of sales tax revenue would increase from one percent to two percent, adding another penny to every dollar of taxable items. Half the increase would be permanent, but the other half cent would last for only the next five years.

Kenny Wallis, a conservative activist and North Little Rock resident, has campaigned against tax increases in central Arkansas since 2011.

NASA

NASA’s presence in Arkansas may be increasing thanks to recent grants and potential contracts.

Earlier this month the University of Arkansas was awarded two grants by NASA to fund space technology research, one of which could include conducting experiments on the International Space Station. Following that announcement, Governor Asa Hutchinson probed Space X CEO Elon Musk for his thoughts on the federal space program at last week’s meeting of the National Governors Association.

The Arlington Hotel
www.arlingtonhotel.com

A group from Little Rock is acquiring the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs for an undisclosed amount of money.

The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record newspaper reported Monday that Sky Capital Group LP is buying the state's largest hotel from Southwest Hotels Inc., which has operated the hotel since 1954.

The Arlington Hotel has 478 rooms, along with a spa, a bathhouse, a convention center, ballroom and lobby bar. Sky Capital also operates the Four Points Sheraton in Little Rock.

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