Arkansas Business

Flooding Black River Pocahontas
KATV, Channel 7 News

New facilities are being opened to provide assistance for people and businesses impacted by the destructive storms that hit parts of Arkansas in the spring. Centers opened last week in Fayetteville, Conway, Pocahontas, and Walnut Ridge to serve people from 16 counties who are eligible for government aid.

Daniel Green with the Federal Emergency Management Agency works with victims of the storms to expedite the process of receiving loans and other government aid.

Governor Asa Hutchinson AEDC Mike Preston
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and economic development officials are planning a week-long trip to France, Germany, and Israel to invite new foreign businesses to Arkansas and bolster economic relationships with international businesses already in the state. 

The Trump administration announced Monday it has reached agreement with China on final details of a protocol to allow U.S. companies to ship beef exports to China, a move Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state’s two U.S. senators say will benefit Arkansas and American beef markets.

David Monteith / KUAR

Wal-Mart unveiled new signs at its stores promoting its “Arkansas Grown” program Monday.

Company officials say the marketing strategy is part of the Arkansas-based retailer’s commitment to purchase an additional $250 billion worth of products assembled, made, or grown in the U.S. by 2023.

Michael Hensley, a tomato farmer from Bradley county, Arkansas, said his farm’s 15-year relationship with Wal-Mart has given him peace of mind.

Amazon is attempting to lure low-income shoppers from Walmart by offering a discount on its pay-by-month Prime membership for people who receive government assistance.

The giant online retailer said in a statement Tuesday that people who have a valid electronic benefits transfer card — used for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, or food stamps — will pay $5.99 per month for a year. Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial for qualifying customers.

Caddo River Forest Products sawmill Glenwood
Arkansas Business

A ceremony Thursday afternoon will mark the reopening of a sawmill in the southwest Arkansas city of Glenwood.

Caddo River Forest Products announced a year ago it would invest $50 million in the facility, which had been impacted by the economic recession and ultimately closed in 2010.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman and other officials are expected to speak during the 3 p.m. event. The company says 130 jobs will be created at the sawmill, along with 300 indirect jobs.

Each month, Arkansas Works, the state’s Medicaid expansion program which provides health coverage for low income residents, refers new and renewed enrollees in the program to the Department of Workforce Services. The Arkansas Department of Human Services issued a report Monday on the number of enrollees referred to employment services this year. 

In the first quarter of the year 144,716 referrals were made. According to the report from DHS, the number of people actually acting on those referrals rose from 628 in January to 2,792 in April.

Stock Photo

The Arkansas unemployment rate dropped to another record low for the month of April, to 3.5 percent. That’s a tenth of a percentage point drop from March. The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services reports it is the fourth month in a row the unemployment rate has dropped in the state.

In April of last year, the state unemployment rate was 4.1 percent. The latest 3.5 percent figure comes as the state’s seasonally adjusted civilian labor force also increased for the month, totaling 1,347,934 people. The unemployed totaled 47,697 in April, according to the DWS.

Department of Finance and Administration

Business leaders from across Arkansas will join with community leaders from the Delta Friday to develop strategies for improving the impoverished region. Simmons Bank, based in Pine Bluff, is sponsoring the second annual conference, “The Arkansas Delta: Why It Still Matters.”

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

A Chinese textile company is planning to open a cotton spinning facility in Forrest City, with the expectation of creating 800 new jobs. Representatives from Shandong Ruyi Technology Group made the announcement alongside Gov. Asa Hutchinson Wednesday.

David Monteith / KUAR

The official grand opening of Little Rock’s Tech Park is scheduled for Monday afternoon. The mission of the facility, located in the heart of downtown Little Rock, is to foster innovation and collaboration among entrepreneurs and established technology companies, and to spur economic growth.

Kevin Zaffaroni, chairman of the board for the Tech Park, says the project is showing success.

Arkansas-based retail giant Wal-Mart in its re-organization of the Walmart U.S. technology division is eliminating around 300 jobs in the Information Systems Division (ISD).

Insiders said the retailer is laying off about 10% of its ISD workforce over the next few days. The layoffs at ISD in Bentonville began this week and are expected to continue through the month.

AETN / AETN

Trailer for the film:

KUAR’s David Monteith interviewed Tanisha Conway, producer of the film “Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street.”

DAVID MONTEITH: Give us a preview of the documentary. What is it about West 9th Street that made you want to make a movie about it?

Arkansas Department of Workforce Services / Arkansas Department of Workforce Services

According to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, unemployment in the state dropped to 3.8 percent in January, which is a record low. The national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent.

The report released Monday reflects data on jobs and joblessness from January 2016 to January 2017. The sector showing the most growth in Arkansas over the year was "professional-scientific-technical services," which added 2,400 jobs.

State Rep. John Payton (R-Wilburn) sponsoring legislation to limit workers compensation benefits.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas workers injured on the job and the families of workers killed on site are facing the prospect of an eight year, eight month limit on workers compensation benefits. The Arkansas House barely passed the bill to restrict benefits with the needed supermajority on Monday. It follows a 2016 law ending the state’s contribution to a compensation fund assisting employers and their insurance pay claims.

State Representative Charlie Collins argued it had to be done to help business interests, who help pay for the benefit.

Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Whirlpool’s 2016 Annual Progress Report to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will be released on Feb. 15, according to ADEQ spokeswoman Kelly Robinson.

Little Rock Technology tech Park
Talk Business & Politics

Nearly a decade after the Little Rock Technology Authority was created from enabling legislation in the 2007 legislative session, the downtown tech village on Tuesday announced its first tenant only three months away from its scheduled grand opening in early 2017.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The death of Fidel Castro represents a “moment that I believe needs to be seized,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday.

Speaking to reporters, Hutchinson said the death Friday of Cuba’s longtime leader is a “momentous occasion … that gives us an opportunity we’ve never had before.” That includes an opportunity to sell Arkansas’ agricultural products, and an opportunity for the Cuban people to experience more freedom, leading to better relationships between the United States and Cuba.

“That’s the moment that I believe needs to be seized,” he said.

Bob Johnson, Mack McClarty and Franklin McClarty
Talk Business & Politics

Three Arkansas business icons are optimistic that a President Donald Trump will govern more pragmatically than candidate Trump campaigned.

Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, Franklin McLarty and Robert L. “Bob” Johnson were guests on this week’s Talk Business & Politics in a roundtable moderated by KATV’s Chris May. The three successful businessmen, all of whom supported Hillary Clinton for President, were in Little Rock a week ago for a chamber of commerce luncheon.

Butterball Huntsville
Gabriel Thompson / Slate Magazine

The months leading up to Thanksgiving Day are a busy time for poultry companies that process turkeys. A new report by Slate Magazine says it also adds to an already disturbing amount of pressure for those who work in turkey plants, including one in northwest Arkansas.

Tyson Foods CEO Tom Hayes
Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods ended its fiscal year with net income of $1.768 billion, 45% more than the previous fiscal year, thanks in part to lower grain costs, better margins in the chicken segment and continued success with its prepared foods business.

Fiscal year revenue totaled $36.861 billion, below the $41.373 billion in fiscal year 2015, and below the consensus estimate among analysts following the company of $37.12 billion. The fiscal year per share earnings of $4.53 was well ahead of the $2.95 in fiscal 2015 but below the consensus estimate of $4.59.

A national trucking company has agreed to pay $260,000 to settle discrimination complaints by four Sikh truckers who were denied jobs for refusing drug tests that violated their religious beliefs.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. reached the settlement being announced Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization that represented the men, says the trucking company required three men to clip their hair for drug samples and required a fourth to remove his turban before providing a urine sample.

Little Rock-based Windstream Holdings, which has seen its market value drop more than 64% since early 2012, announced early Monday a merger-of-equals with the popular 1990s Atlanta-based Internet dial-up provider Earthlink for $1.1 billion.

EarthLink shareholders will receive 0.818 shares of Windstream common stock for each EarthLink share owned. This ratio represents a 13% premium to the average exchange ratio of 0.721x over the month ended Nov. 3, 2016, the most recent unaffected trading day. The deal includes debt held by Earthlink.

walmart
Walmart

A labor union that has demonstrated against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. asked the Arkansas Supreme Court Thursday to reverse a judge's decision barring it from entering the retail giant's property for anything other than shopping.

Attorneys for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Wal-Mart argued that the National Labor Relations Board, not the Benton County judge, should have jurisdiction over the matter.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Skype
Governor's Office

After seeing thousands of nondurable apparel manufacturing jobs leave eastern Arkansas since the early 1990s, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his economic development team are bringing 400 of those jobs back to the state.

The second quarter economic story of Arkansas’ four key metro areas was much like the first quarter story: unchanged from the previous quarter, but healthy, with continued job gains and sales tax revenue growth, according to The Compass Report.

Compared to the second quarter of 2015, economic conditions were down slightly in Central Arkansas, better in Northwest Arkansas, unchanged in the Fort Smith metro, and up in the Jonesboro metro.

walmart
Walmart

Wal-Mart says it plans to slow new store openings as it looks to pour more money into its online efforts, technology and store remodels.

Shares of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based chain fell slightly in Thursday premarket trading.

Wal-Mart closed on its more than $3 billion buyout of Jet.com last month, showing how heavily it's willing to invest as it tries to boost online sales that totaled $13.7 billion last year - still just a fraction of the company's annual revenue.

Tyson
Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods Inc. has agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle federal allegations of hiring discrimination at six plants in Arkansas, New Mexico and Texas.

The U.S. Labor Department announced the settlement Tuesday after previously alleging the Springdale, Arkansas-based company's hiring processes and selection procedures at the six plants discriminated on the basis of sex, race or ethnicity.

Hunting and fishing giant Bass Pro Shops is acquiring competitor Cabela’s Inc. for $5.5 billion in an all cash deal that will combine the two iconic American retailers with loyal outdoor-oriented customer bases across the American South, West and Midwest.

In an announcement after the opening of the New York Stock Exchange, privately-held Bass Pro and publicly traded Cabela announced they had entered into a definitive agreement under which Bass Pro Shops will acquire Cabela’s for $65.50 per share in cash, a 19.2% premium over Friday’s closing price of $54.93.

Two manufacturers in Little Rock have announced plans for a $6.4 million expansion that will create 43 new jobs.

G.C. Evans Sales and Manufacturing and Sleeve Seal announced the expansion Monday. The two companies are now based in a facility on south Woodrow Street but will move all operations to a site in south Little Rock as part of the expansion.

G.C. Evans makes packaging and processing equipment for the food, bottling and pharmaceutical industries, while Sleeve Seal supplies high-speed labeling equipment and shrink labels for the packaging industry.

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