Arkansas Business

The city of Fort Smith is atop a latest ranking of the economic performance of Arkansas cities.

The Arkansas Tech Business Index tracks retail sales, construction, the housing market and unemployment rates of 16 Arkansas cities.

Ft. Smith beat out Bentonville, which had been atop previous months’ rankings in business activity. Mark Fusaro is an economist with Arkansas Tech and compiles the business index. He says Ft. Smith’s retail sales have always been strong.

Tyson
Tyson Foods

Meat producer Tyson Foods Inc. of Arkansas has won a bidding war for Hillshire Brands, the maker of Jimmy Dean sausages and Ball Park hot dogs, with a $63 per share offer.

Both Tyson and Pilgrim's Pride had been bidding of Hillshire Brands. Tyson had previously offered $50 per share for the company. Pilgrim's Pride then raised its bid to $55 per share.

Pilgrim's Pride says it is withdrawing its offer. The offer from Tyson is worth $7.75 billion based on Hillshire's 123 million shares outstanding. Tyson values the deal at $8.55 billion, including debt.

A railcar maintenance company is to locate in the former Nordex USA wind turbine plant in Jonesboro and pledges to hire up to 350 employees.

TrinityRail Maintenance Services Inc. announced Thursday that it would expand the facility to accommodate its planned scope of work.

TrinityRail is a subsidiary of Trinity Industries Inc. of Dallas. The company provides an array of industrial products, including railcars, barges, storage containers and other transportation-related goods and services.

arkansas.com

The ultimate biker song could serve as a marketing campaign for a new push from state tourism officials, reports Talk Business & Politics.

In the last two years, Arkansas has begun marketing its scenic highways to motorcyclists who are far from the drifter image painted in cult classic films like “Easy Rider.” We’re not talking Hell’s Angels, says Arkansas Tourism director Joe David Rice.

Economic development officials say a new rice mill is headed to Pine Bluff. The state announced Monday that Southwind Milling Co. LLC will build a rice mill at the city's port.

The corporation is part of Optimum Group, which has been farming in Mississippi Delta states since 2010.

Construction of the new mill is expected to begin immediately at the site in the Pine Bluff Port's Harbor Industrial District. Officials say the plant will be operational by February 2015 and will initially employ 25 people.

Georgia-Pacific says it will invest $40 million in an expansion at its Fort Smith plant, which manufactures paper plates and other paper products.

Georgia-Pacific said Thursday that the new technology and equipment will increase the Dixie plant's current capacity for assorted sizes of paper plates. The plant now employs 350 workers, but the company says that number may grow once the expansion is complete next year.

The company operates 10 facilities throughout Arkansas with more than 2,400 workers in the state.

Tyson
Tyson Foods

Hillshire Brands has another suitor. Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Co. is offering to buy Hillshire for $50 per share. That's $5 per share higher than Pilgrim's Pride offer earlier this week.

Hillshire Brands, which makes Ball Park hot dogs and Jimmy Dean sausages, has been trying to buy Birds Eye frozen vegetables maker Pinnacle Foods for $4.23 billion.

But Tyson, one of the world's largest meat-processing companies, said its offer would make a more profitable company.

The Osceola City Council has unanimously approved the issuance of $1.5 billion in industrial revenue bonds for the planned Big River Steel mill.

The council approved the ordinance Monday night. Under the agreement, the city will take the title for the property then lease it back to Big River Steel for $1 a year.

According to the Blytheville Courier News, the agreement also calls for Big River Steel to pay 35 percent of regular millage taxes to the city annually for 20 years.

www.uschambersummit.com

An electronics company in Fayetteville is being awarded a $3.5 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to develop a power module for fighter jets.

Arkansas Power Electronics International is to build a high-temperature, silicon carbide power module for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  

Lauren Kegley, business development engineer with Arkansas Power Electronics International, said the company was chosen because it specializes in advanced electronics for a variety of customers in the defense, aerospace, and electric vehicle industries.

The Chi family of Little Rock is announcing it will turn the century-old Boyle Building at the corner of Main Street and Capitol Avenue into an Aloft Hotel.

The family already owns two hotels and several restaurants in Little Rock.

David Robinson, one of the partners for Main Street Lofts who until recently was the owner of Boyle Building, said the Chi Hotel Group purchased the building for $4.6 million.

Arkansas Business

Arkansas Securities Commissioner Heath Abshure has been cleared of any ethical violations after a complaint was filed by Little Rock-based investment firm Stephens Incorporated.

But now the company’s top lawyer says there ought to be a law against what the commissioner did.

Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz has been following the ongoing allegations being fired back and forth between the Abshure and Stephens.

A third, and likely final, wave of layoffs at Little Rock-based Acxiom Corp. began on Wednesday as the database marketer continued its push to realign its workforce to meet changing industry demands.

Acxiom indicated in November 2013 it would cut its overall labor force by March in an effort to save $20-$30 million annually.

Acxiom has been investing in new products and services geared towards more sophisticated consumer data collection and target marketing via the Internet as some of its traditional, core business silos have seen declines in revenue and profitability.

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Restaurants, along with jewelers, candy companies and florists all look forward to Valentine’s Day.

One restaurateur says it and New Year’s Eve are typically the busiest days of the year.

“Valentine’s is a very important holiday for us, and I’m sure it is for a lot of other places in the restaurant business, especially fine dining places. This is the time of year when it slows down and it’s slower through March.  Our sales are down and this gives us a boost to get us over the hump,” said Brent Peterson, co-owner of Trio’s Restaurant in Little Rock.

New Report Shows Home Sales Are Up In Arkansas

Jan 29, 2014

The number of homes sold in Arkansas is up. A report out Wednesday from the Arkansas Realtors Association says home sales are up by 17%, as compared with the same time last year.

Carolyn Cobb, Executive Broker with Coldwell Banker says People are able to sell homes for a bit of a profit and interest rates are down. But she doesn’t foresee too much changing over the next few months.

Cobb says last year’s average price for a home was just over $150,000.

Mark Friedman / Arkansas Business

It’s not immediately clear why, but federal agents Tuesday executed search warrants at a North Little Rock company that has become well known for licensing and digitizing the photo collections of notable newspapers around the country. They were also at the expansive home of John Rogers, owner of Rogers Photo Archive.

Reporters were kept across from the locations, as boxes were removed and loaded into vehicles.

Tyson Foods, one of the world's  largest meat-processing companies, says it's acquired the assets of Bosco's Pizza of Warren, Michigan.   Bosco's produces a variety of stuffed bread sticks and  frozen pizzas for food service and retail customers throughout the Midwest and at some national retailers.   Tyson officials say the acquisition is part of the Springdale company's plan to grow its domestic prepared foods business.   Bosco's employs about 150 people, all of whom are expected to work for Tyson.

Legislature Will Meet To Discuss 2015 Budget

Jan 13, 2014

The finance department projects a 2% increase of about $95 million  in general revenue, available for state agencies to spend in the upcoming fiscal year. The Legislative Council and Joint Budget Committee begin meetings Tuesday to discuss the current 2014 fiscal session and the 2015 budget which goes into affect July 1st.

Representative Duncan Baird, Joint Budget Committee Co-Chairman, says the Department of Human Services will join them Thursday to discuss Medicaid and the private option.

The Arkansas attorney general's office has approved the wording of a ballot proposal that would raise the state's minimum wage to $8.50 per hour by 2017.

The proposal by the group Give Arkansas a Raise Now got the nod Friday and can begin gathering voter signatures. Organizers want to get the measure on the November ballot.

The initiated act would raise the current minimum wage of $6.25 per hour to $7.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015.

One year later, it would go up 50 cents to $8 per hour and would top out on Jan. 1, 2017, at $8.50 per hour.

Arkansas Voters May Decide Minimum Wage Increase

Jan 2, 2014

Organizers of an effort to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas are awaiting Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s decision on their proposed ballot measure.

The group, Give Arkansas A Raise Now, wants to increase the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour over a three-year-period. Stephen Copley oversees the campaigns efforts. He says growing economic inequality is a serious issue.

The money collected from the operating and capital sales taxes that voters approved two years ago have generated millions of dollars in funds.

Over 80 million dollars has been collected and the citizens committee overseeing the spending assures it is being used appropriately. 

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that over half of the money went to the city's general fund for projects including a new fire station and new police station. 

The remaining funds are being used for nearly 40 infrastructure projects and the resurfacing of streets in the capitol city.

HP To Hire 200 More Workers For Arkansas Facility

Dec 18, 2013
Chris Hickey / KUAR

Hewlett-Packard says it will be adding around 200 highly skilled jobs to its facility in Conway. Governor Mike Beebe, Conway Mayor Tab Townsell and HP executive John Herzog joined state economic development officials in making the announcement at the state capitol. The 200 highly skilled tech jobs—said to consist of engineers, software developers, data analysts and the like—would be a part of HP’s growing healthcare information business. Beebe said Conway is a perfect fit for these positions because of its young, educated demographic and its centers of higher education.

Mike Stafford CEG Partners
Talk Business Arkansas

Talk Business Arkansas — in conjunction with the State Chamber of Commerce and consulting group CEG Partners — released its first “Business Leaders Confidence Survey,” which found that company leaders across Arkansas see sizable revenue growth in 2014 but it may not correlate to hiring or capital investments.

Arkansas Labor Unions Urge Policy Changes

Dec 11, 2013

Labor unions and their supporters are encouraging Arkansas legislators and federal lawmakers to close policy loopholes they say favor corporate interests over small businesses and workers’ rights.

A report released by the Economic Policy Institute and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, shows changes in the tax code could result in a fairer system that strengthens economic growth.

Jim Nickels represents an AFSCME Council in Arkansas.

Wal-Mart Stores CEO and President Mike Duke is stepping down from those posts. The world's biggest retailer named Doug McMillon as his successor.

Parties in a $70 million truck-stop rebate scandal linked to a company owned by the governor of Tennessee and his brother, who owns the Cleveland Browns, are to gather in court Monday for a federal court hearing that could end in approval of a settlement.

About 50 customers of Nashville-based Pilot Flying J opted out of the proposed settlement and have filed their own lawsuits. But the bulk of the 6,000 companies due rebates, plus interest, under the proposal have signed on to the deal.

75 jobs are being created with the opening of a furniture manufacturing plant in Morrilton.  Governor Mike Beebe took part in the announcement Thursday morning.

Vinh Long, which is based in Vietnam, says it will invest five million dollars to renovate an existing facility that had housed a Bosch factory.  The company supplies furniture and kitchen cabinets to Ikea and other retailers.

Hiring will begin in the spring, with the plant opening next the summer.

Company officials said Arkansas is a good location because it has a sustainable supply of raw materials.

Fort Smith has approved the issuance of up to $150 million in industrial development revenue bonds for an expansion at Gerber Products Co.'s plant in the city.

Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman says the expansion will lead to 90 new jobs and increased production at the plant, which makes cereal.

Gerber will be responsible for making payments on the bonds - not the city.

Dingman says industrial revenue bonds will lead to lower property taxes for the project. The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved the bond ordinance on a 5-0 vote Tuesday.

Over 80% of recently surveyed customers said they were satisfied with their travel experience at Little Rock’s Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. 

The survey was released Tuesday and comes after receiving the title of “worst airport” in the country last month by Travel + Leisure  magazine.

Little Rock now ranks in the middle among about 100 airports across the U.S., says airport spokesman Shane Carter. 

Authorities in northeast Arkansas say 18 people were sent to hospitals after a suspected chlorine dioxide leak at a steel mill in Blytheville.

Blytheville Fire Chief Mike Carney says the fire department responded to Nucor Steel at about 10 a.m. Sunday.

Carney says the department's hazardous materials team decontaminated the workers and contractors who were exposed to the gas before sending them to a hospital.

Buffalo National River Increases Camping Fees

Nov 15, 2013
Buffalo National River

Fees for some campground sites along the Buffalo National River have officially increased, effective this week.

The park conducted a comparability study to determine between a 2 and 5 dollar increase for some drive-in and walk-in sites.

Public Information Officer for the national park, Caven Clark, says the fee increases are comparable to other options in the area,  and that camping at the Buffalo River is still a bargain.

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