Arkansas Business

Michael Hibblen / KUAR

Little Rock city leaders kicked off a campaign Tuesday to get citizens excited about helping to fund a $68 million renovation and expansion project at Robinson Center Music Hall.

The event was held on the steps of the auditorium, with Mayor Mark Stodola and other city leaders promoting a December 10 special election to vote on whether to use an existing two percent advertising and promotion tax to finance the additions.

Former Mayor Jim Dailey reminded those in attendance of the building’s historical significance.

Kevin Pieper / Arkansas Business

Efforts continue by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas to recover assets of a cardiologist charged with over billing Medicare by nearly $15 million.

Dr. Stacey Johnson of Mountain Home died earlier this year. A criminal investigator’s affidavit that was recently made public says if he were still alive, criminal charges likely would have been filed against Johnson.

Local Opinions About Federal Government Shutdown

Oct 11, 2013

As the federal government shutdown continues into its second week, people across the country are expressing their concerns. 

The coffee shop is a natural meeting point for conversation and debate, and Starbucks is taking advantage of this by offering a petition for people to sign. It calls for a bipartisan end the shutdown.

Kate Althoff, a self-described “professional volunteer,” said she is tired of the situation and believes others share her worry.

Arkansas State Fair Opens Friday

Oct 8, 2013
Jacob Kauffman/KUAR News

The annual state fair will start its ten day run on Friday. Discounted tickets are on sale at Walgreens for two dollars less than tickets available at the door.

Advance tickets will no longer be available past the first day of the fair, and will have to be purchased for full price at the gate, a change made this year.

Mary Smith, Director of Marketing for the fair, says the event is an economic boost for the area.

Smith says new food items will be introduced this year, including deep fried pineapple upside down cake.

Southern Bancorp Awarded Funds For Rural Loans

Oct 1, 2013

Southern Bancorp Bank of Little Rock has been awarded $1.3 million to increase its lending in rural communities it serves in Arkansas and Mississippi. 

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. 

Southern Bancorp Inc. CEO Darrin Williams says the bank is one of 11 Community Development Financial Institutions chosen for the award.

Arkansas will lose one of its iconic bank names after a bankruptcy auction concluded on Monday. Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National Corp. has won the bidding war for Little Rock-based Metropolitan National Bank, according to Talk Business Arkansas sources and confirmed by Simmons First.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission is allowing further information to be presented by both sides of a dispute, concerning a transmission line in the northern part of the state.

Southwestern Electric Power Company has construction plans for a 60 mile line in Benton and Carroll Counties. Doug Stowe, a Save the Ozarks board member, says the utility companies saw the previous hearing as a meeting to determine which route would be used.  He says the opposition saw things differently. 

Efforts to stimulate economic investment in rural communities across Arkansas are outlined in a new report by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Dr. Wayne Miller, an extension economist, says the Rural Profile of Arkansas 2013 report shows how many manufacturing jobs in small towns have been shipped overseas to South America and Asia in recent years.

Boxes of Remington Ammunition
Judd McCullum / flickr.com

Remington Arms Company is breaking ground on a $32 million expansion of its ammunition plant in Arkansas. Gov. Mike Beebe, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and other officials were expected to be on hand Thursday for the expansion of the ammunition plant in Lonoke. Remington announced in May it would expand the facility, which was established in 1969. The North Carolina-based company said it expected the expansion will include a new building and the plan will be completed and in operation by the second quarter of 2014.

Jonesboro Council To Vote On Unilever Expansion

Aug 5, 2013

The Jonesboro City Council is considering a plan this week to authorize up to $41 million in revenue bonds to help Unilever complete an expansion at its plant, which makes hair-care products.

The council is set to vote Tuesday night on the plan. Unilever announced the expansion in 2011, shortly after the company acquired Alberto Culver.

Unilever has said the company has already hired many of the 125 new employees it planned to add with the expansion.

The Jonesboro Sun reports that the city will have no financial obligation but will own the facility.

Freight Company Expanding At Fort Smith

Aug 5, 2013

A facility that moves freight between big rigs and train cars is expanding in Fort Smith.

Ozark Transmodal Inc. spending $1.5 million to add 60,000 square feet of floor space to its center on Fourth Street.

The Southwest Times Record reports that Ozark Transit and it sister company, Arkansas and Missouri Railroad, moves freight from truck to rail and from rail to truck.

The firms have locations in Fort Smith and Springdale. The company says the new space will mainly be used for shipping rolls of paper.

The Cost Of Solar Energy In Arkansas

Jul 31, 2013
Maggie Carroll/KUAR News

The South is starting to use more solar energy to power businesses and households. Texas led a 2012 spike in purchases of solar energy by ordering over 12 percent of the country's solar wattage, something until recently, almost exclusively done by the east and west coasts. 

Michael Hibblen/ KUAR News

Arkansas Economic Development Director Grant Tennille, the state archeologist and other officials will be meeting Wednesday with representatives of the Quapaw Tribe.

They’re hoping to reach an agreement about preserving Native American artifacts, discovered near where the proposed Big River Steel mill is to be built in Osceola.

USDA Says China Stopping Imports Of Arkansas Fowl

Jul 30, 2013

Federal agriculture officials have told members of Arkansas' congressional delegation that China has stopped imports of the state's poultry products.

Sen. Mark Pryor decried Tuesday's decision, saying an "isolated incident" led to the ban. Pryor didn't say what the incident was, but birds on a Scott County farm tested positive for a low-pathogenic strain of avian flu in June.

Pryor said Arkansas poultry products are "safe, healthy and nutritious" and that his family would continue to eat them.

Argenta Innovation Center Announced To Help Entrepreneurs

Jul 30, 2013
Michael Hibblen/ KUAR News

Following the trend of other successful local business incubators across the state, North Little Rock will be the new home to the latest entrepreneurial hub, the Argenta Innovation Center.

The center, which has raised $2.5 million from private sources, will be the first phase of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, which will house three inter-connected ventures that will work together to provide education, training, prototyping and startup and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The regional planning agency Metroplan is releasing its 2013 report on demographics and employment in Central Arkansas.

Research planner Jonathan Lupton notes population estimates show the region is still growing on trend - a little faster than the state and national average.

The report shows the region’s fastest growth is in Faulkner and Saline Counties, fed mainly by in-migration rather than natural increase. 

Little Rock Developer Who Pleaded Guilty Seeks Leniency

Jul 22, 2013

Attorneys representing a Little Rock developer who pleaded guilty to mail fraud are asking a federal judge for leniency in sentencing.

Attorneys for Roger Stephen Clary, who goes by Steve, filed a motion seeking a sentence of one day in prison or home detention.

Clary pleaded guilty in February to mail fraud after prosecutors accused him of misusing about $1.6 million of a $4.5 million loan from Bank of America Leasing Corporation.

Arkansas Agency Reviews Plan For Closed Whirlpool Site

Jul 19, 2013
Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing a plan to deal with a degreasing solvent that was detected in groundwater at a recently shuttered Whirlpool plant in Fort Smith.

A company called ENVIRON submitted a final remedy work plan to the state environmental agency this week on behalf of Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp.

The plan comes decades after Whirlpool ceased using trichloroethylene at the Fort Smith site.

The Environmental Protection Agency says inhalation exposure to trichloroethylene can affect the human central nervous system.

Fidelity National Information Services appears poised to add 150 new jobs and invest $3 million at its campus in west Little Rock.

Talk Business Arkansas reports a resolution on the city of Little Rock board of directors agenda indicates that Jacksonville, Fla.-based Fidelity will seek to utilize the state’s Arkansas Tax Back program for a partial sales tax rebate on new technology equipment, HVAC, office equipment and work stations.

Arkansas Crop Yields: Highest And Lowest On Record

Jul 16, 2013
National Cotton Council

Arkansas crop yields are all over the map this year, with cotton harvests at an all time low and wheat registering as the second highest on record.

Brent Griffin, a county extension agent for Prairie County, says wheat is a world wide commodity and is affected by what goes on in the overseas market. He says local factors attributed to the high yield of 59 bushels this year.

A normally very large crop for the state, only 320,000 acres of cotton were planted this year, only half of what was planted in 2012.

baptist-health.com

Little Rock-based Baptist Health System says it will lay off 170 workers across its statewide health care network and one industry leader says more hospitals could follow suit.

Baptist Health has hospitals, clinics and medical facilities throughout Arkansas. The health care organization is one of the state’s largest private employers with more than 7,300 workers.

In a statement provided to members of the media, Mark Lowman, Vice President, Strategic Development at Baptist Health said:

Talk Business Arkansas

Tenacity and perseverance are two traits that successful entrepreneurs usually have in spades. Home Bancshares chairman John Allison certainly does and his bank’s acquisition last week of Jonesboro-based Liberty Bancshares for $280 million proves the point.

A new business venture in North Little Rock and Memphis seeks to change current norms in the recording industry.

Music mogul Al Bell grew up in Arkansas and later became chairman of Stax Records and president of Motown Records.

Bell says he is once again working with authentic artists who no longer fit into conventional categories

Survey: Midwest, Plains Economy Remains Strong

Jul 1, 2013

A new monthly survey suggests the economy remains strong in Arkansas and eight other Midwest and Plains states and business will continue to improve in the months ahead. 

The overall index for the region declined to 55.6 in June from 56.2 in May, but any score above 50 suggests growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says business leaders expect slower growth in the next few months. 

press conference video feed

Home BancShares Inc. of Conway on Tuesday announced the signing of a definitive agreement worth $280 million to acquire Liberty Bancshares Inc. of Jonesboro, the largest in-state bank transaction in Arkansas history.

Under the terms of the agreement, approximately 400 shareholders of Liberty will receive $250 million of Home BancShares common stock plus $30 million in cash.

River Market Information

The City of Little Rock and the Central Arkansas Library System are developing a plan to build a new parking deck on Riverfront Park. With between 3,000 and 4,000 people visiting the library per day, more parking space is needed.

The project is still in the early stages, but has already received some pushback. The main concern is that the structure would obscure riverfront land. 

$4M Expansion Underway At Van Buren Plant

Jun 17, 2013

A food service company that has been in western Arkansas for 70 years is embarking on a $4 million expansion at a Van Buren facility.

Tankersley Foodservice Inc. is adding cold storage and dock space to the site at the Van Buren Industrial Park.

The company says the project also includes expansion and improvement to customer service offices.

The Southwest Times Record reports the growth is expected to add up to 30 jobs.

Founder Of USA Drug Dies At Home In Pine Bluff

Jun 5, 2013

The founder of USA Drug has died at his home in Pine Bluff.

Jefferson County Coroner Chad Kelley told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that 71-year-old Stephen LaFrance Sr. died Wednesday. Kelley said the death was due to natural causes.

LaFrance formed USA Drug in 1968 and his company owned 144 stores in seven states when he sold it to Walgreen's in a $438 million deal last July. The company's stores operated under the names of USA Drug, Super D Drug, May's Drug, Med-X and Drug Warehouse in Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

With Memorial Day over, many Arkansans have put their grills away. However, two Back Yard Burger restaurants in central Arkansas are offering a special meal deal to customers Tuesday in honor of National Burger Day.

Elyse Hammett works with the Back Yard Burger chain in Arkansas. She says Burger Day began in Michigan in the 1930s and later became an annual event enjoyed by foodies nationwide.

West Memphis Gets $11M Grant For Port

May 22, 2013

West Memphis is to receive a $10.9 million grant to expand the city's port.

The grant from the U.S. Transportation Department announced Wednesday will go toward rail improvements. The work will enable the port to handle more freight.

The Transportation Department says the project will not only help the port but will spur other business activity by stimulating more trade.

The expansion is also expected to attract development in West Memphis, which will create more jobs. The expansion will dramatically expand the port's railcar capacity.

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