Arkansas Economy

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.

Arkadelphia
Nick Juhasz / Wikimedia Commons

The consequences of President Donald Trump's trade battle are hitting home in one rural Arkansas town.

Arkadelphia has been planning on a new paper mill and the hundreds of jobs it would create since the project was announced two years ago by a Chinese company.

But optimism has been giving way to concern in recent months amid Trump's escalating trade dispute with China.

Arkansas budget coffers were flush with new revenue entering fiscal year 2019 as strong sales tax collections and rise in car purchases reflected near across-the-board growth in most segments of the state’s economy, according to the monthly revenue report released Thursday by the Arkansas Department of Finance.

Hotel Pines
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A $35 million project is underway in Pine Bluff to restore the once-grand Hotel Pines. The 105-year-old structure at the corner of 5th Avenue and Main Street was designed by George Mann, the same architect who designed the Arkansas state Capitol and the Marion Hotel in Little Rock.

Lance Cheung/Flickr

Advocates for the hungry in Arkansas are hoping the U.S. Senate’s farm bill will not include House-approved work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  (SNAP). All four members of Arkansas’s House delegation voted for the $867 billion farm bill, which requires most able-bodied adults work 20 hours per week or enroll in job training in order to keep food benefits.

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Director Kathy Webb worries the work requirement will end up harming those that SNAP is supposed to benefit.

Mary Hightower / University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

With talk of tit-for-tat and trade wars dominating national business headlines, the impact of retaliatory tariffs on American products and commodities is giving some Arkansas agriculture officials pause.

WWW.JAREDFORARKANSAS.COM/

Democratic gubernatorial challenger Jared Henderson tells KUAR he is in favor of an initiative to raise Arkansas's minimum wage to $11 an hour. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has yet to comment and Libertarian Mark West opposes the ballot measure, as well as the concept of a minimum wage.

The ballot item would incrementally raise the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2022. It’s currently $8.50 an hour. Canvassers need to collect 67,887 valid signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

Henderson calls the gradual approach “thoughtful” and “responsible.”

Arkansas finance officials say a drop in corporate tax collections kept the state's revenue below expectations in May.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Monday that the state's net available revenue in May totaled $347.4 million, which is $8.1 million below the same month last year and $9.6 million below forecast. The state's net available revenue for the fiscal year that began on July 1 totaled $4.9 billion, which is $44.2 million above forecast.

jobs unemployment employment
www.purdue.edu

Three counties in Arkansas are hoping a new initiative will improve the employability of their populations. Monday at the Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the ACT Work Ready Communities Initiative.

Jefferson, Arkansas, and Grant counties have begun the process to receive a designation as ACT Work Ready Communities. Lou Ann Nisbett, president of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, initiated the tri-county effort.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Making communities in Arkansas more successful when competing with other states for industries and jobs is the goal of a new program announced Monday by Governor Asa Hutchinson.

The “Competitive Communities Initiative” is an evaluation process developed by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. It’s intended to help cities identify assets that companies look for when selecting new host sites. Governor Hutchinson spoke to over 100 city leaders at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock about the need for the initiative.

Arkansas finance officials say higher than expected individual income tax collections in January helped push the state's revenue above expectations and above the same month last year.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Friday the state's net available revenue in January totaled $583.3 million, which is $47.3 million more than the same month last year and $41.7 million above forecast. The state's net available revenue for the fiscal year that began July 1 is more than $3.2 billion, which is $65.4 million more than was forecast.

A greater share of Arkansans opted to join a union in 2017 than the year before with membership rates ticking up from 3.9 to 5.1 percent of the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 62,000 Arkansans were represented in the workplace through a union; another 74,000 non-union employees work under contracts negotiated by unions.

Take a listen to the interview above about the state of organized labor in Arkansas with the AFL-CIO’s Jessica Akers Hughes.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson presenting his proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 Tuesday to the Joint Budget Committee of the Arkansas Legislature.
Governor's Office / You Tube

Arkansas' governor is proposing a $5.6 billion budget that increases funding for the state's Medicaid program and sets aside surplus money for future tax cuts and highway needs.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday proposed increasing state spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1 by nearly $173 million. Most of that increase goes toward Medicaid. Hutchinson said the funding increase is lower than what was originally proposed for the program last year.

UAMS
UAMS.edu

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences says it will lay off 258 workers and leave another 350 or so positions unfilled as it addresses a $30 million hole in its budget.

The university chancellor notified 10,900 employees Monday. The school said in a statement it could no longer use reserve money to ensure that it wouldn't exceed its $1.5 billion budget. Spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said the cuts will save $30 million in the rest of this fiscal year and about $60 million next year.

UAMS has employees in 73 of the state's 75 counties.

Arkansas finance officials say a rise in individual income and sales tax collections helped push the state's revenue in December above expectations and the same month in 2016.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Wednesday the state's net available revenue in December totaled $521.1 million, which is $53.7 million above December 2016 and $23.7 million above forecast. The state's revenue so far for the fiscal year that began July 1 totals nearly $2.7 billion, which is $23.7 million above forecast.

Governor Asa Hutchinson is announcing the completion of a year-long, $1.2 million digital mapping project.

He says the system will allow emergency responders to have more up-to-date information and that it will allow the state to be competitive in economic development.

In a news release, the governor said the state now has a detailed map of expanding infrastructure.

The digital maps were produced by Arkansas Geographic Information Systems and are available to the public at gis.arkansas.gov.

A robot scanning a Walmart store shelf.
Walmart

Despite a slight drop in Arkansas sales tax revenue between the second and third quarters of fiscal year 2017, the holiday shopping season is expected to give the state’s economy a temporary boost.

Chief Economist Michael Pakko with the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock said a decrease in taxable sales between the two quarters still represents a picture of overall growth.

Recently released FBI data shows Black Friday gun sales set a single-day record for background checks at just over 203,000. And a number of Arkansas stores are claiming strong sales through the holiday weekend and Cyber Monday as well.

Rusty Fisher with Sunrise Outfitters in Searcy says his shop was no exception.

thanksgiving governor asa hutchinson turkey agriculture
David Monteith / KUAR News

The traditional trappings of Thanksgiving have a significant economic impact on the state of Arkansas, officials said in a ceremony on the steps of the state Capitol Monday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared this Turkey Week in Arkansas. According to The Poultry Federation President Marvin Childers, the state ranks third in the nation in turkey production.

Assistant Pro Tempore 1st District Senator Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

President Donald Trump has appointed an Arkansas state Senator as the federal representative on the Southern States Energy Board. Eddie Joe Williams says he’ll be sworn into the new post in 30 to 45 days, and in the meantime he’ll resign as state Senator.

He’s held an elected office of kind or another in the Cabot area since the early 2000’s. He was elected to the Senate in 2010. A special election will have to be called to fill out the remainder of his term.

Arkansas’s two U.S. Senators - Republicans Tom Cotton and John Boozman – joined the slimmest of majorities this week to strike down a new rule that would have allowed consumers to band together in class-action lawsuits against credit card companies and banks. It’s a blow to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created after the 2009 financial crisis.

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Michael John Gray discusses the vote with KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman in the interview posted above.

Arkansas was the among several states that saw higher unemployment rates in August, but U.S. Labor Department officials said Hurricane Harvey had “no discernible effect” on the nation’s employment picture last month.

New Doors Open In Home Lending For College Grads With Debt

Sep 14, 2017

Mortgage backers Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have recently changed lending rules to give more leeway to borrowers like Kristen Griffin with high student loans.

Griffin is a librarian at Nemo Vista High School in Center Ridge. She and her husband Mark are window-shopping on Zillow while their 2-year-old son Fletcher sleeps nearby.

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.

The Delta town of Dumas is getting an economic boost with the expansion of a manufacturing operation, SAF-Holland. The $4 million investment and retrofitting of an existing structure will add new production capabilities to the company’s existing Desha County operations. It’s expected to support 65 new jobs.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston says that adds up to quite an impact for a small town.

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.

Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) gave recognition to five university researchers in the state by awarding them an ARA fellowship that comes with a $75,000 grant.

The ARA Fellows program supports distinguished researchers already working at one of the five research universities in the state, including Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Arkansas has started its fiscal year with the state's revenue coming in higher than expectations and above what was collected the same month last year.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration on Wednesday said the state's net available revenue in July totaled $454.5 million, which was $53.8 million above July 2016 and $10.5 million above forecast.

The department said individual and corporate income tax collections were above forecast and the same month last year. Sales tax collections were slightly below forecast but ahead of July 2016.

The federal agency tasked with economic development in the Delta is without a leader. It’s up to President Donald Trump to appoint a new federal co-chairman for the Delta Regional Authority. The DRA’s supporters are hoping for the President to act quickly so that tens of millions of dollars can be freed up for investment. But the Trump’s budget proposals have called for eliminating the authority entirely.

Arkansas finance officials say the state ended its fiscal year with a $15.7 million surplus after a boost in sales tax collections over the past two months helped restore most of the budget cuts enacted earlier.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Wednesday the state ended the fiscal year with $5.3 billion in net available revenue, which was $19 million below the previous fiscal year. Arkansas' fiscal year ended Friday.

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