Arkansas Economy

Gretchen Hall
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gretchen Hall, CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, likes the numbers she sees.

Last year, Pulaski County accounted for 13,000 travel-related jobs and 6.1 million visitors who spent nearly $1.8 billion in travel expenditures. That translates into more than $31 million in travel-related local taxes and $69 million in travel-related state taxes.

Why is the capital city so attractive for visitors?

A proposed bill that would do away with the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Death and Permanent Total Disability Trust Fund has support from some legislators and organized labor but not the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, which supports ending the fund, but after more consideration.

Tyson
Tyson Foods

Talk Business and Politics reports:

Before the market opens Monday, Tyson Foods is expected to post $403 million in net income for the second quarter of fiscal 2016 which ended. That equates to a Wall Street consensus of $1.03 per share, up 38% over the 75 cents per share reported in the same quarter of 2015.

The company posted net income of $313 million in the year-ago period.

Arkansas has received $49.6 million in the latest annual payment from the tobacco industry as part of a 1998 settlement of a lawsuit against tobacco companies.
 
State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Wednesday that the money supports several programs, including tobacco cessation efforts, public health programs for minorities and older Arkansans, increased Medicaid coverage for pregnant women and increased hospital benefits for some Medicaid beneficiaries and for medical and agricultural research.
 

New Hampshire-based SIG SAUER has announced plans to move an ammunition plant to Arkansas from Kentucky.

The company said Wednesday in a news release from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission that its Elite Performance Ammunition plant will move to Jacksonville and create about 50 jobs when it opens by the end of the year. The plant is currently located in Eubank, Kentucky.

Arkansas finance officials say strong individual income tax collections and lower than expected tax refunds kept the state's revenue in April above both the forecast and the same month last year.

The Department of Finance and Administration reported Tuesday that the state's net available revenue in April totaled $661.3 million. That's $37.2 million above April 2015 and $37.1 million above forecast.

The net available revenue for the fiscal year to date totals nearly $4.9 billion, which is $110 million above forecast.

rice fields
Mickey Liaw / Flickr.com

Business growth in Arkansas lost a step in April as a leading economic indicator for the region shows the state’s manufacturing, farming and energy sectors continue to shed jobs and affect overall economic expansion.

Arkansas Capitol building.
Ron Breeding / KUAR News

Legislation outlining Arkansas' $5.3 billion budget for the coming year calls for funding increases for the state's Department of Human Services and public schools, with $13.8 million in money being set aside for the rainy day fund.

Legislative leaders on Sunday released the proposed Revenue Stabilization Act, the budget bill that calls for a $142.7 million increase in spending. House Speaker Jeremy Gillam says he expects his chamber to take up the legislation on Wednesday with lawmakers hoping to wrap up the fiscal session this week.

www.sunpapergroup.com/

The investment in south Arkansas by one of China's largest private companies, Sun Paper, is considered a win by state economic development officials. However, some have concerns about the implications of the country's manufacturing practices and what it will mean for workers at the new bio-products mill near Arkadelphia. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announcing a $1 billion investment by a Chinese company in a Clark County paper mill.
Arkansas Business

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the Chinese company Sun Paper will build a $1 billion bio-products mill in southern Arkansas, creating 250 jobs. Hutchinson was joined by Sun Paper chairman and founder Hongxin Li in making the announcement Tuesday.

greencarreports.com

A service that tracks gasoline prices says the per-gallon cost of a gallon in Arkansas has risen eight cents in the past week, to an average of $1.90.

In Little Rock, the price averaged $1.89. That price is down 34 cents from a year ago and down nearly two dollars from five years ago.

Tyson
Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods Inc. has announced a proposal to build a new processing facility near its existing poultry plant in Green Forest.

The Springdale-based company says the $136 million project is contingent in part on the approval of incentives from Carroll County and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The company says the project would create about 85 jobs once it's fully operational.

  

The Arkansas jobless rate fell to its lowest level in the state’s history in March, declining two percentage points from last’s month’s previous hallmark while adding more than 7,000 new workers.

Foreclosure activity in Arkansas’ three largest metro areas and in the nation is below recession-related highs, according to Irvine, Calif.,-based RealtyTrac.com. There were 289,116 U.S. foreclosure filings recorded in the first three months of the year, down 8% from a year ago, the lowest quarterly total since the fourth quarter of 2006.

A handful of Little Rock businesses will be reducing their prices by 25 percent for female shoppers on Tuesday in support of national Equal Pay Day.

Abby Olivier, a member of the Arkansas Equal Pay Coalition, says the idea of charging women less reflects current Arkansas earning statistics.

“The Institute for Women’s Policy Research – they just put out an extensive report on the status of women in the south  – this came out just this past February. According to this report women in Arkansas earn 75% compared to men,” Olivier said.

March Revenue Higher Than Forecast In Arkansas

Apr 4, 2016
Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

Net available general revenue is more than 3 percent above where it was this time last year, and nearly $73 million  higher than expected. 

That's according to a report released Monday by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration  that details March revenue numbers. 

State economist John Shelnutt said the jump is in part because of a growth in sales taxes, and because of refund levels are $44 million lower than last year.

State Board Of Education To Review Little Rock Charter Expansion

Mar 30, 2016
Arkansas Department of Education Building in Little Rock near the state Capitol building.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A 3,000 student expansion of the eStem and Lisa Academy charter schools will come before the State Board of Education Thursday night.

Little Rock School District Civic Advisory co-chair Greg Adams told KUAR he hopes board members will consider how this growth could hurt the LRSD.

"To me, it's their responsibility to really look at the whole picture," he said.

One month does not make a trend, but a more than 21% gain in home sales during January in Arkansas’ four large markets continues the momentum of 2015 in which home sales were up almost 10% – with a December that had an almost 20% gain.

Home sales in Arkansas’ four largest markets totaled 1,484 in January, up 21.24% compared to January 2015 and up 18.3% compared to January 2014. All four markets posted double-digit growth in January, according to The Arkansas Home Sales Report.

Walmart.com Lags E-commerce Industry Growth Despite Hefty Investments

Mar 29, 2016

With 40 million customers per month, Walmart.com is the 15th largest online shopping site, despite being the world’s largest retailer. Few market watchers are convinced the Bentonville-based retailer’s multi-billion dollar e-commerce investments will move the ranking too much higher.

Walmart’s online traffic equals just 7% of weekly store traffic and only 2% of the sales. The majority of Walmart’s online shoppers also shop in the retailer’s stores, with 80% at least once a month and half once a week, according to analysts with Cleveland Research.

Talk Business and Politics

As state lawmakers prepare for an April 6th special session to consider the fate of the governor’s health care reform program, Arkansas Works, two state lawmakers say there are multiple issues to address to secure the votes needed for passage.

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, and Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics to explain how Republicans and Democrats may be persuaded to support the Medicaid expansion plan.

Arkansas’s Unemployment Rate Continues To Drop

Mar 25, 2016

Arkansas’s unemployment rate has tied its all time low, according to numbers released Friday by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. 

At 4.2 percent for the month of February, the rate is the same as the lowest number recorded in 2000.  It is down from 4.4 percent in January of this year.

Kathy Deck, an economist at the University of Arkansas, says that while these numbers are good for all of the right reasons, the manufacturing sector still bears close examination.

U.S. Senator John Boozman in the Republican Party of Arkansas headquarters in 2016 during a campaign interview.
KUAR News

Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman is lauding the president’s historic visit to Cuba but says the U.S. shouldn’t be more critical of human rights issues there than it is with other trade partners.

A company that produces steel cord for the tire industry is expanding its manufacturing plant in northwestern Arkansas, a project the company says will add more than 100 new jobs.

Bekaert on Wednesday announced it is expanding its Rogers plant due to growing demand from tire manufacturers around the country. The expansion will add an additional 50 percent production capacity to the plant, which opened in 1989.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Rogers Mayor Greg Hines and Bekaert Chief Executive Officer Matthew Taylor announced the expansion in Rogers.

Office of the Governor

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration is introducing two separate pieces of legislation in the upcoming special session: one that will create his program for continuing the private option, which he is calling Arkansas Works, and one he is calling a “savings bill” that includes a managed care provision and a managed care “bill of rights.”

Hutchinson made the comments Tuesday speaking to a town hall meeting – his first as governor – at Central Baptist College in Conway.

Former US Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk talking with attendees of a luncheon at Philander Smith College in Little Rock.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A former US Trade Ambassador for the Obama administration touted the Trans-Pacific Partnership to a Little Rock audience on Tuesday. Ron Kirk, who served on the President’s cabinet from 2009 to 2013, told those gathered at a luncheon event at Philander Smith College that the trade agreement between 12 Pacific-rim nations will be an economic boon for the state and the nation.

Stock Photo

Revised federal data show that Benton County’s per capita personal income in 2014 was 149.3% of the national average, and only seven other counties in a 12–state southeast U.S. region had a higher percentage. The new numbers also show Arkansas was 82% of the U.S. average in 2014, down from an historic high of 82.2% in 2013.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) discussing changes to eligibility verification for Medicaid in the Governor's Conference Room at the Capitol in early August.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Details on a $10.5 million economic development project in Jonesboro will be announced Wednesday, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson set to take part in the “Project Timesquare” reveal.

Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the announcement will be made at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center Hames Room.

However, the process on the project begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday when the Jonesboro Metropolitan Area Planning Commission reviews a site plan for the project.

Arkansas’ job market got off to a strong start in 2016 as the state’s jobless rate fell three percentage points in January as more than 6,000 workers were added to the state’s growing labor pool, according to the figures released Monday by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Arkansas Chamber of Commerce Chair Randy Zook with Gov. Asa Hutchinson sitting behind him.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Arkansas Chamber of Commerce and state economic officials are rolling out a private-public partnership branded as “Be Pro. Be Proud” designed to entice young people to enter technical fields and become skilled laborers.

At the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock on Tuesday, chamber Chair Randy Zook said learning a trade such as welding or plumbing ought to be considered in the same regard as pursuing a four-year college degree.

Arkansas Healthcare Providers Oppose Managed Care Reforms

Mar 3, 2016

Arkansas Hospital and Pharmacist Associations are voicing opposition to increasing managed care in Arkansas, in advance of legislators’ vote on a range of Medicaid reforms expected Monday.

The associations say polling of Arkansas voters shows opposition to contracting with managed care companies, which claim to reduce costs and determine healthcare programs for patients. 

Brad Chism, of Chism Strategies, said likely voters responded negatively to managed care across ethnic and partisan lines. Surveyors spoke to 453 respondents. 

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