Arkansas Economy

Arkansas saw double-digit growth in revenue collections in February as fewer taxpayers received income tax refunds and the state’s predicted surplus from the recently revised fiscal 2016 forecast continued to grow.

According to the state Department of Finance and Administration’s monthly revenue report released Wednesday, February net available general revenue totaled $279.9 million, $61.6 million or a whopping 28.2% above last year and $31.8 million or 12.8% above forecast.

Arkansas’ average jobless rate in 2015 was 5.2%, below the 6.1% in 2014 and well below the 7.4% average in 2013. It is the first time the annual average dropped below 6% since 2008.

Also, broad revisions of labor market data shows that Arkansas’ jobless rate fell below 5% sooner than previously noted, and December’s jobless rate was 4.7% instead of the previously reported 4.8%.

gas-to-liquids GTL
Shell

Little Rock-based Energy Security Partners LLC and Pine Bluff officials announced Tuesday that Jefferson County is being considered as the top location to build and operate a potential $3.7 billion industrial gas-to-liquids processing facility.

Interstate 30
Arkansas Highway & Transportation Dept.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has floated the idea of cutting the state’s largest economic development incentive program as a funding source for highways, but the idea is being resisted by those who say the program cuts the cost of manufacturing plant upgrades and helps retain jobs in Arkansas.

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s was recently awarded a $198.7 million boost to a previous multimillion dollar contract that will enhance production on an anti-ballistic system that President Obama recently touted as a deterrent to North Korea’s nuclear threat.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford Heading To Cuba On Trade Trip

Feb 5, 2016
Representative Congressman Rick Crawford
crawford.house.gov

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, plans to take a trip this spring to Cuba to learn about furthering trade with the Caribbean nation.

Crawford, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said Friday during the annual meeting of the Arkansas Rice Council that he and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., are coordinating the April trip with lawmakers and agriculture leaders from Arkansas and Louisiana.

Arkansas Economists Anticipate Bigger Budget In 2017

Feb 2, 2016

An economic forecast report for next year shows an anticipated $106.8 million dollar budget increase from 2016.

The 2 percent increase is a result of tax cuts from last year’s legislative session.

The state currently has $551 million in net available revenue. In January revenue was $31 million dollars above forecast for the month.

The report shows all major collection categories were higher than expected. According to State Economist John Shellnutt, the positive results were due mostly to increased corporate and individual income taxes.

A leading economic indicator for a nine-state region stretching across Midwest America shows that Arkansas businesses saw robust expansion in January which help to lift the state’s economy above “growth neutral” for the first time since October.

City Leaders Encourage Residents To Determine Tax Credit Eligibilty

Feb 1, 2016
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

City of Little Rock leaders are encouraging low to middle-income residents to check their eligibility for tax credits as the spring approaches. 

A coalition of city, business, and non-profit leaders are encouraging low-income residents in Little Rock to find out if they qualify.

W.J. Monagle, Executive Director of the Little Rock Workforce Development Board, spoke at City Hall Monday as part of an effort to get the word out about Earned Income Tax Credits.

greencarreports.com

Editor’s note: Each Friday, Talk Business & Politics provides “Energy In-depth,” a round-up of energy and regulatory news. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed to approve Arkansas’ request to designate Crittenden County as attaining the federal 2008 ozone standard, a move that Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and other officials said will boost the state’s economic development in eastern Arkansas.

The proposed “attainment” designation comes after a letter last month from Hutchinson requesting the EPA to remove the eastern Arkansas county from the federal “dirty air” nonattainment list, a designation that goes back to the Huckabee administration’s recruitment of a Toyota superproject.

The Arkansas jobless rate fell below to 5% for the first time since June 2001 as the state’s labor pool climbed to 1,337,500 in December, according to the figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The North Little Rock City Council has approved $375,000 to repair sinkholes at Dickey-Stephens Park where the Arkansas Travelers play their home games.

Sinkholes began appearing after heavy rains and flooding along the Arkansas River in December. The largest is on the center field warning track and is about 35 feet in diameter and six to seven feet deep.

City Engineer Chris Wilbourn told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the work is to begin Wednesday and that officials won't know exactly how big the problem is until the digging starts.

Little Rock-based Southwest Power Pool is one of the regional transmission organizations participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s ongoing Grid Modernization Initiative that’s central to the Obama Administration’s initiative to improve the resiliency, reliability and security of the nation’s electricity delivery system.

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority on Wednesday (Jan. 13) moved two steps closer to jump-starting the first phase of the downtown development the city hopes to market to attract startups, entrepreneurs and establish a tech focus to the city’s Creative Corridor.

Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs.
wikipedia.org

Bank of the Ozarks is laying the foundation for future growth with plans for a new corporate headquarters in west Little Rock.

The Little Rock-based financial institution says it has outgrown three headquarters locations in the past 20 years.

Governor Asa Hutchinson rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. The governor says it is part of an economic development trip to boost Arkansas’s profile and lure investment.

Hutchinson’s stop on Wall Street was followed by appearances on CNBC and Fox Business touting his push for computer coding education among other things. The governor’s office said a slew of other media appearances are also planned

A Maine-based company is announcing plans to expand its manufacturing plant in northeast Arkansas.

Falmouth, Maine-based Southworth Products Corporation CEO Brian McNamara said Wednesday that the company will invest $935,000 in the plant in Manila and add 35 jobs.

The company plans to add two new assembly lines at the plant and to better separate its shipping and production operations.

A leading economic indicator for the nine-state middle America region stretching from Arkansas to North Dakota shows that business growth has slumped for the fifth straight month heading into the new year, according to the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index for December.

  State finance officials say higher than expected corporate and individual income tax collections last month kept Arkansas revenue above forecast, but below the previous year's figures.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration reported Tuesday that net available revenue in December totaled $464.1 million. That's $7.7 million above forecast - but $18.7 million less than December 2014.

The state's net available revenue for the fiscal year that began July 1 is $2.5 billion, $17.8 million below the same point last fiscal year but $66.9 million above forecast.

Metroplan

According to the 2015 Economic Review and Outlook report released by Metroplan, central Arkansas is showing signs of economic growth.

“During most of the year we were growing jobs at a faster rate than the northwest Arkansas region,” said Metroplan researcher Jonathan Lupton. “And normally they outperform us. This is the first year since 1998 that we’ve actually had faster job growth in central Arkansas than they’ve had in northwest Arkansas.”

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

About 600,000 Arkansas taxpayers are receiving an income tax cut with the start of the new year, a move that the state's Republican governor says will boost the economy but critics say threatens other state services.

The 1 percent income tax cut for those making between $21,000 and $75,000 approved by the majority-Republican Legislature last February took effect Friday.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who campaigned on the tax cut proposal, has cast it as a way to help the state's middle class and make Arkansas more competitive.

Stock Photo

A year-ending survey of business contacts indicated that nearly half expect economic conditions in 2016 will be somewhat better than in 2015 as employment growth continue to strengthen across the state, according to the Federal Reserve’s “Burgundy Book.”

The report provides statistical and anecdotal notes on 62 of the state’s 75 counties. The Little Rock Zone covers six state metro areas, including Little Rock/North Little Rock/Conway, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, Texarkana, Fort Smith and Fayetteville/Springdale/Rogers.

Governor Radio
Office of the Governor

The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of Dec. 18, 2015:

Over the past week, I have attended three major jobs announcements.

In Siloam Springs, Simmons Foods announced a new pet food ingredient facility near their company’s home office. According to Simmons Foods, the facility will create 78 new jobs with an economic impact of $50 million.

Lockheed Martin’s Camden-based operations, which is awaiting final word on a bid protest for the $30 billion Joint Light Armored Vehicle contract that went to Oshkosh Defense, will take part in another multi-billion award that will deliver Patriot missiles to U.S. military forces and close allies, company officials said Tuesday.

Batesville-based Bad Boy Mowers is investing $7.8 million in a facility expansion that is expected to add 160 jobs, raising the total employment to around 750.

Company officials said Monday (Dec. 14) the expansion is a 68,000-square-foot property on 10 acres near existing 1 million-square-foot building on 29 acres.

File photo. Construction of Big River Steel plant in Mississippi County.
bigriversteel.com

The state Court of Appeals has rejected a steel company's attempt to block the air permit for a rival's $1.3 billion mill under construction in northeast Arkansas.

The court on Wednesday upheld the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission's decision to issue the permit for the Big River Steel mill in Osceola.

Little Rock To Increase Staff Pay As 911 Lawsuit Continues

Dec 7, 2015

The City of Little Rock is recommending a 2.5 percent salary increase to city workers including police, firefighters, and 911 call center staff as part of its 2016 budget. 

A recent consultant’s review of the city’s 911 call center found staffing issues are leading to a weaker 911 service. The report said calls to 911 regularly go unanswered.

The yearlong downturn in Arkansas’ much-maligned manufacturing sector will continue through the early part of next year and will likely push the number of blue collar jobs near or below 150,000 for the first time in decades, according to The Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index for July released Monday (Dec. 1).

The Arkansas unemployment continued to tick down in October falling to 5.1 percent. It marks the fifth straight month of a declining unemployment rate according to information released by the Department of Workforce Services on Friday. It sits just above the national average of 5 percent.

Chief Economist and Economic Forecaster Michael Pakko at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock said the state’s economy has continued to improve since October of last year when unemployment was at 5.7 percent.

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