Arkansas Economy

Arkansas Children's Hospital
Wikipedia

Arkansas hospitals are doing better than some of their counterparts in other states that did not expand their Medicaid populations, a new study by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement finds.

In 2013, Arkansas legislators voted to expand Arkansas’ Medicaid population through the Arkansas Health Care Independence Program, better known as the private option. The program uses state Medicaid dollars to purchase private insurance for Arkansans with incomes of no more than 138% of the federal poverty line. Many states, meanwhile, chose not to expand their populations.

Wal-Mart Execs Provide Update On Retailer’s 10-Year Sustainability Milestones

Nov 18, 2015

It’s been a decade-long journey of sustainability for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and while the retailer has met several of its milestone goals set five and 10 years ago, executives continue to up the ante because CEO Doug McMiilon said it’s good business.

At its annual milestone meeting in Bentonville on Tuesday (Nov. 17), Wal-Mart announced the completion of prior commitments to reduce 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its global supply chain and double its fleet efficiency, while it continues to work on other goals.

walmart wal-mart
Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Stores posted fiscal third quarter net income of $3.304 billion, below the $3.711 billion in the same period of 2015, but better than what was expected by equity analysts who cover the retailer. And while the closely watched metric of same-store sales moved in the right direction for Wal-Mart, the company is predicting “relatively flat” sales growth for the year.

After entering 2015 with big hopes and a potentially game-changing bid to land a flag-waving super project in the state’s neglected Delta region, Arkansas’ manufacturing sector has hit a wall in the second half of 2015 as the number of blue collar jobs in the state are sliding to the lowest level since the state began keeping such records.

A view of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Pine Bluff from inside the historic, but crumbling Hotel Pines.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

It’s no secret that Pine Bluff has seen better days. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population dropped 7.6%, from 49,080 to 45,332, from 2010 to 2014. That’s down from 57,389 in 1970. The median household income of $30,515 is more than $10,000 less than the Arkansas median of $40,768.

Jefferson County’s unemployment rate of 7.8% is 2.4 points higher than Arkansas’ 5.4 percent. Many Arkansas downtowns are rundown, but parts of Pine Bluff’s Main Street have fallen down.

But there are bright spots, and a reason to look ahead.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he has a list of companies in Japan and China that he plans to visit in the coming days during his Far East trade mission in hopes those countries will consider future capital ventures and investments in Arkansas.

“It is important for the governor of Arkansas to market the state, and to bring opportunity,” Hutchinson said at the annual meeting of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas held at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. “I will be able to knock on their door.”

File photo: Governor Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Economic Development Commission director Mike Preston.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is traveling to China and Japan later this month to meet with companies looking at locating and expanding in the state.

The Republican governor on Friday announced he's leaving Nov. 15 on a trip to the two countries with state Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston. Hutchinson said the trip is being paid for by the commission and its nonprofit foundation.

jobs unemployment employment
www.purdue.edu

More than 50,000 workers across the U.S. will join the unemployment line ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, but the good news is that employers are cutting fewer positions than a year ago, according to the latest layoff report released Thursday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The October Arkansas tax revenue report shows a 1% gain in overall collections, but a healthy increase in fiscal year-to-date sales and use tax revenue which is a signal of consumer confidence.

For the first four months of the fiscal year which began in July, state tax collections total $2.012 billion, up 1% compared to the same period in 2014 and 3.4% above what was forecast, according to the revenue report posted Tuesday (Nov. 3) by the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration.

Cuba Governor
Governor's Office

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking leaders in Congress to ease credit restrictions on Cuba. It follows a three-day trade mission to the communist island by the governor and a delegation of state business leaders in September who hope to open new markets for Arkansas products.

The newly hired chief of Walmart’s energy division told members of the Arkansas Advance Energy Association on Tuesday that the retail giant’s ultimate goal in becoming 100% sustainable and supplied by renewable energy is still to reduce costs and bring lower prices to the retail giant’s millions of customers

“My responsibility as we execute these (goals) that we are doing is that at the same time we are reducing costs to Walmart and passing it on to the customers,” said Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of Walmart energy.

Arkansas Unemployment Rate Down To 5.2 Percent In September

Oct 20, 2015

Arkansas’s unemployment rate  dropped to 5.2 percent in September according to the state's Department of Workforce Services. 

There were 2,500 fewer unemployed Arkansans in September. 1,400 workers left the job market and 1,100 new workers found employment. 

"The size of the civilian labor force declined slightly, as the decrease in the number of unemployed more than offset the gain in employment," Susan Price from the department explained in a statement. 

A medical device company is expanding its manufacturing facility in north Arkansas and says it will be adding 225 jobs during the next five years.

Baxter International Inc. announced Thursday it is expanding its Mountain Home facility, which has been in operation since 1964. The current plant is 55,000 square feet and employs about 1,000 people.

About 120,000 shoppers are predicted to visit the Outlets of Little Rock this weekend. The highly anticipated shopping center is set to open Friday alongside Bass Pro Shops near the interchange of interstates 30 and 430.

For months there has been a buzz as participating retailers have been announced. But it has taken decades for it to become a reality.

August home sales in Arkansas’ four largest markets were off the pace of the previous three months, but sales for the first eight months of the year are up more than 8% and the value of those sales is up more than 13.5%. Homes are also selling faster in the four markets.

The healthy year-to-date pace in Arkansas is driven by an almost 14% gain in Northwest Arkansas home sales and a more than 6% gain in central Arkansas.

Governor asa hutchinson talk business & politics
Talk Business & Politics

Gov. Asa Hutchinson reflected on his recent trade trip to Cuba, takeaways from a major health reform report released this week, and criteria for replacing departing Human Services director John Selig.

Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics with Roby Brock, Hutchinson said he’ll turn first to the private business sector to replace Selig, who announced he’d leave the top Department of Human Services post by the end of this year.

fast food protest salary
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As part of a national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, some Little Rock workers plan to convene the city’s first wage board Tuesday.

Little Rock’s four-member board is made up of Democratic State Representatives Charles Blake and Vivian Flowers, the chair of Arkansas Community Organizations Donna Massey, and Revered Stephen Copley, who led the recent voter-approved effort to gradually raise the minimum wage in Arkansas to $8.50 by 2017.

Cuba Governor
Governor's Office

Arkansas’s governor returned from a trade mission with Cuba this week and on Friday urged Congress to ease financial and travel restrictions. In a session with reporters Governor Asa Hutchinson credited the Obama administration for opening doors to the communist nation but said future steps should come through Congress and not executive actions. He said expanding credit options is a first priority.

Arkansas Revenue Exceeds Expectations After Sales Tax Increase

Oct 2, 2015

Arkansas has exceeded revenue expectations by $15.1 million for the month of September.

According to John Shelnutt, an economist with the Department of Finance and Administration, sales taxes in particular has expanded by eight percent and may account for revenue increases. 

Shelnutt  said revenue growth may not continue at such a rate long term.  

"There are a few signs of slowing in the national economy and the global economy so that may be a factor down the line," he said. 

Cuba Governor
Governor's Office

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a delegation of nearly 50 Arkansas business leaders and state officials are in Cuba for a series of meetings with government officials.

The communist island nation and its 11 million residents have for years been eyed as an untapped marketplace for Arkansas products, especially agriculture. With diplomatic relations being restored between the U.S. and Cuba, Hutchinson said this was an ideal time to begin building a relationship. The visit is the first by an American governor since the U.S. re-opened its embassy there in July.

Manufacturing and farming giant Caterpillar Inc., which operates a large motor grader plant in North Little Rock with several hundred workers, announced a major across-the-board restructuring and cost reduction Thursday (Sept. 24) that could possibly affect more than 10,000 employees across the company’s expansive U.S. and international operations.

Governor asa hutchinson military
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A month after an Arkansas factory lost a bid for a $6.75 billion contract to assemble military tactical vehicles, the governor has formed a group to help grow the state's military economy.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the Governor's Military Affairs Committee on Monday. The organization of public and private leaders will advocate for the state's military installations and their economic development interests.

Hutchinson is spending $400,000 from discretionary funds to start the group and for an economic impact study.

The Fab Four from Liverpool – who made a trip through Northeast Arkansas more than 50 years ago – were big fans of the music from the region, an author of a new book about The Beatles said Thursday.

Ivor Davis, who wrote the book, “The Beatles and Me on Tour,” will visit Walnut Ridge Friday and Saturday as part of the Beatles at the Ridge Festival.

rocket lockheed martin
Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin announced that it had received a $227 million contract from the U.S. Army for the first order of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System alternative warhead, which will be produced at the defense contractor’s missile production facility in Camden.

“GMLRS is a combat proven precision-strike system,” said Ken Musculus, vice president of Tactical Missiles for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “We are confident that the new GMLRS Alternative Warhead will also provide reliable, highly accurate capability for our domestic and international customers.”

Sister Simone Campbell in Fayetteville.
KARK

Coinciding with Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. this month a busload of social justice-minded nuns is touring the country, with three stops in Arkansas.

Sister Simone Campbell, of the lobbying group NETWORK, said she supports the Pope’s message of an inclusive economy.

  A groundbreaking ceremony has been held for the expansion of Aerojet Rocketdyne's plant in Camden in south Arkansas.

The California-based company was joined by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state and local officials for Thursday's ceremony.

The project includes new buildings and renovations on the 1,200-acre site and 85 new jobs. The cost of the project was not released, however it is supported with incentives that include funding, tax exemptions, real estate tax grants and reimbursement for training.

The plant produces solid rocket motors used in the defense industry.

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure giving Executive Director Brent Birch the power to negotiate a deal to hire East Harding Inc. as the construction manager for the first phase of the $30 million downtown tech park development.

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle JLTV
Lance Turner / Arkansas Business

Lockheed Martin says it's protesting the contract for a military vehicle it had hoped to assemble in south Arkansas being awarded to another company.

The Maryland-based company on Tuesday said it had filed a protest of the Army's decision last month to award a $6.7 billion contract to develop the joint light tactical vehicle to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh. Lockheed Martin was among three companies competing for the project, which it intended to build at its Camden facility in southern Arkansas.

Big River Steel
Johnathan Reaves / KASU News

Big River Steel has pre-sold nearly a quarter of the steel it is expected to produce over the next seven years, the company’s CEO told a legislative committee Wednesday.

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle JLTV
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Anticipation is building with an announcement expected soon about where the next generation of military combat vehicle will be built.

Last week, Arkansas Economic Development Commission executive director Mike Preston revealed that the U.S. Department of Defense has told him the award of the highly-coveted Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) will be announced on one of the next three Fridays – Aug. 28, Sept. 4, or Sept. 11.

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