Arkansas Economy

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.

Arkansas Governor Rings In NYSE On Boosterism Tour

Jan 11, 2016

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
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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.

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
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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.

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