Arkansas Economy

Boon Tan World Trade Center of Arkansas
Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

This year Congress voted to grant the executive branch fast-track authority to negotiate a flurry of international free trade agreements, most notably a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The state says Arkansas' unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point in July to 5.6 percent. That's down from 6 percent a year ago.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services said Friday that there are 40,300 more Arkansans in the labor force than in July 2014.

military vehicle lockheed martin tom cotton asa hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Within the next month, Arkansas economic officials may declare an end of the week announcement as either Good Friday or Black Friday.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission executive director Mike Preston said Thursday that his agency has been told by Pentagon officials that an award of the JLTV superproject will be announced on either Friday, August 28, September 4, or September 11.

John Correnti Big River Steel
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The CEO of the state’s first superproject, Big River Steel CEO John Correnti, was found dead on an out-of-state business trip Tuesday morning, Talk Business & Politics has confirmed.

Correnti, 68, was the driving force for the $1.3 billion steel mill superproject, which is being built near Osceola (Mississippi Co.). As a former CEO of rival Nucor Steel, Correnti was a big fan of Arkansas where he once headed Nucor’s operations in the 1990’s.

The state has saved $2.5 million in salaries during the last half of the state’s fiscal year from January 13 to June 30 as a result of a hiring freeze instituted by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, his office announced Tuesday.

Hutchinson’s office said the freeze has resulted in the state having 297 fewer state employees. Positions were frozen an average of 59 days, meaning Hutchinson’s office is reviewing all open positions. His office said 433 freeze requests are pending.

Hutchinson said his first act as governor was to institute the hiring freeze.

Arkansas is starting its fiscal year on a positive note, with the state collecting $6.8 million more in revenue than expected.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said the state's net available revenue in July totaled $399.2 million.

The state's fiscal year began July 1. The state's revenue was $3.9 million less than the same month last year.

This coming weekend will be a chance for Arkansas families to save money on back to school supplies. The annual tax holiday, which was approved by the state legislature in 2011, relieves shoppers of having to pay state and local sales taxes on certain products.

Items needed for students, along with some clothes and accessories within given price ranges are sold tax free.

Metova CEO John Adams
Talk Business & Politics

Officials with Metova, Inc. and the city of Conway announced Thursday that the emerging tech firm is looking to add 100 employees to its workforce in the next few months.

Metova builds apps for major companies like Yelp, Dropbox, eHarmony and Microsoft and it is active in cybersecurity protection for private firms and the federal government.

Lockheed Martin Camden patriot missile
Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin Corp., which is awaiting word on the Pentagon’s high-stakes $30 billion Joint Light Vehicle Project, received a much smaller multi-billion dollar contract last week that will keep its Camden production facility busy for a long time.

On Friday, the Bethesda, Maryland-based defense giant received news that U.S. and allied military forces are set to upgrade key missile defense capabilities under a new $1.5 billion contract for production and delivery of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3 missiles and PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement) missiles.

Natural Gas Drilling Mt. Vernon in Faulkner County
Arkansas Times

BHP Billiton said Tuesday that it plans to make further spending cuts to its U.S. onshore oil and gas development, pushing the Australia industrial giant’s current U.S. shale play budget down nearly 60% from $3.7 billion to $1.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

Of that operating budget, the Sydney, Australia-based mining and industrial conglomerate plans to spend only $200 million in the Arkansas shale play to maintain ongoing production at 45 natural gas wells that the company has already drilled and completed.

military vehicle lockheed martin tom cotton asa hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Top Lockheed Martin executives said they expect to hear a decision in August or September on two high stakes Pentagon contracts that will play a large role in the U.S. military’s future ground and air combat effectiveness, including the $30 billion Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) project that could land in Camden’s Highland Industrial Park.

jobs unemployment employment
www.purdue.edu

Arkansas’ unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point in June as the state’s civilian labor pool grew by 200 workers, according to U.S. labor force data released Tuesday by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board on Wednesday unanimously approved a motion by Chairwoman Mary Goode to request a $6.8 million advance from the City of Little Rock to fund the purchase of prime downtown real estate from Stephens Inc. in the fast-growing Creative Corridor on Main Street.

The Department of Human Services begins a series of town halls across Arkansas Tuesday about an upcoming change in the coding system used by all medical providers.

Robinson Auditorium
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

On the one year anniversary of Little Rock’s historic Robinson Auditorium closing to begin a nearly $70 million renovation, a topping out ceremony was held Wednesday. The final steel beam that will be put in place on the expanded structure was signed by local officials, members of the design and construction teams and other guests. Work is scheduled to be completed by November 2016.

It’s déjà vu all over again.

A longtime Jonesboro company broke ground on a $12 million, 62,000 square foot facility that will bring up to 75 new jobs to the company.

The expansion groundbreaking for Hytrol Conveyor Co. was the 10th one at its facility on Arkansas 18 and the first one since 1999, the company’s chairman, Robert Jones, said before the shovel-turning event.

The company, which makes conveyors for companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s and Fed Ex, moved to Jonesboro in 1962.

military vehicle lockheed martin tom cotton asa hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A Pentagon official confirmed that a decision on the $30 billion award for Joint Light Tactical Vehicle project remains on schedule for an award in the fiscal fourth quarter, which for the U.S. military concludes at the end of September, Talk Business & Politics has learned.

Arkansas severance tax collections fell more than 50% in May from year ago levels as the state’s rig count plummeted to single digits and drilling crews are leaving the state for other richer wet shale plays across the U.S., according to state severance tax and employment data and industry reports.

That has left state tax revenue for natural gas production at just over $4 million in May, down 54.5% from $8.8 million a year ago, according to monthly tax data compiled by the Revenue Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration.

Cotton farmers in Arkansas are expected this year to plant the fewest acres ever in Arkansas' cotton growing history.

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension estimates that cotton acreage could fall below 200,000 for the first time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated in March that the cotton acreage would drop by more than 30 percent from last year. The previous low in the state was in 2013 with 310,000 acres.

Division economists say 90 percent of the drop in planting is due to falling U.S. per pound cotton prices.

A recent trip by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and economic development officials sent a clear statement to aerospace and steel companies about the state of Arkansas, a Northeast Arkansas economic development official said Monday.

Clif Chitwood, an official with the Great River Economic Development group in Mississippi County, attended the Paris Air Show with Hutchinson and other business leaders from around the state.

The air show brought aerospace companies together with suppliers in the civilian aviation industry.

The trip to Paris also brought good news Monday afternoon.

Following a meeting last week with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the Paris Air Show, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a world leader in the development and manufacturing of aerospace and defense products, on Monday announced plans to expand its facility in Calhoun County.

As part of the expansion, the company will add 85 new full-time employees and invest $18 million in new buildings, upgrades, and new equipment, officials said. The addition of 85 new positions will bring total employment at the Aerojet Rocketdyne facility in Calhoun County to more than 630 people.

Arkansas’ May unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.7% from April, but the measuring stick for job health was down 0.8% from one year ago.

Employment numbers rose by 900 for the month and unemployment ranks added 600 to the jobless rolls between April and May in Arkansas.

During the past 12 months, 46,100 Arkansans have been added to the workforce, while 3,000 have exited. Economists speculate that those departing the workforce are a combination of those giving up looking for work, those moving out of state, and retirements led by Baby Boomers.

Gov. Hutchinson Visits Germany, Promotes Arkansas At Steel Show

Jun 17, 2015
Arkansas Economic Development Commission

As part of his trade mission to Europe, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday visited Düsseldorf, Germany where he attended the METEC Trade Fair.

During his time in Düsseldorf, the governor met with several prospective companies with an interest in expansion in North America, officials with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission said in a news release.

METEC, held once every four years, is an exhibition event for steel technology and focuses on castings, foundry technology, metallurgy and thermo process technology.

A northwest Arkansas county topped all other counties in the nation in average wage growth over a one year period ending in the fourth quarter of 2014. Benton County’s 9.9 percent increase bested the country’s 339 largest counties in a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Wednesday. The national average was 3.5 percent average wage growth.

Only a half dozen years after the Great Recession, the auto industry is experiencing a strong resurgence in payrolls with more than 7.25 million private sector jobs in the U.S. economy, according to industry analysis compiled by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

Gov. Radio Address: Promoting Arkansas In Europe

Jun 13, 2015
Office of the Governor

  The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Radio Address and Column for the weekend of June 12, 2015:

A few weeks ago, I was in Silicon Valley in California. Last week, I was in Newport and Batesville. Saturday, I leave for Paris and Germany.

The locations change but the business remains the same — economic development for Arkansas.

Jobs.

In 2015, we have to be a national and global competitor. And to compete on a national and global level, we have to market Arkansas at every opportunity. That means being there.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson will leave Saturday for a weeklong economic development trip to France and Germany as part of a business recruiting effort.

Hutchinson said Thursday that he'll meet with aerospace companies at the Paris Air Show, which is the world's largest aviation and aerospace trade show. He then goes to Germany for an international metallurgical trade show.

The $129,000 trip includes meetings with at least 17 different prospective companies, but Hutchinson said he doesn't anticipate any new business announcements when he returns on June 19.

Arkansas Sees Tepid 0.8% GDP Growth In 2014, Farming Income Drops 19.9%

Jun 11, 2015

Arkansas’ real gross domestic product (GDP) output lost momentum in 2014 as the Natural State’s economic growth fell well below the rest of the nation and surrounding states, according to information released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) speaks to the Arkansas Workforce Development Board in Little Rock.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The newly constituted Arkansas Workforce Development Board held its first meeting Tuesday to begin building a long-term plan to re-align public education, skills training and industry needs.

The AWDB was created as part of a larger overhaul of the state’s workforce services passed in the Arkansas Legislature’s 2014 regular session.

Robinson Auditorium Center Music Hall
City of Little Rock

As workers begin to rebuild the interior of Little Rock's Robinson Auditorium, a key goal of the nearly $70 million renovation is to greatly improve its acoustics.

There had long been complaints about how live music sounded in the venue, which is the home of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. There were "dead spots" in the hall where the audience couldn’t properly hear the orchestra or all the instruments. That’s why the facility has been gutted and is being rebuilt inside the existing structure as part of the voter-approved project, funded with a two percent tourism tax.

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