Arkansas Economy

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) speaking at a ribbon cutting for MISO in March 2015 before the facility was fully online.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A $22 million electric grid control center operated by Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO) officially turned the switch at midnight Monday to become the company’s hub for delivering electricity to Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

Todd Hillman, the vice president of MISO’s southern operations said transferring control from its Indiana headquarters to Little Rock signals a growing energy demand in the region.

Southwest Steel Processing announced Monday it plans to invest $18 million in its Newport plant, adding a second forging line and creating 100 new jobs over the next two years. The state will contribute an additional $11 million to the project. Scott Hardin, from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, says the company chose to expand in Arkansas due to the capability of the existing workforce and community.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Work is nearing the halfway point on a nearly $70 million project to renovate Little Rock’s historic Robinson Auditorium.

Nearly everything has now been ripped out, including the stage, balcony, interior walls and floors, leaving little more than the outside shell of the building and its support beams.

Former President Clinton: Energy, Broadband Would Help Delta

May 28, 2015
Bill Clinton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that alternative and more efficient energy, New Markets Tax Credit loans, and more broadband access would help areas along the Mississippi Delta enjoy more economic growth.

Clinton addressed by telephone the Delta Grassroots Caucus, a seven-state coalition of advocates and legislators meeting this week in Little Rock.

Lockheed Martin Rivals Ready To Compete For JLTV Project Despite Arkansas Efforts

May 28, 2015
Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin

Although Lockheed Martin has firm support for an $87 million financing package from the state of Arkansas, a Washington, D.C.-based defense budget expert said there is no reason to believe that the Bethesda, Md.-based defense contractor has an advantage over rivals in the high-stakes Joint Light Tactical Vehicle acquisition for 55,000 new tactical ground vehicles for the nation’s military.

Arkansas Jobless Rate Loses Ground As National Picture Improves

May 27, 2015

Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point as the U.S. unemployment rate fell in April as more than 223,000 jobs were added to the nation’s fast-growing labor pool, according to the monthly labor force data compiled and produced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Quapaw Tribe Chairman John Berrey at the Arkansas State Capitol.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The leader of the Quapaw Tribe visited with Arkansas’s legislative black caucus Tuesday and maintained the right of the Indian Nation to seek federal trust status for 160 acres of land near downtown Little Rock. The designation would allow the land – which sits in the middle of long-term growth plans for Little Rock’s port – to be exempt from local and state control.

Wikimedia Commons

The two-day Delta conference on economic equality for working families begins Tuesday in Little Rock.

The Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus, an advocacy group promoting economic development in the impoverished region will host the conference. Topics being discussed will include women and children in poverty and race relations, but the overall focus is economic equality. 

As part of the review process under Amendment 82, the state’s superproject amendment, lawmakers have received an independent consultant’s analysis of the proposed $87 million Lockheed Martin  Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) bond issue that will be at the center of debate in next week’s special session.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson made the official call for legislators to meet in special session beginning Tuesday, May 26 to vote on helping lure the military’s new JLTV production facility to Camden. The new military vehicle will replace the long-running Humvee vehicle.

Hytrol Conveyor Co. in Jonesboro has announced plans for a $12 million expansion that will include at least 36 new jobs.

The company said in a news release Thursday that the project includes a 62,000-square-foot expansion of its manufacturing facility, a new paint system, lasers, brake presses and computerized numerical control equipment.

Hytrol designs and manufactures advanced conveyor systems and currently has about 800 employees.

South Arkansas Wood Pellet Mills Still On Schedule For 2016 Start

May 13, 2015

Two full-scale biomass plants in South Arkansas are still scheduled to come online by the end of 2016, just in time for the wood pellet market to gain steam in Europe as industrial power generators switch from coal to renewable fuels.

Top officials for both Highland Pellets LLC in Pine Bluff and Zilkha Biomass Energy in Monticello told Talk Business & Politics that their respective companies are moving forward with land acquisition, environmental permitting and other preparations for Arkansas’ first high-profile entries into the burgeoning renewable energy sector.

Arkansans Feeling More Confident About Economy

May 12, 2015

Consumer confidence across the state has jumped more than ten points since October as Arkansans are increasingly optimistic about their overall economic situation, according to the latest Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey released Tuesday.

The current spring edition of the consumer sentiment index for Arkansas is 79.1, up from 68.1 in October and 67.4 in June 2014’s inaugural survey. The survey also includes consumers in Oklahoma and Missouri, including Greater Kansas City.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he's calling lawmakers back to the Capitol later this month to consider incentives aimed at luring a defense contract to the state.

Hutchinson on Monday announced he was calling a special session starting May 26 to consider the incentive package intended to help Lockheed Martin at its Camden facility.

Special Session Being Considered On Superproject, Presidential Primary

May 10, 2015
Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Legislative leaders are asking members about their availability for a May 26-28 special session, the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

The special session would center on a potential economic development superproject involving Lockheed Martin in Camden, Arkansas. The aerospace and defense contractor is in the running for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) being developed by the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps as a successor to the popular Humvee vehicle, which has been in service since 1985.

Arkansas officials have revised upward the state's general revenue forecast for the current fiscal year by 2.1 percent from a forecast in November.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An Arkansas legislative committee is scheduled to hear from the state's top economic official.

The Joint Committee on Economic and Tax Policy will meet at the state Capitol Wednesday at 2 p.m. for a presentation on the state's general revenue forecast from Department of Finance and Administration Director Larry Walther.

State officials released the April revenue report Monday, which showed a surge in tax collections in nearly every major category.

Arkansas finance officials say a surge in tax collections in nearly every major category last month doubled the amount of money the state has collected above forecast for the year.

Interstate 30
Arkansas Highway & Transportation Dept.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he's forming a 20-member working group to look at ways to address a shortfall of funding for the state's highways.

Hutchinson told the Arkansas Trucking Association on Thursday in Hot Springs that he signed an executive order earlier in the day to create the group. He told reporters he hopes to soon name his appointments to the group.

Hutchinson promised to create the working group after he opposed an effort during this year's Legislative session to gradually transfer tax revenue from automobile-related items to the highway system.

Food Distributor To Build New Regional Headquarters, Add Jobs

Apr 30, 2015

A project that was first announced in December 2013 is finally shovel-ready.

Food distributor Ben E. Keith Company will break ground Thursday at 11 a.m. on its new North Little Rock distribution center.

The 72-acre site should begin construction in July 2015, according to the company. It should be completed by the spring of 2017.

When it was first announced, the project was slated to be a $60 million, 300,000 sq. ft. investment that will add 74 jobs.

Gov. Hutchinson Calls Strong U.S. Manufacturing Base A ‘National Security’ Issue

Apr 29, 2015
Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson kicked off the first Arkansas Manufacturing Innovation Summit on Wednesday by saying that strengthening the nation’s manufacturing was a “national security” issue, and strongly advocating that former felons should be given an opportunity to re-enter the workforce after leaving prison.

File. A look inside the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Amidst a backdrop described by several podium speakers as a religious revival, Central Arkansas’ startup community held a celebration on Monday to announce a major grant that will spark more activity in the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Winrock International CEO Rodney Ferguson stepped to the stage and said, “I’m not a Baptist preacher, but it sure feels like a revival here today.”

Lockheed Martin Profits Off 6%, Defense Giant Sees Huge Sales Loss At Camden Operation

Apr 21, 2015

Profits for defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. fell nearly 6% in the first quarter as the company’s Missile and Fire Control (MFC) division loss ground in the first three months of fiscal 2015 due to continued cuts in defense spending by the Pentagon.

Little Rock Officials Unveil ‘Creative Corridor’ Logo

Apr 21, 2015

Little Rock city officials on Tuesday unveiled a logo and social media sites for the fast-growing Main Street Creative Corridor, part of an official master plan to transform the downtown area into an urban mixed-use, cultural and arts enclave.

City officials said the logo was selected by art groups who will eventually relocate to Main Street, in collaboration with representatives from the city. The new logo will be used on all promotional materials for the Creative Corridor.

The unemployment rate in Arkansas remained flat at 5.6 percent in March according to information released Tuesday by the state Department of Workforce Services. The rate is the same as a revised jobless rate for February.

Spokeswoman Becky Heflin said it’s not unusual to have unemployment numbers hold steady.

It flew under the radar for the most part, but a significant piece of legislation may make Arkansas a much easier place to start or run a business, Talk Business & Politics reports.

Act 1190, co-sponsored by Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, allows the Secretary of State’s office to create a portal for businesses to submit licenses, permits and applications through one interface.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Gov
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The city of Caraway could one day become a “computer mecca,” with students learning the skills of computer coding and computer science, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday.

Hutchinson, who attended the groundbreaking of Riverside East Elementary School, spoke to the nearly 300 people in attendance about education and the opportunity it gives.

Port Authority Board of Directors Chairman Christopher Mathews.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Little Rock Port Authority decided Wednesday it will formally weigh-in on the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma’s attempt to turn 160 acres near the Arkansas River into trust land. That status would exempt it from local and state control and be the first designation of its kind in Arkansas.

Arcbest Corp.

ArcBest Corporation is set to break ground in the company's new corporate headquarters at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is to attend the ceremony scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

ArcBest is a freight transportation and logistics company formerly known as Arkansas Best Corporation. Its companies include ABF Freight, ABF Logistics, Panther Premium Logistics, FleetNet America, U-Pack and ArcBest Technologies.

ArcBest President and CEO Judy McReynolds says the new headquarters is expected to result in 975 new jobs in Fort Smith through 2021.

The growth of the Delta will involve people, businesses and organizations constantly thinking outside the box, the executive director of the East Arkansas Planning and Development District said in a recent Talk Business & Politics interview.

Melissa Rivers, who became the executive director in May 2011, said her group has worked tirelessly on building that opportunity.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R) at Little Rock's VA Hospital
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

KAUFFMAN: President Obama is in Panama meeting at the Summit of the Americas and it could pay big dividends for Arkansas rice growers. U.S. Senator John Boozman - a Republican from Rogers – joins me in the studio. Thanks for being here. 

BOOZMAN: Thank you so much for having me Jacob.

KAUFFMAN: The more sensational news coming out of the President’s journey to meet with leaders from South America, Central America and the Caribbean, is that for the first time Cuba will be there. Is this one more signal, in an avalanche that better economic ties are around the corner?