Arkansas Economy

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Three counties in Arkansas are hoping a new initiative will improve the employability of their populations. Monday at the Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the ACT Work Ready Communities Initiative.

Jefferson, Arkansas, and Grant counties have begun the process to receive a designation as ACT Work Ready Communities. Lou Ann Nisbett, president of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, initiated the tri-county effort.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Making communities in Arkansas more successful when competing with other states for industries and jobs is the goal of a new program announced Monday by Governor Asa Hutchinson.

The “Competitive Communities Initiative” is an evaluation process developed by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. It’s intended to help cities identify assets that companies look for when selecting new host sites. Governor Hutchinson spoke to over 100 city leaders at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock about the need for the initiative.

Arkansas finance officials say higher than expected individual income tax collections in January helped push the state's revenue above expectations and above the same month last year.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Friday the state's net available revenue in January totaled $583.3 million, which is $47.3 million more than the same month last year and $41.7 million above forecast. The state's net available revenue for the fiscal year that began July 1 is more than $3.2 billion, which is $65.4 million more than was forecast.

A greater share of Arkansans opted to join a union in 2017 than the year before with membership rates ticking up from 3.9 to 5.1 percent of the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 62,000 Arkansans were represented in the workplace through a union; another 74,000 non-union employees work under contracts negotiated by unions.

Take a listen to the interview above about the state of organized labor in Arkansas with the AFL-CIO’s Jessica Akers Hughes.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson presenting his proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 Tuesday to the Joint Budget Committee of the Arkansas Legislature.
Governor's Office / You Tube

Arkansas' governor is proposing a $5.6 billion budget that increases funding for the state's Medicaid program and sets aside surplus money for future tax cuts and highway needs.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday proposed increasing state spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1 by nearly $173 million. Most of that increase goes toward Medicaid. Hutchinson said the funding increase is lower than what was originally proposed for the program last year.

UAMS
UAMS.edu

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences says it will lay off 258 workers and leave another 350 or so positions unfilled as it addresses a $30 million hole in its budget.

The university chancellor notified 10,900 employees Monday. The school said in a statement it could no longer use reserve money to ensure that it wouldn't exceed its $1.5 billion budget. Spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said the cuts will save $30 million in the rest of this fiscal year and about $60 million next year.

UAMS has employees in 73 of the state's 75 counties.

Arkansas finance officials say a rise in individual income and sales tax collections helped push the state's revenue in December above expectations and the same month in 2016.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Wednesday the state's net available revenue in December totaled $521.1 million, which is $53.7 million above December 2016 and $23.7 million above forecast. The state's revenue so far for the fiscal year that began July 1 totals nearly $2.7 billion, which is $23.7 million above forecast.

Governor Asa Hutchinson is announcing the completion of a year-long, $1.2 million digital mapping project.

He says the system will allow emergency responders to have more up-to-date information and that it will allow the state to be competitive in economic development.

In a news release, the governor said the state now has a detailed map of expanding infrastructure.

The digital maps were produced by Arkansas Geographic Information Systems and are available to the public at gis.arkansas.gov.

A robot scanning a Walmart store shelf.
Walmart

Despite a slight drop in Arkansas sales tax revenue between the second and third quarters of fiscal year 2017, the holiday shopping season is expected to give the state’s economy a temporary boost.

Chief Economist Michael Pakko with the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock said a decrease in taxable sales between the two quarters still represents a picture of overall growth.

Recently released FBI data shows Black Friday gun sales set a single-day record for background checks at just over 203,000. And a number of Arkansas stores are claiming strong sales through the holiday weekend and Cyber Monday as well.

Rusty Fisher with Sunrise Outfitters in Searcy says his shop was no exception.

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