Arkansas Economy

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’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 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.