Arkansas Economy

Talk Business & Politics

On Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially named Mike Preston as the new executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the state agency charged with recruiting and retaining jobs. Preston comes from Enterprise Florida, that state’s economic development arm.

Preston appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, which will be broadcast Monday at 6:06 p.m. on KUAR.

Preston, 32, spent six years with Enterprise Florida and also worked for a State Representative and State Senator in the Florida Legislature.

Unemployment Rate By State, Feb. 2015.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics / U.S. Department of Labor

Arkansas’s unemployment rate dropped for another month, standing at 5.6 percent for February, in a report released Friday by the Department of Workforce Services. The state lags one-tenth of a percent behind the U.S. unemployment rate.

DWS spokesperson Becky Heflin says the 5,800 person drop in the ranks of the jobless is a continuation of positive jobs reports.

Gov. Hutchinson Outlines Jobs Plans, Wants Two Constitutional Amendments

Mar 26, 2015
Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Only hours removed from hiring the state’s next economic development chief, Gov. Asa Hutchinson outlined his vision for an aggressive platform on Thursday that he said would allow Arkansas to complete globally for better jobs and sustained economic growth.

TalkBusiness.net

 Gov. Asa Hutchinson will turn to the Sunshine State for his new director of economic development.

Talk Business & Politics and The City Wire have learned that Mike Preston, vice president for Government Relations with Enterprise Florida, has been tapped to be the new director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

AEDC is the state’s job development agency and works to recruit and retain businesses in the state. Former director Grant Tennille was not retained in the position by Gov. Hutchinson.

Rural SW Arkansas Telecom Receives $25 million USDA Loan For Broadband

Mar 24, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $25 million loan to a Texarkana telecom to upgrade a fiber network in Southwest Arkansas as part of President Obama’s initiative to improve broadband service in rural areas across the country.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday that Texarkana-based Southwest Arkansas Telephone Cooperative will receive the $25 million loan to upgrade portions of a fiber network and convert the remaining portions of a copper system to fiber to improve service to its subscribers.

Big River Steel
Johnathan Reaves / KASU News

A steel company has filed notice that it will appeal the dismissal of its lawsuit against a rival.

Attorneys for Nucor Steel filed notice Friday that it will appeal dismissal of the lawsuit seeking to stop construction of a Big River Steel Mill in Osceola. The appeal would be heard by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

The number of unemployed people in Arkansas was down in January. The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services released its monthly report Tuesday, which showed more than 9,000 jobs were added between December 2014 and January 2015. This puts the state’s unemployment rate at 5.6 percent, which is just under the national average of 5.7.

Michael Pakko, Chief Economist at UALR’s Institute for Economic Advancement, said the report factors in expected changes due to temporary holiday jobs.

The soon-to-be-closed ConAgra Foods plant in Batesville is to be purchased by Ozark Mountain Poultry.

ConAgra announced Friday that it will close the plant in July, leaving 250 employees out of work. ConAgra spokesman Dan Hare said the chicken-making operations at the plant will be moved to improve efficiency and competitiveness.

The state’s revenue forecast looks rosier thanks to a strong month of sales tax collections in February. Monthly sales tax collections spiked 5.7% above last year and 5% above forecast to bring in $176.5 million for the month.

The increase boosted year-to-date net available general revenues to more than $3.338 billion, up $127.2 million or 4% above year ago levels. After eight months into the fiscal year, net available revenue is above forecast by $94.6 million or 2.9%.

A lawsuit seeking to stop construction of a steel mill in northeast Arkansas has been dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit by Nucor Steel against Big River Steel. Holmes ruled that the citizen lawsuit under the federal Clean Air Act is not authorized and that his court has no jurisdiction.

Nucor claimed Big River Steel has violated the Clean Air Act. Big River Steel countered that the mill is still under construction and not operational, so it can't be emitting anything to violate the act.

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