Arkansas Economy

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.

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