Arkansas Economy

Editor’s note: Each Friday, Talk Business & Politics provides “Energy In-depth,” a round-up of energy and regulatory news. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed to approve Arkansas’ request to designate Crittenden County as attaining the federal 2008 ozone standard, a move that Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and other officials said will boost the state’s economic development in eastern Arkansas.

The proposed “attainment” designation comes after a letter last month from Hutchinson requesting the EPA to remove the eastern Arkansas county from the federal “dirty air” nonattainment list, a designation that goes back to the Huckabee administration’s recruitment of a Toyota superproject.

The Arkansas jobless rate fell below to 5% for the first time since June 2001 as the state’s labor pool climbed to 1,337,500 in December, according to the figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The North Little Rock City Council has approved $375,000 to repair sinkholes at Dickey-Stephens Park where the Arkansas Travelers play their home games.

Sinkholes began appearing after heavy rains and flooding along the Arkansas River in December. The largest is on the center field warning track and is about 35 feet in diameter and six to seven feet deep.

City Engineer Chris Wilbourn told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the work is to begin Wednesday and that officials won't know exactly how big the problem is until the digging starts.

Little Rock-based Southwest Power Pool is one of the regional transmission organizations participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s ongoing Grid Modernization Initiative that’s central to the Obama Administration’s initiative to improve the resiliency, reliability and security of the nation’s electricity delivery system.

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority on Wednesday (Jan. 13) moved two steps closer to jump-starting the first phase of the downtown development the city hopes to market to attract startups, entrepreneurs and establish a tech focus to the city’s Creative Corridor.

Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs.

Bank of the Ozarks is laying the foundation for future growth with plans for a new corporate headquarters in west Little Rock.

The Little Rock-based financial institution says it has outgrown three headquarters locations in the past 20 years.

Governor Asa Hutchinson rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. The governor says it is part of an economic development trip to boost Arkansas’s profile and lure investment.

Hutchinson’s stop on Wall Street was followed by appearances on CNBC and Fox Business touting his push for computer coding education among other things. The governor’s office said a slew of other media appearances are also planned

A Maine-based company is announcing plans to expand its manufacturing plant in northeast Arkansas.

Falmouth, Maine-based Southworth Products Corporation CEO Brian McNamara said Wednesday that the company will invest $935,000 in the plant in Manila and add 35 jobs.

The company plans to add two new assembly lines at the plant and to better separate its shipping and production operations.

A leading economic indicator for the nine-state middle America region stretching from Arkansas to North Dakota shows that business growth has slumped for the fifth straight month heading into the new year, according to the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index for December.