Arkansas Economy

Arkansas is hosting its annual back to school sales tax holiday this weekend.

State and local taxes won’t be charged on Saturday and Sunday for clothing that is less than $100 per item and school-related merchandise. A complete list of items and exceptions can be found here.

Supporters of a plan to gradually raise Arkansas' minimum wage have been given 30 more days to circulate petitions and collect signatures after falling shy of the signatures needed to put their proposal on the November ballot.

Secretary of State Mark Martin's office on Friday told the Give Arkansas a Raise Now campaign that it had fallen short of the 62,507 signatures from registered voters needed to qualify the proposed initiated act for the November ballot.

Martin's office said that more than 3,000 of the 64,135 signatures submitted by the group had been tossed out.

State officials say Arkansas' unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest rate in more than five years.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services says the state's unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point in June to 6.2 percent.

According to the department, the jobless rate is the lowest Arkansas has seen since November 2008. The agency says four industry sectors posted job losses in June, with the biggest drop coming in state and local government.

Map showing “wet” and “dry” counties in Arkansas as of 2014.
encyclopediaofarkansas.net

Proponents of allowing alcohol sales in Faulkner, Saline, and Craighead counties are touting a University of Arkansas study released Wednesday that concludes a change from “dry” to “wet” would be financially beneficial. UA Researcher Jeff Cooperstein said much of the increased revenue would not be new but derived from neighboring counties that are currently wet.

He also said an increase in alcohol consumption could drive new revenue.

Big River Steel says it has closed on the financing needed to build its $1.3 billion steel mill in northeastern Arkansas.

The company announced Tuesday that it would hold a formal groundbreaking ceremony later this summer at the site in Mississippi County.

The plant is expected to employ more than 500 people with an average annual salary of $75,000 once it's up and running.

Construction on the steel mill is expected to take about two years. The facility will produce steel for the automotive, oil and gas and electrical energy industries.

Nearly 4,000 square dancers and participants are converging on Little Rock for the 63rd National Square Dance Convention.  Some are traveling from as far away as Germany, Japan, Sweden, Great Britton, the Netherlands, Australia and the Philippians.

The opening ceremony is set for Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center.  Events will then take place there, at the Little Rock Marriott and Robinson Center through Saturday evening.

The city of Fort Smith is atop a latest ranking of the economic performance of Arkansas cities.

The Arkansas Tech Business Index tracks retail sales, construction, the housing market and unemployment rates of 16 Arkansas cities.

Ft. Smith beat out Bentonville, which had been atop previous months’ rankings in business activity. Mark Fusaro is an economist with Arkansas Tech and compiles the business index. He says Ft. Smith’s retail sales have always been strong.

The rate of unemployment in Arkansas dropped from 6.6 percent to 6.4 percent during the month of May. It has also dropped more than a full percentage point since the same period last year, when it stood at 7.5 percent in May 2013.

While sectors like educational and health services displayed a lot of growth in May, areas like construction and manufacturing did not. UALR economist and state economic forecaster Michael Pakko says the new numbers do not reflect “unambiguously positive news.”

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is providing $2 million for a new company to locate in a former wind turbine plant in Jonesboro.

The commission said Thursday that the money will help TrinityRail Maintenance Services Inc. convert the now-closed Nordex USA wind turbine plant for its processes.

According to The Jonesboro Sun, the funding is based on TrinityRail creating up to 350 jobs for the community.

Arkansas Business

Arkansas Business released its annual survey of the 75 largest private companies in the state in this week's issue, finding improving revenues and that many companies are making expensions.

Four new companies qualified to make the list: Summerwood Partners, Ritter & Co., Douglas Cos. and ABC Financial.

The 75 largest private companies in Arkansas generated total revenue — self-reported and estimated — of $31.15 billion in their most recent fiscal years, and the price of entry to the list was $88.8 million.

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