Arkansas Economy

Arkansas lawmakers have begun talks about crafting next year's budget, with a midterm election and uncertainty about the state's finances looming.

The Arkansas Legislative Council and Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday began hearings to talk about funding for the state's agencies as lawmakers prepare for next year's legislative session. The panel planned to begin the hearings focusing on smaller boards and agencies.

Outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe's administration is set to present his balanced budget proposal to the committee on Nov. 13.

The Arkansas Community Organization has analyzed updated census data on rising poverty in the state. According to spokesman Neil Sealy, despite the end of the recession, the number of people nationally living below 200 percent of the poverty line went up by a third. In Arkansas, it went up by one half.

"It's even more dire in Arkansas, where in 2009, 18.8 percent of our population lived below the poverty line as opposed to in 2013, 19.9 percent," he said.

Clean Harbors broke ground on Tuesday for a new incineration unit in El Dorado.

Jobs Now Mike Beebe
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Finding the best ways to attract new businesses to Arkansas was the topic of a conference held Tuesday in Little Rock. 

More than 500 business leaders, educators, state lawmakers and others took part in the Jobs Now conference, looking at what is working and the challenges the state will continue to face.

Gov. Mike Beebe told them the key is having a properly trained workforce.

A lawsuit has been filed with the Arkansas Supreme Court aiming to block from the November ballot a proposal to gradually raise the state's minimum wage.

The lawsuit filed Monday asked justices to prevent the state from putting on the ballot the proposed initiated act, which would raise the state's minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Election officials earlier this month certified the measure for the ballot.

The lawsuit claims the state used the wrong deadline for accepting petitions for the measure, and also challenges the signatures submitted.

Groundbreaking Held For $1.3 BIllion Steel Mill In East Arkansas

Sep 22, 2014
Big River Steel
Johnathan Reaves / KASU News

Work is officially underway to build a $1.3 billion steel mill in east Arkansas that officials believe will provide an economic boon for the region.

"Big River Steel is here!" Mississippi County Judge Randy Carney announced to applause during Monday's groundbreaking ceremony.  

Hundreds of dignitaries, including state and local officials, joined investors, contractors, vendors, and supporters during the event near Osceola.

State officials say Arkansas' unemployment rate rose slightly in August to 6.3 percent. It's the first time the state's jobless rate has increased in 2014.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services said Friday that August's rate crept up one-tenth of a percentage point over July's.

A French aircraft cabin interior manufacturer says it's spending $2.5 million to locate a new facility in Arkansas that will initially employ 75 people.

Beaudet Aviation announced Wednesday that the new facility located adjacent to the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport will supply Dassault Falcon Jet with completion work for its Falcon models. Beaudet Aviation is a subsidiary of JCB Aero.

Dassault Falcon broke ground earlier this month on a $60 million expansion of its private jet finishing plant.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Senator John Boozman said he plans to fight back against air pollution regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Republican from Rogers spoke to the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas in Little Rock Thursday praising their influence and promising to try and halt the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon emissions in the state 44 percent by 2030.

Boozman, as he has done in the past, doubted the science behind carbon emissions and pointed to economic concerns.

Protesters in the Street
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

As part of a nationwide strike, about 50 to 100 protestors gathered outside a McDonalds in downtown Little Rock Thursday, demanding higher pay for fast-food workers. Little Rock Police say 11 of the protesters, who blocked off a portion of Broadway Street, were arrested for disorderly conduct after refusing to move back onto the sidewalk. 36-year old Twanna Scales is a divorced mother of three and works at the McDonalds on Broadway. She said the tactic of blocking traffic is meant to get people talking.