Arkansas Economy

U.S. Senator John Boozman in the Republican Party of Arkansas headquarters.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman is lauding the president’s historic visit to Cuba but says the U.S. shouldn’t be more critical of human rights issues there than it is with other trade partners.

A company that produces steel cord for the tire industry is expanding its manufacturing plant in northwestern Arkansas, a project the company says will add more than 100 new jobs.

Bekaert on Wednesday announced it is expanding its Rogers plant due to growing demand from tire manufacturers around the country. The expansion will add an additional 50 percent production capacity to the plant, which opened in 1989.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Rogers Mayor Greg Hines and Bekaert Chief Executive Officer Matthew Taylor announced the expansion in Rogers.

Office of the Governor

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration is introducing two separate pieces of legislation in the upcoming special session: one that will create his program for continuing the private option, which he is calling Arkansas Works, and one he is calling a “savings bill” that includes a managed care provision and a managed care “bill of rights.”

Hutchinson made the comments Tuesday speaking to a town hall meeting – his first as governor – at Central Baptist College in Conway.

Former US Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk talking with attendees of a luncheon at Philander Smith College in Little Rock.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A former US Trade Ambassador for the Obama administration touted the Trans-Pacific Partnership to a Little Rock audience on Tuesday. Ron Kirk, who served on the President’s cabinet from 2009 to 2013, told those gathered at a luncheon event at Philander Smith College that the trade agreement between 12 Pacific-rim nations will be an economic boon for the state and the nation.

Revised federal data show that Benton County’s per capita personal income in 2014 was 149.3% of the national average, and only seven other counties in a 12–state southeast U.S. region had a higher percentage. The new numbers also show Arkansas was 82% of the U.S. average in 2014, down from an historic high of 82.2% in 2013.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) discussing changes to eligibility verification for Medicaid in the Governor's Conference Room at the Capitol in early August.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Details on a $10.5 million economic development project in Jonesboro will be announced Wednesday, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson set to take part in the “Project Timesquare” reveal.

Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the announcement will be made at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center Hames Room.

However, the process on the project begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday when the Jonesboro Metropolitan Area Planning Commission reviews a site plan for the project.

Arkansas’ job market got off to a strong start in 2016 as the state’s jobless rate fell three percentage points in January as more than 6,000 workers were added to the state’s growing labor pool, according to the figures released Monday by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Gov.'s Radio Column: The Budget

Mar 12, 2016
Governor Asa Hutchinson radio address
Office of the Governor

The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of March 11, 2016:

This has been a busy week. I detailed my balanced budget for next year to the Arkansas Legislature. Many areas of the budget will remain the same as last year. In fact, most budget items will be funded at the same level.

Arkansas Chamber of Commerce Chair Randy Zook with Gov. Asa Hutchinson sitting behind him.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Arkansas Chamber of Commerce and state economic officials are rolling out a private-public partnership branded as “Be Pro. Be Proud” designed to entice young people to enter technical fields and become skilled laborers.

At the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock on Tuesday, chamber Chair Randy Zook said learning a trade such as welding or plumbing ought to be considered in the same regard as pursuing a four-year college degree.

Arkansas Hospital and Pharmacist Associations are voicing opposition to increasing managed care in Arkansas, in advance of legislators’ vote on a range of Medicaid reforms expected Monday.

The associations say polling of Arkansas voters shows opposition to contracting with managed care companies, which claim to reduce costs and determine healthcare programs for patients. 

Brad Chism, of Chism Strategies, said likely voters responded negatively to managed care across ethnic and partisan lines. Surveyors spoke to 453 respondents.