Chamber change, airport traffic, sales declines part of weekly economic review

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 68 views 

The City Wire review for the week of Jan. 5 – Jan. 9:

• The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce announced Wednesday (Jan. 7) that Sandy Sanders will serve as interim president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce effective Thursday (Jan. 8). Tom Manskey, who will step down as president of the Fort Smith chamber on Jan. 30, has been named the president of the Round Rock, Texas, Chamber of Commerce.

• Passenger enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport totaled 87,030 in 2008, down 12.2 percent from the 99,127 enplanements in 2007. The 2008 traffic total is the lowest at the airport in the past 10 years.

• The Fort Smith Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked third among all 369 U.S. metro areas based on the November 2008-November 2007 decline in the regional unemployment rate. According to a recent report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the Fort Smith metro area (LeFlore and Sequoyah counties in Oklahoma and Crawford, Franklin and Sebastian counties in Arkansas) declined from 5.3% in November 2007 to 5.2% in November 2008.

• Leland Tollett, a former chairman and CEO of Tyson Foods and close associate of majority Tyson shareholder Don Tyson, is replacing Dick Bond as president and CEO of Tyson Foods, the company announced Monday (Jan. 5) morning. The Springdale-based meat company said in a statement that Tollett would serve in the top post until a successor is selected.

• The $28.1 billion sale of Little Rock-based Alltel to Verizon Wireless is now a closed deal, with Verizon transferring $5.9 billion to Alltel’s private owners and assuming $22.2 billion in debt. The transaction was finalized Jan. 9.

• Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc. announced Monday (Jan. 5) it will build a $140 million manufacturing plant in North Little Rock that could employ 600 when at full production. The plant — to be located at the former Deluxe Video building and property in North Little Rock — will be the North American headquarters for Caterpillar and produce motor graders used for mining purposes.

• A Monday (Jan. 5) report from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration showed that December net available general revenues were $399 million, $16.3 million, or down 3.9%, below last year. However, the collections were $23.8 million, or 6.3%, above forecast. Year-to-date net available general revenues totaled $2.28 billion, 3.4 percent above the same period in 2007, and 1.5 percent higher than the forecast.

• The Labor Department reported Friday (Jan. 9) that the U.S. shed 2.589 million jobs in 2008, with the unemployment rate climbing more than economists forecast, to a 15-year high of 7.2 percent in December. The economy created more than 1.1 million jobs in 2007.

• The Labor Department report showed factory payrolls declined by 149,000, the biggest drop since August 2001. Economists had forecast a drop of 100,000. The decrease included a loss of 21,400 jobs in auto and parts industries. Manufacturing, which makes up 12 percent of the economy, shrank in December at the fastest pace in 28 years, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

• Wal-Mart Stores and many other retailers cut earnings forecasts after the worst holiday shopping season in 40 years. Wal-Mart said fourth-quarter earnings will be at most 94 cents a share, down from a November projection of as much as $1.07. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 1.7 percent last month, missing the 2.7 percent average of analysts estimates.

• U.S. December same store sales dropped 1.7 percent, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The trade group said sales declined 2.2 percent in the last two months of the year, the biggest drop since it started tracking the data in 1969.

• Consumer borrowing dropped by a record $7.9 billion in November. Industry experts said consumers, concerned about the future of the economy, are attempting to build savings. The slump brought consumer credit down to $2.57 trillion, and capped the first back-to-back monthly decline since 1992, based on data from the Federal Reserve.