The Friday Wire: Worried consumers and female governors

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 78 views 

Notes of success at Crystal Bridges Museum, a ‘pipeline’ for females to be elected governor, and a retail fight in Kenya are part of the Northwest Arkansas Friday Wire for Nov. 15.

• The worried consumer
Wal-Mart Stores on Thursday reported quarterly income of $3.738 billion, up 2.8% overall, but same store comps in the U.S. were down 0.3%.

Wal-Mart President and CEO Mike Duke said consumers remain wary about the economic outlook and concerned about their job. Wal-Mart results are typically seen a barometer for the overall national economy given the retailer’s size and geographic reach across the U.S.

Duke’s not an economist, but it’s not unreasonable to think he has as good a grasp on economic conditions a a gathering of Federal Reserve governors. If he says consumers are worried, they are.

• Crystal clear
More than one million visits have been logged at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, and the complex has had a remarkable string of successes and accomplishments in its first two years.

The museum, opened on Nov. 11, 2011 (11-11-11), had 560,165 visits in 2012 for an average of 1,530 a day. Between Jan. 1, 2013 and Nov. 4, the museum had 443,665 visits for an average of 1,440.

To mark the second anniversary of the museum, Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi announced a “State of the Art” initiative that will debut at the museum on Sept. 13, 2014, and be on display until Jan. 5, 2015.

One doesn’t need a crystal ball to know that Crystal Bridges will continue to be a unique, educational and economically valuable asset to all of Arkansas. Kudos to all those who make the place work.

Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it …

• 'Pipeline' needed for female Arkansas Governor
Having a female name on the door of the Arkansas Governor’s office in the State Capitol is just a matter of finding the right candidate, says Gov. Mike Beebe. But two women who watch Arkansas politics say women face culture obstacles and a “pipeline problem” with respect to being elected to the state’s top office.

• Changing retail trends
Retail’s landscape over the next five years, powered by such trends as smart phones, sweeping demographic shifts, and radically transformed consumer expectation, could be Kryptonite for brick-and-mortar stores, creating more painful change than in the last century.

• Here we go again
The fight over the Affordable Care Act is not over. At least according to U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle.

20,000+: Number of veterans hired by Wal-Mart Stores following a Memorial Day announcement that the company would hire at least 100,000 veterans in the next five years.

564: Number of homes in Arkansas in a foreclosure process during October. The number was up 4.5% compared to October 2012.

8%: Estimated amount of total e-commerce retail sales in the U.S.

121,000: Number of visitors to the Norman Rockwell exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

• Small Business and ObamaCare
One of President Obama's proudest boasts about the Affordable Care Act is that it helps small business. The White House website says the health law "makes it easier for businesses to find better coverage options" and "stops insurance companies from taking advantage of you, giving the consumer and business owner more control and making health-care coverage more affordable." Small businesses aren't buying it.

• The Wal-Mart fight in Kenya
In Africa, foreign investors beware: business is often a family affair. Just ask Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer. When it sought a foothold in east Africa, it sparked a family feud in one of its acquisition targets, Kenya's Naivas supermarket chain.

• Good growth in Arkansas?
Meredith Whitney, the Wall Street analyst who forecast a flood of U.S. municipal-bond defaults in 2010 that hasn’t materialized, predicts that growth in states such as Arkansas and South Dakota will be twice the national average, according to the presentation. Those states have one-third less consumer leverage, lower taxes, right-to-work laws and high commodity exposure, the presentation shows.

“The best we’ve been able to determine looking at this program and similar programs across the country, somewhere between 25% and 30% of the value of the tax credits make it to the end-project company. That means 70% of the value of the tax credit is going someplace else. Where? I’m not sure anyone is completely sure."
– Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, addressing concerns about the New Markets Tax Credits passed by the Arkansas General Assembly during the 2013 legislative session

“Arkansas has never elected a female to hold a Constitutional office that the office is not considered a traditional female role, such as Attorney General or Lieutenant Governor. Such an office could vault them into the office of Governor during a non-incumbent year. Such was the case in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.”
– Megan Tollett, executive director of the Republican Party of Arkansas, when asked why Arkansas has not yet had a woman elected governor

“I received a note from a fifth-grade student from Fort Smith, (Ark.), named Stephanie, who wrote after her visit to the Museum, ‘Before, I looked at art as just something someone painted on a canvas. But now I look at it as something someone put their feelings into and made it from their heart,’ I want everyone to see contemporary art through the eyes of the artists. That’s why we’re doing this.” 
– Alice Walton, about a new exhibit planned for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art