Talk Business & Politics Talk Business & Politics 2017-10-21T03:21:31Z https://talkbusiness.net/feed/atom/ Wesley Brown <![CDATA[Arkansas jobless rate holds steady at 3.5%, employment sets new record]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108867 2017-10-21T03:21:31Z 2017-10-20T19:56:56Z

Arkansas’ unemployment rate held steady at 3.5% for the second straight month as the state’s civilian labor pool closes in on levels not seen in nearly a decade. According to...

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Arkansas’ unemployment rate held steady at 3.5% for the second straight month as the state’s civilian labor pool closes in on levels not seen in nearly a decade.

According to labor force data produced by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (DWS), Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained at 3.5%, just off the record low of 3.4% touched in May, June and July. Arkansas’ civilian labor force added 1,435 workers, a result of 938 additional employed and 497 more unemployed Arkansans. The state’s brimming labor pool now has a total of 1,379,592 workers, up from 1,378,157 in August and a strong 38,100 from 1,341,157 laborers a year ago.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate remained stable at 3.5% in September,” said Susan Price, Arkansas’ BLS Program operations manager. “While the number of employed Arkansans increased slightly from last month, there are 43,387 more employed than in September 2016.”

In August, a record 1,329,979 people were employed in Arkansas, beating the previous record of 1,327,941 in July of this year. That number has now reached a total of 1,330,925 employed, setting another all-time high. The Arkansas civilian labor pool, which includes employed workers and the 48,667 unemployed workers, is just off the all-time record of 1,396,451 reached in November 2008.

Following big job announcements in Northwest Arkansas and the Little Rock metro area, Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this month attributed the record number of employed workers across the state to private sector confidence in the economy. He said, in addition to the state’s successful efforts to recruit industry, there is a growing appreciation nationally of the state’s strong workforce and natural resources.

“Our aggressive recruiting nationally and around the world is paying off as more and more industries expand or relocate to Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “From our computer science initiative to the state’s strong workforce, companies are taking notice. While there’s always more work to be done, these statistics are a good indication that Arkansas’s economy continues to trend in the right direction, and—more importantly—that Arkansans are finding work.”

Nationally, the U.S. unemployment rate declined two-tenths of a percentage point between months to 4.2% and was 0.7% lower than in September 2016. North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate in September at 2.4%, closely followed by Colorado and Hawaii at 2.5%. Alaska had the nation’s highest jobless rate at 7.2%.

Nonfarm payroll employment decreased in six states in September 2017, increased in five states, and was essentially unchanged in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 28 states added nonfarm payroll jobs and 22 states and the District were essentially unchanged.

In Arkansas, nonfarm payroll jobs rose by 15,500 in September to 1,258,300. Six major industry sectors posted declines, while four sectors added jobs. The largest increase occurred in government jobs at 12,400, while new positions in educational and health services rose 3,100. The state’s vibrant leisure and hospitality sector, which closed out the summer vacation season on Labor Day, posted the greatest decline at 4,000.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector – Arkansas’ largest job sector – now totals 253,500, down from 255,500 in August but still 1,300 above year ago levels. Jobs in the red-hot education and health services sector rose by a healthy 3,100 month-to-month to 190,600 in September. That total set another record for the sector, which has added 5,300 new positions over the past 12 months.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector continued to rebound in 2017, adding 1,300 new workers to reach 160,200. That tally is well ahead of year ago totals of 155,500 as the state’s nondurable goods sector that produces fast-moving consumer perishables such as cosmetics, cleaning products, food, condiments, fuel, beer, cigarettes, tobacco and medicine added 4,700 jobs in the past year. The sector saw peak employment more than 20 years ago when employment topped out at 247,300 in February 1995.

As noted, Arkansas’ leisure and hospitality sector declined by 4,000 to 119,200 as the tourist destinations across the state mothballed some of their seasonal facilities. The tourism and food service industries still have added 1,700 jobs in the past year, up from 117,500 a year ago.

Hiring in the construction trade rose by 1,100 to 53,400 in September, well above year ago levels of 51,300. The state’s mining and logging sector, which includes jobs in the oil and gas industry, remained flat for the second straight month at 6,100 positions in September, slightly below a year ago.

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Wesley Brown <![CDATA[Simmons First completes acquisitions of Oklahoma, Texas banks, assets now top $14 billion]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108865 2017-10-21T03:12:50Z 2017-10-20T19:06:08Z

Simmons First National Corp. has completed the acquisitions of two similarly named community banks in Oklahoma and Texas that will push the Pine Bluff banking group’s total deposits and assets...

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Simmons First National Corp. has completed the acquisitions of two similarly named community banks in Oklahoma and Texas that will push the Pine Bluff banking group’s total deposits and assets well above the $10 billion, a key milestone in the Arkansas bank’s zenith growth.

Bank officials made the announcement Friday (Oct. 20).

With the completion of the previously announced acquisitions of Stillwater, Okla.-based Southwest Bancorp Inc. and parent company Bank SNB, and First Texas BHC Inc., or Southwest Bank for Fort Worth, Simmons has moved well beyond its $10 billion asset goal, an industry benchmark established by the Dodd-Frank Act as the regulatory baseline between super-community banks and larger regional banking groups.

The Arkansas regional bank first announced a definitive agreement to acquire Oklahoma’s Southwest Bancorp Inc. in December 2016, followed a month later by a slightly smaller $462 million deal to purchase First Texas in January 2017.  Shareholders of Simmons, Southwest Bancorp and First Texas each approved the transactions earlier this month.

“Today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Simmons,” George Makris, Jr., Simmons’ Chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “With the closing of these transactions, Simmons has now expanded its reach into three new banking markets – Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado – and strengthened its franchise in Kansas. We are pleased to welcome all of the Bank SNB and Southwest Bank customers and associates to the Simmons family. We have always believed that our unwavering commitment to excellent customer service is what sets us apart, and I have no doubt that our new partners share that same conviction.”

Simmons officials said the Arkansas bank will have more than $14 billion in assets, nearly $10.4 billion in loans, and $11.2 billion in deposits across a seven-state footprint that includes Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

Southwest Bancorp (Bank SNB) and Southwest Bank will continue operations as separate bank subsidiaries of Simmons for an interim period until they are merged into Simmons Bank. Simmons said it plans on maintaining both Southwest brands in their respective markets in Oklahoma and Texas.

“These are both long-awaited transactions, and we could not be happier about the opportunities both banks bring with them,” said Simmons First President Marty Casteel. “Both Bank SNB and Southwest Bank customers can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to ensure a seamless transition. In the meantime, customers should continue their banking practices as usual.”

According to earlier details of the two deals, Marke Funke, president and CEO of Southwest Bancorp in Oklahoma, is expected to continue as the new head of the Southwest Division of Simmons Bank, where he will oversee the Pine Bluff’s banking group’s operations in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Kansas. It is not known if Vernon Bryant, a longtime Texas banker and First Texas chairman and CEO, will stay with Simmons once the deal is completed.

In an unusual move, Simmons plans to release its third quarter 2017 earnings at 5 p.m. on Sunday (Oct. 22), well ahead of Monday’s opening bell. In Friday’s midday session, Simmons shares (NASDAQ: SFNC) were up 30 cents at $59.85.

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Talk Business & Politics staff <![CDATA[Arkansas to receive $1.4 million in General Motors settlement]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108861 2017-10-20T02:49:14Z 2017-10-20T02:49:14Z Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has reached a $120 million settlement, along with 48 other states and the District of Columbia, with General Motors Company over allegations that the company...

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Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has reached a $120 million settlement, along with 48 other states and the District of Columbia, with General Motors Company over allegations that the company concealed safety issues related to ignition switch defects in GM vehicles. Arkansas will receive over $1.4 million.

The settlement concludes an investigation into the auto manufacturer’s failure to timely disclose known safety defects associated with unintended key-rotation-related and/or ignition-switch-related issues in several model years of GM vehicles.

Under the consent judgment, GM shall:

  • Not represent that a motor vehicle is “safe” unless they have complied with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards applicable to the motor vehicle at issue.
  • Not represent that certified pre-owned vehicles that GM advertises are safe, have been repaired for safety issues, or have been subject to rigorous inspection, unless such vehicles are not subject to any open recalls relating to safety or have been repaired pursuant to such a recall.
  • Instruct its dealers that all applicable recall repairs must be completed before any GM motor vehicle sold in the U.S. and included in a recall is eligible for certification and, if there is a recall on any certified pre-owned vehicle sold in the U.S., the required repair must be completed before the vehicle is delivered to a customer.

“GM’s failure to notify consumers of these ignition-switch issues is not only deceptive but dangerous,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This inexcusable action placed the safety of Arkansans driving these flawed vehicles at risk as well as other drivers on the road. GM is being held accountable for these violations of many consumer protection laws.”

In 2014, GM issued seven vehicle recalls in response to unintended key-rotation-related and/or ignition-switch-related issues, which have affected over 9 million vehicles in the U.S. The recalls involved a defective ignition switch which, under certain conditions, could move out of the “run” position to the “accessory” or “off” position. Resulting in a loss of electrical systems, including power steering and power brakes.

If a collision occurs while the ignition switch is in the “accessory” or “off” position, the vehicle’s safety airbags may also fail to deploy, increasing the risk of serious injury or death in certain types of crashes in which the airbag was otherwise designed to deploy.

Despite knowledge of the defect, GM personnel decided it was not a safety concern and delayed issuing recalls. GM continued to market the reliability and safety of its vehicles which were equipped with this defective ignition switch.

The states alleged that these actions were unfair and deceptive and that the automaker’s actions violated state consumer protection laws, including the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

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George Jared <![CDATA[Arkansas State University Convocation Center receives a new name]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108858 2017-10-20T01:07:42Z 2017-10-20T01:04:12Z

For more than 30 years, the Arkansas State University Convocation Center has been a center for athletic competitions, concerts and business exhibitions in Northeast Arkansas. It became an arena on...

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For more than 30 years, the Arkansas State University Convocation Center has been a center for athletic competitions, concerts and business exhibitions in Northeast Arkansas. It became an arena on Thursday afternoon.

The facility has been renamed the First National Bank Arena after the banking company agreed to pay the Red Wolves Foundation $5 million during the next 12 years for the naming rights.

The ASU Board of Trustees unanimously approved the contract during a special meeting held inside the Convocation Center on Thursday afternoon. The money will be used to help offset needs in the athletic department, ASU Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir told Talk Business & Politics. Facility improvements, equipment upgrades, help with student-athlete academic programs, and other expenses, will be paid with these funds, he said. Each year the priority could be different, and the payments uses will be flexible.

“This naming rights partnership is a great testament to the students, faculty and staff who represent our university,” he said. “The fact that a strong business leader in our region chose to co-brand with our university speaks volumes about our emerging brand. We will continue to find creative ways to host exciting events in the First National Bank Arena in order to serve Northeast Arkansas and the region.”

The agreement will begin in January and will continue through Dec. 31, 2029. First National will pay $500,000 per year through 2027. The bank company will hold the first right of refusal once the agreement expires, according to the contract. If ASU builds a new arena, the naming rights will be transferred to that facility. While the agreement designates certain areas for competitor bank advertisements within the arena, First National will be allowed to use the Red Wolves brand in advertising campaigns.

First National Bank Vice-Chairman Will Brewer said he was pleased with the new partnership.

“First National Bank has always been committed to supporting the communities we serve, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than partnering with Arkansas State University,” he said.

The 207,507-square-foot facility was first opened in May 1987. It’s first athletic contest was a college volleyball game between ASU and Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 28, 1987. The arena has a 10,563 seating capacity for athletic events and up to 11,704 for concerts. It’s never had a commercially branded name.

First National Bank was founded in 1889, and has 14 locations throughout Arkansas. It has $1.3 billion in total assets. It’s among the 5% of all banks nationwide to receive a five-star rating from Bauer Financial. It has held this rating for 27 straight years.

“Like the Convocation Center itself, First National Bank has been a major presence in our region for many years and so it’s only fitting that our magnificent facility bear the First National name,” ASU System President Chuck Welch said.

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Aric Mitchell <![CDATA[Future School of Fort Smith speed networking event doubles participants in year two]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108855 2017-10-20T00:00:15Z 2017-10-20T00:00:15Z

The second annual speed networking event hosted by Future School of Fort Smith doubled in participation from local organizations and businesses for year two, and according to April Oden, the...

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The second annual speed networking event hosted by Future School of Fort Smith doubled in participation from local organizations and businesses for year two, and according to April Oden, the school’s internship coordinator, “I think the difference is our kids.”

Oden told Talk Business & Politics that over the last year, students have been “getting out in the community, and people are believing in us more and more.”

“I think our community is more concerned about the future, and they’re investing more in our students, and that’s a really, really good thing,” Oden said, adding the Future School name “probably has more recognition this year, and that has a lot to do with it, too.”

For year one, tenth graders at the newly formed charter met with representatives from 17 area businesses. On Thursday (Oct. 19), the number had risen to 35 with representatives from a mix of public entities and small businesses. Participants included the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, United States Army, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS), Peachtree Hospice, and Williams, Weldon, & Lick, to name a few.

If it’s anything like last year, the events will lead to internships that allow students to test and expand their interests, Oden said, adding the internship program has given students the chance to build websites, design magazine covers, and even provide dispatch support for law enforcement.

“We had a girl in the NICU, and she would take care of the babies. She ended up putting together two 100-page journals from what the doctor would tell her to look up and study. They’ve also done hospice and palliative care, and they’ve actually been at the bedside when someone had passed,” Oden said.

She continued: “The things these kids have learned and how they’ve progressed – even our new teachers will say there is an obvious distinct difference from the tenth graders to the eleventh graders because of the way we did our program last year.”

For Thursday’s event, the 150 students attending Future School were divided into four groups and ushered into the school’s gymnasium. They were given three minutes to have a dialogue with a business representative who would provide a business card for future follow-up. At the end of the three minutes, students would rotate to a new table and the timer would reset.

Antania, a student at Future School, credited the event with helping her develop “really good questions” to ask area businesses as she went along.

“The first time through I was a little nervous, but it was something I was interested in, so I was comfortable asking questions,” she told Talk Business & Politics, adding that by the third time through, “it was easy. I had some really good questions, they gave some really good answers, and I was totally comfortable.”

Antania secured her internship with a local photography studio several weeks ago, stating she was “not quite sure I’d be interested in it, but after talking to (the owner) and seeing different challenges that she went through, I thought, ‘I could see myself doing this 10 years down the road.'” Antania is now working on a photography project that will exhibit at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum. Arvest Bank will house the installation at one of their local branches once the museum exhibit is over.

Oden said the goal of the internship program is to help students build a toolbox of transferable skills, and with this being the second year, “this will be the first time they switch over, and it’s really nice because if they didn’t like the first internship and realized, ‘Oh I don’t want to be a nurse,’ now they don’t have to be a nurse.”

Oden continued: “There is nothing tying them down, and they don’t have to spend money on a degree program to figure that out. So now they can say, ‘I want to be a game designer.’ They’re getting to feel around and discover things with a mentor who’s hands-on and will actually work with them. Their interests change so much. One week they want to be in cosmetology, and the next week they want to be a fashion designer, and then they want to be a nurse. That’s the great thing about being a kid. You can change your mind. And then if you have people to support you and mentor you along the way, that’s a no-fail.”

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Aric Mitchell <![CDATA[Fort Smith official: Meter replacements will cost $7 million over a phase-in period of two years]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108853 2017-10-19T22:39:02Z 2017-10-19T22:39:02Z

Fort Smith Utilities Director Jerry Walters expects the city’s water meter replacement program to be phased in over a two-year period at a cost of $7 million. To date, Walters...

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Fort Smith Utilities Director Jerry Walters expects the city’s water meter replacement program to be phased in over a two-year period at a cost of $7 million. To date, Walters said, the city has replaced approximately 1,700 (5%) of the meter population.

In total, the city services 36,589 meters. From these, roughly 16,800 have exceeded their normal life expectancy (45.91%) with 9,500 of those (25.96% of the total) more than 20 years old.

“When we are done, meter readers will no longer have to walk their route and read each meter individually,” Walters told Talk Business & Politics in a recent interview, adding new meters “will be read by an electronic receiver carried in a vehicle,” thus “significantly” reducing the number of errors and re-reads.

In January, the city began using new meters for all replacements. With recent approval from the Board of Directors, the utilities department will replace water lines and meter boxes, Walters said.

“As this project progresses, we will follow along behind the contractor and replace the meter. I anticipate that most of the meters will be replaced by in-house staff, which should be a cost savings over replacing the meters with a contractor.”

Walters said the city will provide advanced notice to customers before work begins in their neighborhood “primarily by door hangers,” adding it plans to “publish articles to tell people what and why we are doing this effort.”

“I anticipate the notification will give a time frame for when the work will be done,” Walters explained, though he did not have particulars as to how far in advance those notifications would be. “Assuming the work stays on schedule, the work will be completed at the end time included in the notification. If issues are found with any particular meter, the homeowner will be individually contacted.”

Walters reiterated that the meter changes are not a water rate increase being charged to the customer though “Some people will see their water bill go up, some won’t change, and others may go down.”

Approximately one in four water customers in the city of Fort Smith could see an average increase of 21.3% on their water bills as a result. Walters said following an Oct. 10 study session he expects the largest increases to be on the aforementioned 9,500 meters that have exceeded 20 years in operation, some of which were not giving a reading at all for the amount of water they were using. The additional 7,300 that have outlived the recommended 10 years (19.95% of the city’s total metered population) will likely see smaller increases, but Walters acknowledged he would not know for certain whether the meter replacement schedule will result in that overall 21.3% revenue increase until he finishes measuring data over the next year.

When asked if the city would consider a phase-in period to avoid sticker shock, Walters said that would be a consideration city administration would have to decide. Considering it’s budget-related, it would also have to be approved by the Board of Directors.

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Kim Souza <![CDATA[Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center officials, donors break ground on new facility]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108844 2017-10-19T19:41:44Z 2017-10-19T19:23:36Z

A 44,000-square-foot children’s enrichment daycare center located adjacent to the Scott Family Amazeum along J Street near the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will soon be a reality. The...

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A 44,000-square-foot children’s enrichment daycare center located adjacent to the Scott Family Amazeum along J Street near the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will soon be a reality. The project goal was $14.3 million and with 94% of that amount raised, ground was ceremonially broken for the new Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center Thursday (Oct. 19).

The new center is expected to be complete in early 2019.

Kyle Peterson, executive director for the Walton Family Foundation, said it was fitting to break ground on the future site of a center that will bridge creativity, culture and education in one unit on what is also the Walton Family Foundation’s 30th birthday. Peterson said three decades ago, Helen Walton brought business and community leaders together to talk about what could be done to ensure children’s educational needs are being being met before they begin kindergarten.

“She [Helen] listened to what the community needed, put together a board of directors and provided seed money for what you see today. She saw a connection that if you could provide learning early it would pay off in the years ahead in education. This groundbreaking is important to the foundation and it’s a symbol that represents a bold step forward while always listening to the needs of the people in this community and providing for the children who are our future,” he said.

Julie McKenzie, CEO of Welspun Group, formerly with Nickelodeon, also spoke at the event, saying she was fortunate enough to get her young son into the Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center when her husband was recruited to Northwest Arkansas more two decades ago to work for Wal-Mart Stores. McKenzie said she was fortunate enough to be able to tour 10 of the country’s top children’s care facilities with Walton, who insisted that the local center benchmark against the best of the best.

The new center is roughly 13,000 square feet larger than the present facility, which will enable the center to train other daycare professionals on site, said spokeswoman Sunny Lane. She said the center’s enrollment will remain constant at 240 children and there is a long waiting list for entry, which is why the additional space was added. She said being able to provide training to the other 500 early childhood programs in the region is the best way to export the Bentonville center’s expertise.

John Furner, CEO of Sam’s Club, also spoke at the event, saying the need for quality childcare has never been greater as 70% of women with children under five years old are working. He said centers like the Walton center ensure women with young children can stay in the workforce which is important to him as an employer.

“This center is just one of the ways this region is improving its education system as we have improvements in healthcare and some investments in culture which make this a great place to live,” Furner said.

Furner said children who have the right kind of early learning are three times as likely to do well in high school and more likely to get college degrees. He said early childhood education is a game changer and even a life-changer for a lot of people

“This is a great start,” he added.

Michelle Barnes, director for the children’s enrichment center, said this has been a labor of love by many who wanted to see this center grow so that an additional 32,000 children might also get a similar experience as the 240 in the Bentonville center. The training the new center will provide ensures its vision for early childhood reaches across the entire region, she said. The expanded training center will be wired for distance learning sessions and include larger collaboration rooms and a new resource center.

Julie McKenzie, CEO of Welspun Group, and John Furner, CEO of Sam’s Club

Barnes said she remembered well the day she interviewed for her job 18 years ago with Lynn Walton, Helen’s daughter-in-law who is married to Jim.

“I didn’t interview with Lynn one time, not twice, not three but four times,” Barnes shared as she said this day had unleashed a floodgate with memories flowing freely. “This is a great day because we get to take what has been on paper for two years and go vertical,” she said.

The “It Takes A Village to Raise a Child” campaign began in September 2015.

Barnes thanked several key sponsors for the project such as Walton Family and Walmart Foundations, Tyson Foods and individuals and businesses who also donated to the project. She said it was important for the board when planning the new center to not pass any of the expense on to the families in Northwest Arkansas.

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Wesley Brown <![CDATA[Little Rock city, chamber officials say ‘no’ to Amazon, unveil new economic development campaign]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108831 2017-10-20T02:50:54Z 2017-10-19T18:44:18Z

More than a month after starting a supposed courtship to land Amazon Corp.’s $5 billion H2Q headquarters, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and chamber officials told the Seattle-based ecommerce giant...

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More than a month after starting a supposed courtship to land Amazon Corp.’s $5 billion H2Q headquarters, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and chamber officials told the Seattle-based ecommerce giant “no” during the unveiling of a glitzy, new economic development marketing campaign.

During a standing-room only press conference at the downtown headquarters of the Little Rock Technology Park, Stodola and Little Rock Chamber President and CEO Jay Chesshir announced that the city was opting out of a longshot bid to land the new multibillion-dollar home-away-from-home offices for Amazon that will house 50,000 employees.

Surrounded by dozens of city and chamber officers wearing “Love, Little Rock” t-shirts, Chesshir explained that after Stodola revealed in a Facebook post in early September that Arkansas’ largest city “fits the bill” for the massive super project drawing interest from hundreds of U.S. municipalities, Little Rock city officials decided to go in another direction.

“When we began to look at what their requirements were, we recognized while we didn’t necessarily fit their (criteria), then about all the other companies out there where we do fit the requirements for, and what a great opportunity to tell the world with a brand-new branding campaign actually created over the last nine days …,” Chessir told the crowd.

IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S US
In explaining the unorthodox approach, Chesshir said the new campaign launch is intended to attract new businesses that are “not Amazon,” by encouraging local residents to become Little Rock ambassadors by sharing their pride online and social media using the #LoveLittleRock hashtag.

Besides the t-shirts and Twitter hashtags, Chesshir said the city will also use “guerilla” marketing techniques to spread the city’s unique anti-Amazon message, including purchasing a full-page ad in Thursday’s edition of The Washington Post with a letter from the mayor that says, “Hey Amazon, it’s not you, it’s us.” The Little Rock Chamber chief executive said those plans also included flying an aerial banner today over Amazon’s mammoth downtown headquarters in Seattle.

“What we hope, and what we’re already seeing in the ad in the paper this morning is that the text, quotes, emails and the tweets, all of those things that we’re after … what we are hearing from around the country and the world – is ‘brilliant.’ What an amazing response to an ad that talks about what a great city Little Rock is,” Chesshir said to loud applause.

The chamber-led marketing campaign also includes an outdoor messaging campaign supported by local businesses that will post the “Love, Little Rock” tagline on its company marquees and donated billboard space, along with similar free messaging at the Bill and Hillary National Airport.

However, not lost on anyone attending the campaign launch was the fact that The Washington Post is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and the fact Mayor Stodola has been a vocal critic of the Arkansas General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation for not supporting a so-called “Amazon tax” that would allow the state’s largest city to capture sales tax revenue from local Internet sales.

Allowing Chesshir to cheerlead the city’s new marketing campaign and promotions, Stodola later explained why he decided not to put the city’s hat in the ring for the massive super project whose deadline ended today.

“Every economic development consultant in the country pulled their hair out, saying ‘what in the world is Amazon doing?’ And every mayor in the entire country also got alerted and excited about the idea of how they were going to compete. We know, and I don’t know many cities, 150 or so, are hocking everything that they own to try suggest to Amazon that they are the place they should locate.”

Last month, Stodola also made the case that Little Rock’s central location and fast-growing knowledge-based talent pool makes the state’s largest metropolitan area (MSA) a strong match for the tech giant’s sizable employee needs.

“Our local and regional talent in software and related fields is strong and getting stronger. Amazon is particularly interested in entrepreneurs who are seizing the opportunity of the digital economy,” Stodola said in a statement, citing the city’s growing tech-oriented downtown hub. “The city has shown leadership in other areas Amazon values including sustainability and a push for ‘smart cities.’”

NO COMMENT ON CAMPAIGN COST
Despite his quick announcement to compete of the project, at Thursday’s press conference, Stodola admitted that Little Rock fell short of meeting most of the requirements of Amazon’s RFP.

“We (thought) about this ultimately in terms of our desire to compete. And this is what it is ultimately about, competing and letting the rest of the world know what a great place Little Rock is, and that the people who come here truly do love Little Rock …,” the mayor said.

After the press conference, Chesshir and Stodola would not divulge how much the city had spent on the colorful marketing campaign. When quizzed about the cost of the full-page Washington Post ad, which could cost as much as $80,000 according to the newspaper’s ad rate sheet, Chesshir said local chamber officials were able to purchase the page at a slightly cheaper rate.

A rate card from The Washington Post shows that a full page, black & white ad on a weekday would cost around $137,000 and around $192,000 on a Sunday. With color, the weekday cost rises to $1.614 million and the Sunday rate is $1.994 million. A full page black & white ad in just the financial section would be $80,491.76 on a weekday and $110,287.06 on a Sunday.

Chesshir and Stodola said the “Love, Little Rock” campaign launch will be a part of an economic development pitch the city will use in future job recruiting efforts, backed by private funds from the Chamber. Millie Ward, president of Little Rock advertising firm Stone Ward, said her agency has been engaged to lead the city’s new marketing campaign.

Two years ago, a Pulaski County Circuit Judge ordered the cities of North Little Rock and Little Rock to stop making payments to local chambers of commerce because the practice violated the state constitution. During the November 2016 election, Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment that allows local municipalities to enter into contracts with local chambers or other private groups to fund economic development projects. Earlier this year, the Little Rock board of directors awarded $300,000 to the local chamber for such efforts.

AMAZON RFP ENDS TODAY (Oct. 19)
According to Amazon’s RFP, the Silicon Valley corporate giant has a preference for urban areas with more than one million people, a stable and business-friendly environment; urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent, and communities that “think big and creatively” when considering locations and real estate options.

Other core requirements for Amazon’s “ideal site” include at least 30 buildings with more than 500,000 square feet of office space through 2019, and an additional 8 million square feet of office space through 2027. The H2Q offices must also be located near an international airport and have direct access to mass transit. The Little Rock airport is not an international airport.

Amazon said it plans to make a total investment of $5 billion over the first 15 to 17 years of project, increasing spending in three different phases until the publicly-traded tech giant has acquired up to 8 million square feet of office space to house its corporate campus and surrounding infrastructure. Amazon said the 50,000 new full-time employees it plans to hire will have an average compensation exceeding $100,000 a year.

Besides Little Rock’s anti-Amazon campaign, more than 150 municipalities and states submitted proposals to land the company’s H2Q headquarters. Proposals ranged from a package offered by New Jersey that offers nearly $7 billion in incentives to a bid by the city council of Stonecrest, Ga., that offers to change its name to Amazon, Ga., and give the company 345 acres of free land if the ecommerce company selects the Atlanta suburb for its next headquarters.

Credit ratings and research company Moody’s has ranked Austin as the most likely city to win based on its labor pool, costs of doing business and quality of life, among other criteria. Amazon is the fastest e-commerce company in U.S. history to reach $100 billion in net sales, topping out at nearly $136 billion in 2016 at an annual growth of 28% in the past decade.

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Tusk to Tail <![CDATA[Tusk to Tail: Tennessee and Arkansas may face off in Dumpster Fire Bowl, and other predictions]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108834 2017-10-19T18:49:52Z 2017-10-19T18:25:36Z

The new Razorback gameday procedure is this: Enjoy the tailgate, eat, drink, pray for a Hog win, drink, eat, drink so more, pray, eat, drink, watch the game, cuss, cuss...

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The new Razorback gameday procedure is this: Enjoy the tailgate, eat, drink, pray for a Hog win, drink, eat, drink so more, pray, eat, drink, watch the game, cuss, cuss some more after the first play, drink, cuss, drink, pray, drink, tear down the tailgate, and on the ride home remind yourself of the line between being a devoted fan and insanity.

THE QUESTION
Bret Bielema is the only active head coach with a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last 11 seasons. Who will lead the team in rushing this year, and will he cross the 1,000 yard mark?

Dale Cullins
Our three leading rushers aren’t even sniffing 500 yards midway through the season. With the O-Line playing poorly, and even considering that the schedule does ease up a bit in toughness, I see that streak coming to an end. No one on this team will get 1,000 yards in 2017.

Jeff Laman
It would be easy to lay all of this on the offensive line challenges, but an aspect of this stems from the fact that we have a 3-headed attack and not one of them seems to be featured consistently. I like all of them and wish we had a situation similar to a few years ago where Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Devwah Whaley somehow ends up as the leading rusher when the season ends, but unless one of these guys has a performance similar to DMac’s against South Carolina, it seems unlikely that Bret’s streak will stretch to a 12th season.

THE GAMES
• #21 Auburn @ Arkansas
Mark Wagner
The Hogs open as a 15-point underdog at home. Does that tell everyone how the season has been going? I think Cole Kelley and the offense will be able to put some points on the board this week. The problem is that it won’t be enough. Auburn’s run game has been very good all season, and the Razorbacks defense hasn’t really stopped anyone. The best chance for the Hogs is if the Auburn QB Stidham plays like he did in the second half against LSU. I think Auburn comes out swinging and gets a couple of quick scores on the Hogs. My beloved Razorbacks come back and even manage to take the lead, but won’t be able to hold on at the end. Auburn 35, Arkansas 27. Lord I hope I’m wrong on this.

John Scott
I am a Gus Malzahn fan, and a Tim Horton fan (Auburn staff) and his entire family. I am baffled by Arkansans who have an ax to grind with Gus. He has succeeded everywhere he has been, and I am confident if he had been at the helm here the past 5 seasons the Razorbacks’ conference record would be a lot closer to 25-10 than 10-25.

With that editorial behind me, I think this game will look more like our Texas A&M game than the Alabama game. Problem is, Auburn has a good defense. The Tigers seem to have slowed down the hurry up no huddle offense that Coach B. once decried “unsafe,” even invoking the words “death certificates” as the reason he opposed it. Staring the death of their own season in the face, the Hogs employed their own “tempo” offense in the second half against Alabama. Whether we hurry, or whether we slow it down, you still have to execute. Auburn 38, Arkansas 17.

Craig May
How frustrating is it to be a Razorback football fan? I’m not just talking about this season. The expectation for this program should be to consistently win 8 or 9 ball games a year, with the occasional shot at something bigger. The last five years have been a roller coaster ride and Razorback fans deserve better from the coaching staff and administration. Until someone steps up to provide some consistency in the football program I’ll continue to do what I’ve been doing every football Saturday for the last 5 years: enjoy the tailgates and pray for a miracle walking into the stadium. I don’t see any miracles happening Saturday. Tigers 38, Hogs 21.

Todd Rudisill
There has been lots of talk this week if the Hogs can pull their traditional once-a-year upset this week. But until the Hogs get a running game going, they can’t win in the SEC against good teams. Auburn has one of the better defenses in the country, although they broke last week in the 2nd half against LSU. Speed kills in the SEC. Auburn has it. Arkansas doesn’t.

Gus Bus with a Flat Tire: 37
Team with No Power 5 Wins Since 11/18/17: 23

• #24 LSU @ Ole Miss
Dale Cullins
LSU seems to have found some life, as they should with the talent they have stockpiled. They will give up some points to Ole Miss, but the Ole Miss D is not up to the task of stopping the LSU ground game. LSU 33, Ole Miss 27.

Todd Rudisill
LSU is the official “Jekyl and Hyde” team. Everyone left them for dead after losing to Troy, but then they go on the road and beat a mediocre Gator team. They then pulled off a shocker by coming back from a huge deficit against Auburn. Now if they win at Ole Miss and pull off a shocker at Bama, they are back in the West race. Crazy. The Tigers D too much for the Landsharks/Rebels/(Insert next mascot name here). Bayou Bengals win 30-20.

• #11 USC @ #13 Notre Dame
Mark Wagner
The Golden Domers get USC at home this year. While USC is ranked higher, the Irish are a 3-point favorite going into the game. USC QB Sam Darnold has begun to shake off the slow start he’s had this year, and is starting to play to the fantastic level of his freshman year. Brandon Wimbush, the Notre Dame QB, is supposed to be healthy and ready to play. I think this game will be won in the trenches, and I think Notre Dame has the better offensive and defensive lines. Notre Dame 24, USC 21.

Lincoln Williams
Notre Dame has been impressive after the Georgia loss, and they had an extra week to prepare. USC hasn’t had a break all season, and they are coming off a close game with Utah. With home field and the scheduling advantage, Notre Dame wins.

• #10 Oklahoma State @ Texas
John Scott
Texas played USC and Oklahoma close this year and beat giant-slayer Iowa State. Okie Light has scored a ton of points, dismantling everyone except TCU, to whom they lost 44-31. Since Texas gave up 50 points to Maryland, I think the Cowboys will roll the Longhorns and secure the Battle of the Big Donor Sugar Daddies. Windmill chaser T. Boone Pickens ($265 million to OSU) will stomp the deceased, profane plaintiff’s attorney Joe Jimail ($35 million to UT). OSU 52, Texas 17.

#19 Michigan @ #2 Penn State
Jeff Laman
The Nittany Lions opened as 12.5 point favorites at home, but the line has dropped 3 points since then. The Over/Under is a mere 45 points. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley has already collected 1,044 yards of total offense and 8 touchdowns. Michigan has problems on offense, but not defense where they are only allowing 224 yards a game and allow a scant 14.7 points per game. Penn State had last weekend off, while the Wolverines had to fend off Indiana. James Franklin’s squad also has revenge on its mind after losing to Coach Khaki’s team last year. Barkley’s Heisman campaign marches on as the Nittany Lions defense shuts down the little bit of offense Michigan can muster. Penn St wins 24-13.

Lincoln Williams
Penn State remembers last year’s beatdown, and they are having a strong season. Comparing scores against common opponent Indiana seems to favor Penn State as well. Harbaugh coaches such a physical team, which makes it difficult to know how the other team will handle the defensive pounding. Give the edge to Penn State, but not with much confidence.

Todd Rudisill
Of course the game of the day would be during the Hogs game. Michigan has not beaten anyone and has struggled against some so-so teams. Penn State hasn’t played anyone either and pulled out a last second win at Iowa. Now they will be tested the next three weeks against Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State. I think they win this one at home 27-17.

• Tennessee @ #1 Alabama
Craig May
You have to work pretty hard to be a bigger dumpster fire than Arkansas this season. Somehow Tennessee has managed to do that. There’s a good possibility Butch Jones will not have a job on Monday. If it gets to out of hand in Tuscaloosa they may just fire him after the game and make him Uber back to Knoxville. All Tennessee can do is run the ball, and Alabama leads the nation in run defense. This one is going to get ugly. Tide 48, Vols 3.

Todd Rudisill
Tennessee is really, really bad. Alabama is really really, good. Bama 48-3.

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Michael Tilley <![CDATA[Mercy to acquire Cooper Clinic, transition to begin Nov. 1]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108828 2017-10-20T19:01:33Z 2017-10-19T17:54:49Z

Cooper Clinic, once one of the largest physician-owned clinics in Arkansas, has been acquired by Mercy Clinic-Fort Smith, which is owned by St. Louis-based Mercy. News of the potential deal...

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Cooper Clinic, once one of the largest physician-owned clinics in Arkansas, has been acquired by Mercy Clinic-Fort Smith, which is owned by St. Louis-based Mercy. News of the potential deal first broke Sept. 7. Mercy issued a statement Thursday (Oct. 19) saying the boards of both groups voted to move forward on the deal.

Potential terms of what will be a private transaction were not disclosed.

Mercy includes 44 acute care and specialty hospitals, more than 700 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,100 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy Clinic also has 600 advanced practitioners and supporting staff in more than than 300 offices.

Cooper Clinic, independent and physician-owned, has been in operation more than 97 years and has physicians who practice in 25 specialties. When the clinic opened in 1920 by Dr. St. Cloud Cooper, its offices were on the sixth floor of the First National Bank of Fort Smith building in downtown Fort Smith.

Following the statement received Thursday from Mercy Senior Media Relations Specialist Jennifer Cook.

“The boards of directors of Cooper Clinic, P.A., and Mercy Clinic Fort Smith have voted to move forward with a joining of the two entities’ clinics.

“Board members concluded that the integration will provide exceptional opportunities for strengthening patient care and supporting local communities in ways that could not have been accomplished as separate organizations.

“Mercy Fort Smith has grown to serve more than 450,000 residents in 13 counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma through its network of hospitals, primary, specialty and convenient care clinics. Mercy operates 47 clinic locations in Fort Smith and surrounding communities. Under this agreement, participating Cooper Clinic providers and more than 400 co-workers at multiple locations within a 45-mile radius of Fort Smith will be integrated into the Mercy system.

“Physicians and co-workers in both organizations will be involved with efforts to ensure a smooth transition, which will begin Nov. 1. Additional information will be provided in the coming weeks to patients, co-workers and the community.

“This is an exciting development for this area. It will combine the strengths of both Cooper Clinic and Mercy and provide a strong foundation for the continuation of quality healthcare in the River Valley.”

ECONOMIC SHIFT
It’s unclear how many doctors who were with Cooper Clinic prior to the Sept. 7 news are still at the clinic. It was learned in late September that five of the six orthopedic surgeons moved to Sparks Health System, the competing hospital network in the Fort Smith metro.

Dr. Stephen Heim, a veteran orthopedic surgeon in Fort Smith and Arkansas who was has with Cooper Clinic since 1988, said in a Sept. 21 interview with Talk Business & Politics that a shift in “medical economics” made it more difficult for physicians in certain specialties to make money unless directly working for a hospital. Heim said good management at Cooper Clinic and a “loyal cadre” of doctors have helped Cooper Clinic remain viable possibly longer than it should have in the face of the changing medical economics.

He also said it is important the Fort Smith area have two financially healthy and competitive hospital systems.

Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders said the deal is historic for the region’s medical community but he does not believe it reduces the quality of area medical care.

“It does mark the end of a long existing organization. However the (Cooper) physicians and the care they and their staff members have provided will remain part of the community. And Mercy will do as they always do to provide great medical care for Fort Smith,” Mayor Sanders said Thursday.

Talk Business & Politics plans to update this story later today.

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Talk Business & Politics staff <![CDATA[J.B. Hunt to give 23 cents per share dividend to stockholders]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108826 2017-10-19T17:48:37Z 2017-10-19T17:48:37Z

J.B. Hunt Transport Services will pay a 23-cents per share cash dividend on Nov. 17 to shareholders of record Nov. 3. The Lowell-based carrier announced the dividend payment Thursday (Oct....

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J.B. Hunt Transport Services will pay a 23-cents per share cash dividend on Nov. 17 to shareholders of record Nov. 3. The Lowell-based carrier announced the dividend payment Thursday (Oct. 19).

This is the fourth consecutive quarter J.B. Hunt said it would pay a 23-cents per share cash dividend to stockholders.

On Friday (Oct. 13), the company reported income fell 8% to $100.385 million, or 91 cents per share, in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, from $109.425 million, or 97 cents per share, in the same period in 2016. Revenue rose 9% to $1.843 billion.

Over the past three quarters, profits have fallen 4% to $300.956 million, or $2.71 per share, from $314.534 million, or $2.77 per share. Revenue has risen 7% to $5.199 billion.

Shares of J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT) were trading at $104.66, up 21 cents or 0.20% on Thursday afternoon. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has ranged between $111.98 and $76.89.

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Talk Business & Politics staff <![CDATA[McLarty Capital Partners leads $30 million financing of pet care services provider]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108824 2017-10-19T17:44:35Z 2017-10-19T17:44:35Z

Destination Pet LLC, a provider of pet care services, has raised $30 million in debt and equity funding, backed by McLarty Capital Partners of Little Rock and Opus Equity Partners, the broker-dealer...

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Destination Pet LLC, a provider of pet care services, has raised $30 million in debt and equity funding, backed by McLarty Capital Partners of Little Rock and Opus Equity Partners, the broker-dealer subsidiary of California-based Opus Bank.

Opus Equity Partners made a growth equity investment in Destination Pet earlier this year to support the company’s initial nine-location platform, and also provided additional growth capital alongside McLarty’s financing.

“Destination Pet has built an incredible business supported by a clear growth strategy and a significant pipeline of acquisitions in the pet care space,” Parris Boyd, a principal with McLarty Capital Partners, said in a news release. “We look forward to a successful partnership with Shane and his experienced team of executives as they expand Destination Pet to become a leading provider of pet care services.”

Shane Kelly, CEO of Destination Pet, commented in the release, “We are enthusiastic to partner with McLarty as we continue to grow the Destination Pet platform. The new financing from McLarty and the additional growth capital from Opus Equity Partners will allow us to bring the Destination Pet experience to an even greater number of pet owners and their pets.”

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Paul Gatling <![CDATA[Oklahoma John Deere dealer acquires Springdale business]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108821 2017-10-19T17:09:22Z 2017-10-19T17:09:22Z

Oklahoma-based P&K Equipment, a John Deere dealer, has purchased a Northwest Arkansas equipment company for its first location in Arkansas. P&K is the new owner of the former Countryside Farm...

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Oklahoma-based P&K Equipment, a John Deere dealer, has purchased a Northwest Arkansas equipment company for its first location in Arkansas.

P&K is the new owner of the former Countryside Farm & Lawn Equipment Co. at 907 W. Henri de Tonti Blvd. in Springdale.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal was finalized Aug. 25. Countryside Farm & Lawn was previously owned by the Gary Harrall family.

The Springdale location joins 10 other P&K locations in Oklahoma. The company is owned by businessman Dr. Barry Pollard, a neurosurgeon in Enid. He founded the business in 1984.

Countryside employed about 25 people, and most now work for P&K. Total P&K employment, including nine dealerships in Iowa that operate as P&K Midwest, is about 500.

“Our mission is to provide the highest level of customer service with a sense of urgency in all aspects of the business — sales, parts, and service,” P&K general manager Scott Eisenhauer said. “We will strive to make good on that promise in and around the Springdale area, for all segments of the P&K Equipment and John Deere business.”

Erin Wheeler, P&K’s marketing and advertising manager, said the sales goal for 2017-2018 at the Springdale location is 900 John Deere tractors, ranging from 25- to 125-horsepower.

“The tractors within this range are what we consider the “small ag” sector,” Wheeler said. “The small ag tractor units are often market drivers for us and will represent a significant portion of the industry potential.”

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Talk Business & Politics staff <![CDATA[Bear State reports third-quarter earnings up 8%]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108818 2017-10-19T16:32:15Z 2017-10-19T16:32:15Z

Earnings for Bear State Financial rose 8% in the third quarter as interest income increased from average balances, loans and investment securities. Profit was $5.132 million, or 14 cents per...

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Earnings for Bear State Financial rose 8% in the third quarter as interest income increased from average balances, loans and investment securities. Profit was $5.132 million, or 14 cents per share, in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, up from $4.741 million, or 13 cents per share, in the same period in 2016.

Over the past three quarters, earnings for the Little Rock-based bank have risen to $16.706 million, or 44 cents per share, from $12.626 million, or 34 cents per share, over the same period in 2016.

The company’s efficiency ratio, the measure of a bank’s ability to turn assets into revenue, improved to 61%, from 63% in the same quarter in 2016. Average return on assets was 0.91%, compared to 0.95% in the same quarter in 2016. Net interest income rose 14% to $19.136 million. Total interest income rose 17% to $22.094 million.

Over the past three quarters, net interest income rose 12% to $56.627 million. Total interest income increased 14% to $64.295 million. Interest income has risen as a result of “increases in the average balances of and the yields earned on loans receivable and investment securities,” according to a news release.

In the third quarter, non-interest income, which includes earnings on deposits, mortgages and life insurance policies, fell 3% to $4.191 million largely because of a decline “in gain on sales of loans” because of a “decrease in the number of loans sold” in the quarter, the release shows. The decline was “slightly offset by an increase in deposit fee income.” Over the past three quarters, non-interest income has risen 6% to $13.061 million because of increases in deposit fee income and earnings on bank-owned life insurance, “offset by a decrease in gain on sales of loans.”

On Aug. 22, Bear State agreed to merge with Fayetteville-chartered Arvest Bank, purchasing the bank in an all-cash transaction. The merger is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017 or the first quarter of 2018, and shareholders have the option to receive $10.28 per share in cash when the deal closes. In the third quarter, the bank spent $1.3 million in connection to the deal with Arvest, $279,000 in branch restructuring expenses and a deferred tax asset adjustment of $186,000.

Total assets rose 12% to $2.24 billion in the third quarter as a result of increases in investments securities and loans. Loans increased 13% to $1.71 billion, and investment securities rose 26% to $248.3 million. Total deposits fell 4% to $1.59 billion.

Shares of Bear State (NASDAQ: BSF) were trading at $10.27, up 2 cents or 0.20% at mid-morning Thursday. In the past 52 weeks, shares have ranged between $10.95 and $8.65.

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Paul Gatling <![CDATA[C-Suite honorees discuss aspects that help shape their careers]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108811 2017-10-19T16:13:24Z 2017-10-19T16:13:24Z

Northwest Arkansas has its share of strong corporate leaders. In this issue, we recognize 10 of them with our third annual C-Suite Awards. The honor acknowledges regional business leaders for...

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Northwest Arkansas has its share of strong corporate leaders.

In this issue, we recognize 10 of them with our third annual C-Suite Awards. The honor acknowledges regional business leaders for their contribution and commitment to the community, and their exceptional professional performance.

Candidates are executives responsible for the top management of an operating department in their company or organization. They may or may not carry the title of chief (department) officer, but they carry the responsibilities of that office.

The honorees were selected by the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal management team after reviewing nomination forms submitted on their behalf.

In addition to the Q&A profiles included in this issue, the honorees were recognized Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the annual C-Suite Awards Luncheon at the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Bentonville.

This year’s C-Suite Award winners have all elevated their businesses to the next level of achievement, and it has been a pleasure to get to know a little more about these men and women. The vision and passion they exemplify is inspiring, and their leadership will continue to be an important asset to the region’s success.

Kudos to the Class of 2017.  To read more about them, click here.

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Jeff Della Rosa <![CDATA[KFH Group completes rapid transit study, develops options for Ozark Regional Transit]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108812 2017-10-19T16:09:52Z 2017-10-19T16:09:52Z

KFH Group has completed the feasibility study for a light-bus rapid transit system along U.S. Highway 71B in Northwest Arkansas, staff of Ozark Regional Transit have reviewed it and will...

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KFH Group has completed the feasibility study for a light-bus rapid transit system along U.S. Highway 71B in Northwest Arkansas, staff of Ozark Regional Transit have reviewed it and will present the options for the system to stakeholders before presenting it to the board, executive director Joel Gardner said.

The hope is to bring the study before the board at the Nov. 30 meeting, he said. KFH Group completed the study Sept. 15. The more than 30 stakeholders will have the opportunity to select the options “cafeteria style,” Gardner said. He explained he wants this not to be the “Joel Gardner show” but what “Northwest Arkansas wants to see.”

If the stakeholders were to select all the options, including widening Interstate 49 and Highway 71B to provide for dedicated bus lanes, it would cost between $60 million and $70 million to establish the system. If they wanted to establish the system without dedicated lanes, but with the buses and technology to operate the system, it would cost about $25 million. Annual operating costs would be between $3 million and $4 million.

Along the route, 55 locations have been identified as possible stops. He would like to see a shelter for passengers and more than a stick in the ground at each stop but doesn’t think each stop needs bathrooms, heating and cooling and a magazine rack.

In January, the Walton Family Foundation gave ORT a $140,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed light-bus rapid transit service. Some of the features in the proposed service might include priority treatment at traffic signals to improve travel time, platforms allowing riders to quickly board buses and a connecting bus with no waiting time to reach a rider’s final destination.

The Springdale-based transit provider previously extended the deadline for the study to Sept. 15, allowing KFH Group to gather more details and host another survey to get feedback on the proposed transit system from employees of major employers in Northwest Arkansas, including J.B. Hunt Transport Service, Simmons Foods, Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart Stores.

“We’ve had a wide variety of working professionals regardless of what their position is in the company submit this survey, and it’s really good to see that it is people that are working and are driving and don’t want to drive, looking for alternative forms to work,” Gardner said.

On Sept. 28, Gardner discussed the results of the 14-question employee survey in a board meeting. The survey had 696 responses and addressed demographics, commuter details, bus frequency, and how much one would be willing to pay as a fare. In the survey report, the employee survey was compared to the survey given in June to the general public, which had about 525 respondents.

In the employee survey, nearly two-thirds of the respondents (455) would use the proposed transit service to commute to work if the frequency and travel times were convenient. Respondents wanted buses reaching each stop every 10 to 15 minutes. Some of the features respondents would like included rapid and frequent service, “real-time bus information, smartphone app, shelters at stations and well-lit stations,” according to the survey results. The average fare respondents would pay is $2 per one-way trip.

“When we start looking at the potential ridership between 3% and 5% of vehicle trips up and down the 71 Business corridor, we’re talking between 3,500 and 5,000 trips a day utilizing this service,” Gardner said. “Public transit is a service for the community. It’s for people who choose to use transit as an alternative form of getting back and forth to work and entertainment and everything else.”

In the employee survey, 36.7% of respondents were between 35 and 44 years old, and 80% were between 25 and 54. In the previous survey, 68.7% were between the age of 25 and 54. For income, 35.3% of respondents in the employee survey earned more than $100,000 annually, and 15.5% received between $65,001 and $85,000 annually. In the general public survey, 25.7% of respondents had a salary of more than $100,000, and 24.2% earned between $45,001 and $65,000.

The most common commutes for respondents in the employee survey were intra city, with 13.3% commuting from home in Bentonville to work in Bentonville and 11.8% from home in Fayetteville to work in Fayetteville. About 11% of respondents who commute to work live outside of the 71B corridor. More than 8% of respondents commute from Springdale to Fayetteville, and 6.6% commute from Rogers to Bentonville. A total of 4.5% of respondents commute to Bentonville, from Fayetteville, and 3.5% commute to Fayetteville, from Bentonville.

Gardner believed there would more need between Bentonville and Fayetteville in the survey, but respondents had a greater need for transportation between adjacent cities.

“We’re seeing people want more of the shorter runs than the longer runs,” he said.
The commutes of respondents were similar in both surveys.

The majority of the frequency of commutes were every weekday. The most common work arrival and departure times were between 7:31 a.m. and 8 a.m. and 5:01 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., respectively. Like the commutes, travel times were also similar in both surveys.

More than 97% of respondents in the employee survey use a vehicle to commute to work. Nearly 12% carpool, 8% walk, 7.1% ride a bicycle and 5% use a taxi or ride sharing companies such as Uber or Lyft. More than 3% use Ozark Regional Transit. In both surveys, more than 90% of respondents use a vehicle for commuting. While carpooling was the second most common mode of commuting in the employee survey, walking was the second most common mode of commuting in the general public survey, which included many responses from University of Arkansas students.

The most common morning and evening commutes took between 15 and 30 minutes. The second most common morning commute was less than 15 minutes, and the second most common evening commute was 30 to 45 minutes.

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Talk Business & Politics staff <![CDATA[C-Suite: Jim Tull]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108805 2017-10-19T16:02:25Z 2017-10-19T16:02:25Z

Achievements: Tull has worked at Crafton Tull for 25 years, seeing it expand to a regional firm with seven offices throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma and 30 owners, from six equal...

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Achievements: Tull has worked at Crafton Tull for 25 years, seeing it expand to a regional firm with seven offices throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma and 30 owners, from six equal owners and three NWA offices; he has participated in several nonprofit organizations.

What is it that drives you in your career? I enjoy the challenges of working for a small business and getting to do a lot of different things. Besides my main role in accounting, I am deeply involved in Human Resources and IT.

What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career thus far? Passing the CPA exam. I was nontraditional in my approach in that I waited until I was 40 to get serious about it.

What one word best describes you? Blessed.

What is your biggest passion, and why? Our business of course comes first. Outside of that it’s the Ozark Catholic Academy and the ALS Association of Arkansas.

What was your first job? Mowing lawns.

Are you active on social media? If so, which platforms are you most active? Facebook and Twitter.

What’s something interesting about you that people would be surprised to learn? One of the reasons I left Dallas to return home was I was carjacked after a night in George Bush Jr.’s skybox at Ranger Stadium.

What is the next big personal or career challenge you plan to take on? Seeing Ozark Catholic Academy operational in fall 2018.

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Talk Business & Politics staff <![CDATA[C-Suite: James W. Smith]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108800 2017-10-19T15:59:40Z 2017-10-19T15:59:40Z

Achievements: Recognized by several industry publications as one of the state’s most prominent attorneys in the area of mergers and acquisitions; holds an AV ethics rating from Martindale Hubbell (the highest...

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Achievements: Recognized by several industry publications as one of the state’s most prominent attorneys in the area of mergers and acquisitions; holds an AV ethics rating from Martindale Hubbell (the highest recognition for a lawyer’s legal ability and professional ethics); member of the Northwest Arkansas Council, an adjunct professor at the UA School of Law and president-elect of Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

What is it that drives you in your career? I think primarily fear. Fear of failure, fear of a lack of knowledge, fear of losing, fear of not delivering the best I can, fear of not succeeding in an endeavor.

What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working? Travel and go to concerts. Every chance I get, I do both.

What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career thus far? Starting my own law firm in 2011 and finding success with it after practicing law for 16 years in a large, well-respected law firm and, accordingly, exchanging a stable and secure position that many lawyers would rightfully love to have for an opportunity that had the promise of success that was very counterbalanced with the possibility of failure. There is a price that is paid for stability and security.

What’s something interesting about you that people would be surprised to learn? I’m a certified scuba diver and have dived all over the Caribbean and Mexico, during the day and at night, and with sharks and other kinds of sea creatures.

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George Jared <![CDATA[Johnny Cash celebration begins at the Dyess Colony]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108794 2017-10-19T15:59:07Z 2017-10-19T15:59:07Z

One of the premiere celebrations in Arkansas is set to begin Thursday (Oct. 19) in rural Mississippi County. The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, honoring hall of fame musician and Arkansan...

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One of the premiere celebrations in Arkansas is set to begin Thursday (Oct. 19) in rural Mississippi County. The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, honoring hall of fame musician and Arkansan Johnny Cash will be held at the Dyess Colony, in Dyess. It’s the location of Cash’s boyhood home. Two of his siblings, Joanne and Tommy Cash, and his daughter, Rosanne Cash will attend.

A symposium, free to the public, will have several presentations followed by the KASU Music Nights of regional music in the Dyess Colony Circle. Other events include a Memories of a Lifetime oral history project, food vendors, and arts and crafts booths throughout the three days. Food and other purchases are cash only.

The cotton field concert will begin at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday. Grammy Award-winning artists Rosanne Cash and Kris Kristofferson, along with Joanne and Tommy Cash, and Buddy Jewel.

Arkansas Parks and Tourism Executive Director Kane Webb previously told Talk Business & Politics the state’s musical heritage is a growing part of the tourism sector, which is the fastest growing sector in the state’s economy he said. The Dyess Colony, the place where Cash grew up, may become a mainstay attraction in the Natural State, he said.

“We really think it could become an international destination,” Webb said.

How the Cash family came to this desolate spot in rural Northeast Arkansas was a common story during a harsh bit of history. Drought, sporadic floods, and the Great Depression decimated family farms in the early 1930s. President Franklin Roosevelt started what was then called a socialistic plan to help many of these farmers in eastern Arkansas.

Ray and Carrie Cash brought their family to the Dyess Colony in 1935, according to historians. The Cashes moved to Dyess with their five children, Roy, 13; Louise, 11; Jack, 5; J. R., 3; and Reba, 1. Joanne and Tommy were born in Dyess.

During that era, the area was more swamp than usable farm ground. Workers drained the swamp and 500 farm families, including the Cash family received 40 acres and a mule through a federal government aid program. Rice and cotton were grown. Johnny Cash, along with his brother, Jack, worked the family farm and attended school. Work in the fields was grueling. At night, Johnny and Jack spent a lot of time in their room.

Johnny Cash in the backyard of his boyhood home in Dyess, Ark.

Their father, Ray was a strict disciplinarian who worked extremely hard, Joanne said. The children toiled in the cotton fields alongside their parents, she said. Johnny, along with his siblings, was raised in humble circumstances and the Cash children were taught to work for what they earned, she said.

Jack died in a wood cutting accident as a youth. Music historians attribute Cash’s dark, brooding style to his brother’s unexpected death. Johnny served in the military after high school. He came home periodically to visit his parents. They moved to Memphis in 1956. Cash returned to his old homestead years after he became internationally famous with songs such as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire,” and others.

His battles with drug and alcohol were well documented, and he is often referred to as “The man in black,” a reference to his all black clothing attire he wore during performances.

ASU began restoration on the Cash childhood home in 2011. The dwelling was restored to its original condition, and an administrative building built into the old Colony theatre. The project cost about $3.5 million. The heritage festival began after a series of successful concerts were held at the ASU Convocation Center starting in 2011 honoring Johnny Cash’s legacy. The next phase of the project will include rebuilding the outbuildings at the Cash farmstead, including the barn, smokehouse, chicken coop, and privy, according to ASU.

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Talk Business & Politics staff <![CDATA[C-Suite: Brian Shaw]]> https://talkbusiness.net/?p=108797 2017-10-19T15:57:37Z 2017-10-19T15:57:37Z

Achievements: Oversees brokerage operations of a firm that manages more than 4 million square feet of commercial real estate; has led development of more than $150 million in commercial real...

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Achievements: Oversees brokerage operations of a firm that manages more than 4 million square feet of commercial real estate; has led development of more than $150 million in commercial real estate projects; member of several boards including Legacy National Bank and Fayetteville Public Education Foundation.

What is it that drives you in your career? The tangible aspect of commercial real estate and the challenges the industry offers. It provides those of us in the business with an opportunity to see the positive results of our work as you drive around the area.

What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career thus far? Seeing others in our company succeed and have success.

What one word best describes you? Most people would probably describe me as calm or easy going. In reality, the calm only extends a short distance. It’s most likely just the eye of the hurricane spinning around me.

What was your first job? When I was 15 years old I worked in the truck shop at Willis Shaw Express, the trucking firm my grandfather founded and my father ran for several years. I went home each day covered in grease, but enjoyed helping the mechanics and getting to drive the big trucks from the back lot into the shop.

What’s something interesting about you that people would be surprised to learn? Once a year, I take a backcountry motorcycle trip out west. A group of friends spend a week riding the back roads and trails across Colorado and Utah.

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