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Arkansas’s unemployment rate is up, though not by very much. The state also still rests below the national average in the September report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

After three months of flat unemployment numbers Arkansas’s rate ticked up from 3.9 percent in August to 4 percent in September. 

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment survived an Arkansas Supreme Court challenge in an opinion issued Thursday, but the court pulled an amendment that would allow casino operations in three Arkansas counties.

The second quarter economic story of Arkansas’ four key metro areas was much like the first quarter story: unchanged from the previous quarter, but healthy, with continued job gains and sales tax revenue growth, according to The Compass Report.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission hosted a day-long public hearing Tuesday on net metering, the industry term for people and businesses who generate their own electricity, typically through photovoltaic solar systems, and push that power back onto transmission lines.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission met Tuesday to consider changes to regulations on the process by which homeowners with solar panels or windmills can sell electricity back to utilities.

Arkansans are being asked to spend the week of September 26-30 feeding themselves on no more than $4 dollars per day to better understand food insecurity in the state.

What used to be known as food stamps is now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. In Arkansas, qualified low-income individuals receive an average of $3.74 per day from SNAP to help them afford groceries.

Arkansas Businesses Ready To Trade With Cuba As Restrictions Lifted

Sep 23, 2016

Candlemaker Burt Hanna, rice and grain operators and even an oil importer in Arkansas are ready to do business with Cuba, held back only by an embargo rendered 56 years ago that has only served to help impoverish a neighboring nation, according to Melvin Torres.

For the third straight month Arkansas’s unemployment rate is holding steady at 3.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ August report. It is a full point below an also flat nationwide unemployment rate.

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This press release comes from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission: 

Intimidator Inc., a manufacturer of 4x4 utility vehicles and zero turn mowers, today announced they are expanding their current manufacturing facility in Batesville and building a second facility in the Independence County Industrial Park. The company will invest $12 million in facilities and equipment while adding 400 new full-time employees over four years.

While a better Arkansas economy has helped lower the state’s 2013-2015 food insecurity rate to 19.2% from the 19.7% in the 2010-2012 period, national and regional food bank officials say more help is needed and the rates remain above pre-recession realities.

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Frito-Lay is planning another expansion of their Jonesboro plant and has asked the city for financial help. 

Jonesboro building permit values up 43% through first seven months

Sep 15, 2016
Brandon Tabor, KASU News

Jonesboro building permit values totaled $122 million for the first seven months of 2016, up an impressive 43% compared to the same period in 2015. The increase was largely fueled by expansions at Frito Lay and St. Bernards Healthcare.

The German pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer says it will buy U.S. seed seller Monsanto for $66 billion in an all-cash deal that will create the world's largest supplier of seeds and agricultural chemicals.

Low-wage workers and local leaders are continuing to push for an increase to the minimum wage in Arkansas.

Local protests for a $15 an hour minimum wage were first seen in late 2014 outside fast food restaurants in central Arkansas. Those efforts were part of a nationwide movement known as Fight for 15.

In this election year organizers took their protest to the steps of the state Capitol. Jay Harris, a member of Fight for 15, said there are many reasons for supporting an increased minimum wage.

Jonesboro and Craighead County sales tax receipts up more than 5% year-to-date

Sep 7, 2016
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Jonesboro has collected $11.6 million in city sales and use tax in the first seven months of 2016, up 5.1% over the same period in 2015, according to the city. Craighead County sales tax collections totaled $12.8 million in sales and use taxes, up 5.2%, or $639,000, from the same period in 2015, according to the county.

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  Another Northeast Arkansas group fighting to put an alcohol measure on the November ballot is also suing the county’s clerk. 

The group Keep Our Dollars in Independence County is now suing County Clerk Tracy Mitchell for rejecting signatures on a ballot measure to allow alcohol sales in the county. 

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The group Keep Revenue in Randolph County has been working for months to collect almost 4,000 signatures from registered voters for a petition.  

The petition was to give residents the opportunity to vote on making Randolph County a wet county on the November ballot.  Earlier this month, just a couple of days before the petition was due, the County Clerk’s office rejected over 169 pages of signatures, causing the group to be 361 signatures short. 

Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce targets specific sectors to lure job creators

Aug 3, 2016
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The Jonesboro metro area has enjoyed historically low unemployment during the last two years, but city leaders knew wage stagnation was a problem, and there was a need to be proactive in creating new job opportunities.

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Glen Fenter, president of the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW), has a passion for workforce education in Memphis and the Arkansas Delta region. Likewise, he is passionate about job creation. Not just any jobs, mind you, but the kind necessary to upgrade living standards and grow the area’s economy.

Fenter is far from alone in his zeal, as several two-year colleges and other groups work toward this end – many in association with one another.

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Compared to the rest of the state, Northeast Arkansas has seen an overall growth in employment, sales tax revenue, and new home starts.  Talk Businesses and Politics released their quarterly Compass Report highlighting the economic progress of Arkansas’ key metro areas.  This was the first time the Jonesboro metro area was included in the report.

Jonesboro Officials Still Pushing to Build $12 millon Shooting Range

Jul 21, 2016
Johnathan Reaves, KASU News

The city of Jonesboro and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are hoping to build a state of the art, $12 million shooting range, and could recoup some of the cost by charging the public to use the range.

Over the past few years, so-called ugly fruit and vegetables have been gaining a host of admirers.

Now, Wal-Mart has officially joined the bandwagon. Starting this week, America's largest grocer says it is piloting sales of weather-dented apples at a discount in 300 of its stores in Florida. If this were one of those Hollywood movies where the mousy girl gets a dramatic makeover, this would probably be the scene where she gets asked to the prom (minus the sexist subtext).

Johnathan Reaves, KASU News

The look of downtown Jonesboro is changing.  A $130 million renovation of St. Bernards is underway.  The work is being done in four phases and is expected to be complete by 2019. 

Construction is taking place on the Ben E. Owens Cancer Treatment Center and it should be finished this fall. 

Initial work on phase two is also underway, which includes adding new catheterization labs, hybrid labs and additional invasive services to the Heartcare Center.  That will be complete in the winter of 2017. 

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 The national retailer Tractor Supply Company is building a new store in Walnut Ridge.  City officials made the announcement at a Monday news conference at the old Walmart building on US 67B where the business will be located. 

The property owned by Williams Baptist College was sold to Dallas-based BG Development, according to the Jonesboro Sun.  College officials told KAIT the funds from the sale will be used towards constructing new residence halls. 

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O’Reilly Hospitality Management has been rejected again for getting A&P funding for the Arkansas State University Hotel and Convention Center Project. 

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  The U. S. Senate has passed the 2017 Transportation Appropriations Bill in which includes a provision to designate a portion of U.S. 67 as “Future I-57”.  Senator John Boozman (R-AR) authored the provision to the bill earlier this month.  Boozman told fellow lawmakers on the Senate floor Wednesday about the support the measure has received from communities along US 67.

A diagram of the first floor of the Red Wolf Convention Center on Arkansas State University's Jonesboro campus.
Arkansas State University

  O’Reilly Hospitality Management is asking the Jonesboro Advertising and Promotions Commission to reconsider supporting the Arkansas State University convention center project. 

In March, the A&P Commission voted to fund the Keller Hyatt Place Hotel and Convention Center project to be located near I-555 along Browns Lane.  The 159-bed hotel and convention center is expected to cost about $27 million.

Johnathan Reaves, KASU News

Officials with the Arkansas World Trade Center are coming to Jonesboro next week.  President and CEO Dan Hendrix will tour several companies next Thursday and will have a meeting with the City of Jonesboro and the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Cooper Alumni Center that day at 4:30 pm.  Jonesboro's Chief Financial Officer Suzanne Allen tells about the Arkansas World Trade Center:

She tells about the significance of having the Arkansas World Trade Center in Jonesboro:

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

  While the Property Maintenance Code and the Jonesboro Police salary issue received a little attention at Thursday night’s Alderman Debate, one theme took center stage more than any issue.

The 5 candidates (Phil Cook, Dr. Richard Wang, Captain James Boweman, Joseph Woodbury, and Bobby Long) running for the Jonesboro City Council Ward 6, Position 1 seat felt there should be more transparency between the city government and its citizens.

Also discussed at the debate were minority issues, infrastructure, and economic development.

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The United States continues to work with other countries in ironing out the details of the Trans-Pacific  Partnership agreement.  On Monday,  Tom Vilsack,  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, met with agricultural leaders in Vietnam to discuss the agreement.  

Vietnam is one of 12 countries involved with the TPP and is considered as one of the fastest growing agricultural markets for the U.S.  Some of the top products for the Vietnam market are grown in Arkansas, such as cotton, rice, and soybeans.  

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