The Top 10 Business Stories of 2010

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 27, 2010 12:00 am  

In September, a federal court jury found lawyer and real estate developer Aaron Jones guilty of burning down his west Little Rock house in an insurance fraud scheme, and he was sentenced in December to serve 10 years in prison and pay $1.3 million in restitution.

Brandon Barber, once a high-flying developer in northwest Arkansas, filed for bankruptcy protection in mid-2009. But he was stripped of that protection last month when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ben Barry denied his discharge because "Barber was actively engaged in transferring and concealing his available money with the intent to delay, hinder, and defraud his creditors."

6. The Stimulus Effect
Some politicians, pundits and just the general public may deride the federal stimulus program (official name: the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009), but Arkansas Business' conversations with contractors, builders, architects and engineers left us with one impression: It may not have created a lot of jobs, but it certainly helped insulate these professions from the Great Recession.

Arkansas' portion of the $787 billion came to about $3.1 billion, of which almost $2 billion had been spent as of late December. The $3.1 billion is going, or has gone, to more than 2,000 projects.

More than half - 1,021 - are education-related, and they range from improving the quality of school meals to the renovation and repair of education buildings throughout the state. One example: $6 million toward a $21 million student life complex at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences & the Arts in Hot Springs.

The state Highway & Transportation Department also has benefited greatly from the federal funding, with $416 million in projects awarded. The department said that in 2010, it had funded 132 road projects using stimulus money, resulting in "296 miles of improvements on Arkansas highways."

On Dec. 8, the Arkansas Office of Recovery & Reinvestment issued its report on programs and projects funded by ARRA in Arkansas for the quarter ending Sept. 30. It said that "the equivalent of 3,652 full-time jobs were created during the three months ending Sept. 30, 2010. This was the single largest number of jobs created during a calendar quarter since the start of the Recovery Act."

Although, the report said, the jobs aren't necessarily one person working full-time during the quarter, a full-time equivalency can represent several people working part time because of stimulus money.

Arkansas' unemployment rate, which stood at 7.6 percent in January, reached 7.9 percent in November, compared with the U.S. jobless rate of 9.8 percent. The state generally has tracked a couple of percentage points below the national unemployment rate throughout 2010.

In addition, since March 2009, the act has provided $667 million to help support Arkansas unemployment insurance.

As Don Weaver, part-owner and EVP of Weaver-Bailey Contractors of El Paso, put it: The stimulus act "didn't really increase people's employment, but it saved a lot of jobs."

7. Baldor Sale
It was a big year for Baldor Electric of Fort Smith, which makes electric drives and motors. The company saw increasing profits throughout the year, which culminated with the late November announcement that the company had been sold to Swiss power and technology company ABB in a deal valued at $4.2 billion.



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