Metroplan: Slow, Steady Growth and More Youth in Urban Core

by Mark Carter  on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 9:46 am  

Metroplan's 2013 Economic Review and Outlook

"The region's outstanding success has been in retail trade, but this sector has lower-than-average income per job, and faces poor long-term prospects as e-commerce replaces a growing share of retail sales."


The report cites a Brookings Institution study ranking U.S. metros by the share of patents issued per capita and finds Arkansas' metro ranking poorly. Still, the report says there are "positive signs" that central Arkansas is building "an entrepreneurial culture."

The region’s comparatively low cost structure, coupled with average to above-average education levels, suggests potential synergy. Efforts are afoot, like the Argenta Innovation Center and the Little Rock Technology Park, to lay the groundwork for innovation within the region’s promising urban nodes," the report says. "One of the best local opportunities lies in biotechnology, a sector that is seeing above-average patent growth in the national economy."

Retail and Real Estate

The report says retail employment was one of the fastest-growing sectors in central Arkansas from 2011 to 2013, though some growth represents a "bounce-back" from Great Recession losses. Meanwhile, regional retail sales climbed from about $881 million in December 2006 to $1 billion in August 2013, an increase of 8.7 percent. But when adjusting for seasonal change and inflation, those sales were down 7.8 percent.

"Growth in e-commerce, and the downward vector of local in-store sales, suggest an uncertain future for retailing in central Arkansas," the report said.


The report said overall regional housing construction was up "marginally" during the first half of 2013, with single-family housing construction increasing by a small fraction and multi-family housing rising more quickly.

"The slow trend probably reflects continuing weakness in housing markets, and a slowdown of in-migration to the region as well," the report said.


The report also includes anecdotes from regional business leaders commenting on the state of the economy. Among them:



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