The Whispers Blog
Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
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As you probably know, Little Rock voters are going to the polls today to consider a proposal to pay for up to $73.5 million in renovations to the city's Robinson Center Music Hall.
The proposal in question would dedicate part of the city's existing 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to repay bonds for the project. The tax had been used for the construction of the Statehouse Convention Center, and those bonds are about to be retired.
Mayor Mark Stodola and the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau have been aggressively campaigning in support of the proposal (to the degree that one blogger has questioned some expenditures).
But others have been vocal about their objection to the idea, including those in the city's restaurant industry. Loca Luna/Red Door owner Mark Abernathy has objected to the idea of using bonds for the project from the start.
Last week, Arkansas Business editorialized in favor of the proposal. Since then, Abernathy has weighed in with his argument against the bond issue in our comments section, and we'd like to repost his opinion below:
I am amazed at the misinformation regarding this. As a spokesman for over 100 of my industry friends, employees and our customers who pay this tax everyday please understand the WE SUPPORT THE REMODEL OF ROBINSON!. However, we have some serious concerns. This tax secures bonds and will expire in @ a year. At that point the city can reduce the tax or spend millions a year on other projects, organizations (the Rep, Marathon, Museums, festivals, Symphony and Ballet) or things in other areas of the city. Given that, re-allocating the entire tax to another very expensive downtown real estate project, for the next 30 years, sure sounds like a new tax to us. This makes little sense. Why? Because we can fund Robinson in a smarter and fairer fashion. Verizon Arena & Dickey Stephens Ballpark were both funded with a 1 year temporary tax and saved millions in interest. If we did that, we could have Robinson plus @ 10 million a year to spend on other things and events. How about funding something in other parts of the city? West Little Rock pays the vast majority of this tax, they could use an entertainment or sports complex. For the last 25 years all of this money has been spent downtown and now it will all be spent downtown for the next 30 years. NLR benefits more than WLR. This Is Really Foolish! We could have Robinson remodeled and have that money free for other projects (in other parts of the city) plus advertising and promotion for the restaurants and hotels, which is what the tax was intended for. We are also concerned that this publication, and the other media, have gone out of their way to keep our viewpoints out of the press. They knew there were viable options and should have shared those. As one of the city's top industries you would think we would get a little more respect. What happened to fair and balanced reporting...oh yeah....money. Please understand, the A & P Commission does not speak for our industry, and never has. The commissioners are picked by the city, not us. They don't care about our customers..but we sure do. Use your head! Have the courage to vote no... the city will come back within a year with a smart, fair plan we can all support.
The Wall Street Journal this week goes inside Tyson Foods Inc.'s expanding operation in China, and finds the meat processor overhauling its business model to ensure more growth and better food safety.
So what's the Springdale company up to? After years of buying chickens from independent farmers, Tyson is building its own chicken farms in China. Executives have been particularly focused on the build-out this year. In May, CEO Donnie Smith noted that, "We're building chicken houses as fast as we can. That, frankly, is our bottle neck. Our profitability will improve dramatically when we’re running plants with company-owned birds."
Smith was talking specifically about China, where growth had been stalled by customer fears of a bird flu outbreak. Through company-owned farms, Tyson will be able to better control bio-security, Smith said.
The model is different from how Tyson operates in the United States, where it contracts with independent farmers for chickens. But in the U.S., the farms are larger and easier to monitor for safety than in China.
According to the Journal:
Tyson aims by 2015 to run 90 such farms in China and supply its processing plants here almost exclusively with company-raised broilers, as chickens raised for meat are called. Today the Springdale, Ark., company has 20 farms in China. Three years ago, none. The goal is to double production in China to three million birds a week for supermarkets and restaurants to help offset sluggish growth in the U.S.
While Tyson doesn't disclose revenue by country, analysts estimate the company is raking in about $715 million in revenue in its most recent fiscal year and is on track to reach $1 billion by 2015.
You can read more about Tyson and plans for China, and see a video that goes inside one of the company's chicken farms there, right here.
Murphy USA Inc. of El Dorado is opening its 1,200th gas station store.
The publicly traded company (NYSE: MUSA), spun off earlier this year from Murphy Oil Corp., plans to open the El Dorado store at 6 a.m. Wednesday. A grand opening celebration is scheduled for Dec. 20.
Like most other Murphy USA gas stations, the store is located near a Wal-Mart. This one is at 2720 N. West Ave.
According to Murphy USA:
The site will have eight gasoline and two diesel dispensers and will also include offerings of E15 and E85 for FlexFuel vehicles. The store will be Murphy USA's new larger design format which allows space to expand the traditional snack, tobacco and beverage offering to include cold beverage dispensers, coffee, and cappuccino, as well as a larger variety of snacks and non-food items. As with all new stores, this site will initially be open 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Andrew Clyde, Murphy USA's President and CEO, commented, "We are excited to achieve the 1,200th milestone by opening this site near our company headquarters which allows us to bring quality, affordable fuel to our neighbors and surrounding communities. We plan to continue our high standard of customer service and retail operations in our home town of El Dorado."
Murphy USA has stores in 23 states. It says it has 18 new stores under construction.
Since going public in August, shares of Murphy USA have risen from around $36 to about $45.
The Federal Communication Commission's Media Bureau said Friday that part of Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s $985 million deal to purchase TV stations owned by Allbritton Communication Corp. would violate ownership rules.
From TVNewsCheck on Friday:
The FCC’s Media Bureau has alleged that the sidecar transactions that Sinclair Broadcast Group has proposed in three markets as part of its $985-million pending acquisition of Allbritton Communications — Charleston, S.C., Birmingham, Ala., and Harrisburg, Pa. — would violate agency ownership rules.
Under the deals at issue, Sinclair is proposing to take over the Allbritton ABC affiliates in those markets, spin off one of its existing stations in the markets to sidecar companies, in transactions that would give Sinclair some control over at least some operations of multiple TV stations in each market.
As we noted at the end of November, the Sinclair/Allbritton deal has drawn formal complaints by the cable industry, a media watchdog and other nonprofits. Some of the complaints center on how Sinclair gets around ownership caps to control multiple television stations in a market.
Sinclair says it plans to respond to the FCC concerns, which were raised in a letter by FCC Video Division Chief Barbara Kreisman.
The deal would give the fast-growing Hunt Valley, Md.-based media company ownership of Allbritton's ABC affiliates, including Little Rock's KATV-TV, Channel 7, as well as a 24-hour cable news channel in Washington D.C.
Allbritton is getting out of the local television business completely to focus on Politico, the political news and analysis website and newspaper the company founded in 2007. Since announcing the deal to sell its TV stations, Allbritton has purchased Capital New York, a website founded by former editors of the New York Observer.
The city of Jonesboro has been in the hunt for a convention center for a long time. Now Arkansas State University is exploring the possibility of one on campus.
According to Jonesboro ABC affiliate KAIT-TV, Channel 8, ASU on Tuesday began accepting proposals for a hotel and convention center complex that would occupy an 11-acre tract between the university's baseball field and football stadium.
Two construction firms -- Jonesboro Hotel & Convention Center LLC of Charleston, Ill., and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners LLC of Sugar Land, Texas -- have been asked for bids.
Chancellor Tim Hudson's new chief of staff, Shawnie Carrier, is leading the effort. She tells KAIT that the project gives ASU the opportunity to not only help campus visitors but also the city.
"This is strictly an opportunity for us to look at the avenue of, is this a potential for us?" Carrier said. "We want to make sure that this is the best opportunity for us with minimal risk. Whichever one of those proposals exemplifies that, we'll move forward."
If ASU moves ahead, the project would add to the city's recent building boom, which Arkansas Business wrote about in October. Jonesboro also gained new conference space last year with the completion of the $5.6 million 110,000-SF Northeast Arkansas Exposition & Conference Center at the city fairgrounds.
Here's KAIT's report:
- The Robinson Vote: A Rebuttal to Our Editorial by Mark Abernathy
- Wall Street Journal Goes Inside Tyson Foods' China Chicken Farms
- In El Dorado, Murphy to Open 1,200th Gas Station
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