The Whispers Blog

Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
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THV 11 News: Vilonia Business Reopens After Tornado

Tommy Bates of Vilonia Therapy Services talks to THV 11 News about reopening his business after the April tornado.

Our Mark Friedman recently wrote about rebuilding efforts in Vilonia following the tornado that destroyed homes and businesses there in April. Part his report noted efforts by local business owners, city officials and residents to work carefully when rebuilding.

That included business owners talking with architects and other committee members "to do things in a fashion where we won’t look back later and say, 'Man, we had a clean slate, and why didn't we do it this way or that way?'"

Now, THV 11 News reports how one business, Vilonia Therapy Services, has reopened its doors on Main Street.

"I think everybody's encouraged to see things are going and hey, we're not down and out, we're not struck out, we're still coming back," said [Tommy Bates, who owns the business with his wife]. "I've only been here two years and there are some people that have spent their whole lives here and they are really excited and encouraged because they're going 'hey, my town is coming back'."

You can watch Phil Buck's complete report here.

Clinton Family Remembers Oscar de la Renta

Anna Wintour and Oscar de la Renta at the Clinton Library in 2013. (Photo by Mark Friedman.)

Iconic fashion designer Oscar de la Renta is dead at 82. The cause of death wasn't immediately clear. 

"We will always remember him as the man who made women look and feel beautiful," former first lady Laura Bush said late Monday

De la Renta was in Little Rock last year as the Clinton Presidential Library opened an exhibit of his work. Arkansas Business' sister publication, Little Rock Soirée, has coverage of that event here and here, as well as news of his death here.

Also today, the Clintons, including Chelsea's husband Marc Mezvinsky, have released a statement:

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Oscar de la Renta. His singular talent and exquisite taste elevated American fashion, and his warmth and friendship will be missed by our family and all whose lives he touched in his extraordinary journey.
 
Oscar’s remarkable eye was matched only by his generous heart. His legacy of philanthropy extended from children in his home country who now have access to education and healthcare, to some of New York’s finest artists whose creativity has been sustained through his support.
 
We will always be grateful to Oscar for the love he showed us, and for sharing his talent on some of the most important occasions of our lives. And we will never forget the joy, adventure, and beauty we shared with Oscar, his beloved wife, Annette, and their family during our many happy times together, especially those spent in his beloved Dominican Republic.
 
We join his family and many friends and admirers all over the world in mourning his loss, while also celebrating his beautiful and joyous life.

Also: Vogue Editor Anna Wintour remembers de la Renta here

And: Arkansas Business political columnist Blake Rutherford, writing for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2013, had these thoughts on de la Renta, Hillary Clinton and first lady fashion. He specifically recalls Hillary Clinton's 1998 Vogue cover:

On that Vogue cover, in a picture taken by Annie Leibovitz, Mrs. Clinton wore a dress by de la Renta. Susan Sontag, in an essay that appears in her collection On Photography, wrote, "To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt."

This particular photograph is embedded in our political cognizance for what it said then and what it means now. It is not too much, I do not think, to suggest that this photograph exists as one of the most iconic of the 20th Century …

You can read Rutherford's full column on the Democrat-Gazette's website here (paywall).

Social Media Reactions to Final Gubernatorial Debate

Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson and Democratic candidate Mike Ross

The same day early voting began, leading gubernatorial candidates Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson debated one final time. 

Below are just a few of the reactions from Twitter. For a full recap, check out this story from The Associated Press' Andrew DeMillo.

Reactions to Tom Cotton, Mark Pryor Debate

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. (left), and Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

For the second night in a row, the two leading candidates vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate battled it out in a statewide televised debate. Here's an offering of the reactions on social media during Tuesday night's debate in Fayetteville. 

For more on the the debate, check out this recap from The Associated Press' Andrew DeMillo.

KUAR, PBS Look at Minimum Wage Issue in Arkansas

KUAR's Jacob Kauffman recently took an in-depth look at the minimum wage issue that will be on the Nov. 4 ballot in Arkansas.

The initiative aims to raise the state's minimum wage from its current rate, $6.25, to $8.50 by Jan. 1, 2017, in three increments.

Kauffman's look at the ballot initiative — that turned in more than 129,000 signatures to Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin — was recently featured on PBS Newshour.

Kauffman spoke with various individuals with differing opinions on the minimum wage, including Gloria Smith with Arkansas Community Organizations, who was seen going door-to-door to remind Arkansas residents to vote.

"It would help a lot of families. Especially mothers who have children in daycare. A lot of people have to go through churches to get food to make out, because they can't afford to buy the food. So, I would like to see businesses pay people what they are worth."

Kauffman also spoke with Roger Lacy, a business owner, who opposed the measure because of the possible effect on businesses hiring teenage workers.

"My big opposition to the minimum wage is what it does to the teenage community. Currently, about 24 percent of minimum wage workers are teenagers. When you price the per-hour rate to where people don't want to hire them, then they won't get on the ladder to getting a job."

Kauffman also spoke with Gregory Shufeldt, a UALR political science professor, about the possible effects the ballot initiative could have on other races as the initiative is hoped to bring out more liberal voters in November.

If the initiative is passed, Arkansas' minimum wage would go to $7.50 per hour on Jan. 1. Then, increase to $8.00 on Jan. 1, 2016, and then $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2017.

Look below to see the video in its entirety.