The Whispers Blog

Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
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Video: Gov. Asa Hutchinson Rings NYSE Opening Bell, Appears on CNBC, Fox Business

Appearing on "Squawk Box," Hutchinson touted his computer coding initiative, said he'd love to get Arkansas' income tax lowered to 5 percent from 7 percent, and said lawmakers will find "a unique Arkansas solution" for changing Medicaid.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is in New York today, having pushed the start button on the New York Stock Exchange this morning. The Wall Street appearance was part of economic development trip aiming to tout Arkansas and lure companies to do business here.

J.R. Davis, the governor's spokesman, and Scott Hardin, a spokesman at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, indicate the trip is about raising Arkansas' profile among global businesses leaders in the media and financial capital of the world.

Hutchinson — along with Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston — hit the ground running today, not only ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange but also appearing on two cable business networks: CNBC and Fox Business.

On cable TV, Hutchinson noted Arkansas as the home to several Fortune 500 companies — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and the like — and a place where technology upstarts like Inuvo Inc. and Metova are adding jobs.

He also told CNBC that he'd like to continue to reduce Arkansas income tax rate, taking it from around 7 percent to 5 percent. It's a reduction the governor thinks would make Arkansas a more palatable place for businesses to set up shop.

The tech jobs are another key part of the governor’s pitch. Hutchinson led an effort last year to pass a bill requiring that all Arkansas K-12 students take computer coding classes, and the governor clearly wants to show Arkansas as a state working to meet the job requirements of high-tech employers.

In addition to meeting with representatives from Arkansas companies and site selectors in New York, Hutchinson is meeting with key business media outlets. Today, he meets with editors at the Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine and Bloomberg. Tomorrow, he’ll appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," meet with Time magazine editors and appear on another Fox Business program. On Wednesday, he'll be on the "Fox and Friends" morning show and NPR. 

You can see video of the governor's CNBC appearance, the ringing of the opening bell and a photo of the governor on Fox Business below:

On CNBC

At NYSE (skip to 3:45)

On Fox Business

Video: Take a Look at Little Rock From the Construction Crane at Robinson Center

The view of downtown Little Rock via construction crane.

Little Rock might not have many skyscrapers, but the view from atop of the construction crane at the Robinson Center is impressive nonetheless.

Or maybe better, since there's no windows or walls between the climber and the world. But in case heights aren't your thing and you'd prefer to be surrounded by brick and mortar, the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau took a look for us all and recorded it.

In the video below, posted Wednesday, photographers scale the heights of the construction crane, GoPros in tow, to deliver some stunning sunset views of downtown. They also go inside the crane's control cabin, which boasts near-panoramic views of the Arkansas River and city skyline and, curiously, its own micowave (you gotta eat lunch, right?).

The $70 million Robinson Center renovation is set to be complete in November, when the CVB will host a grand re-opening. 

Auction for Dale Bartlett Items Set for Jan. 14

Dale Bartlett

An auction date has been set for items belonging to Dale Bartlett, one of the former executives of Turner Grain, which collapsed in 2014 leaving some farmers without payment.

Bartlett filed bankruptcy last year. Arkansas Business reported in November that, to help repay debt, he's auctioning his coin collection and three cars, including a 2007 Mercedes.

The collection includes 250 U.S. half dollars, 149 U.S. Peace dollars, 87 U.S. Morgan pieces and 35 gold pieces, according to a filing by the bankruptcy trustee, Warren Dupwe of Jonesboro. The Peace dollars, so called because the word "Peace" is on the coin’s back side, contained silver and were minted from 1921-35. The Morgan dollars also had silver in them and were minted from 1878-1904.

...

Other items to be sold include a 2007 Mercedes GL4, 2012 GMC truck and a 2013 Volkswagen.

Auctioneer Joel M. King of Jonesboro said the auction is set for Thursday, Jan. 14 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Jonesboro. An auction of land that Bartlett has interest in is scheduled for sometime in February.

Report Says Company Could Hire 350 In Osceola

The former Fruit of the Loom plant at 1425 Ohlendorf Road in Osceola.

Looks like significant employer could be planning a move into Osceola in the new year.

The Osceola Times reports today that the city council voted this week to sell the former Fruit of the Loom factory building for $2 million. The buyer? Challenger International Inc. of Houston, a company that sells tubular steel and other products used in the oil industry.

The Times' brief report, available via the Blytheville Courier, says the company aims to open a "steel-related, fabricating facility" that would "bring up to 350 new jobs to the city." The sale of the plant is set to close in April.

Arkansas Business is attempting to run down more details, but on Christmas Eve, our calls haven't been returned.

Fruit of the Loom closed its Osceola plant in January 2001, a move that left 750 people out of work. At the time, Fruit of the Loom was the city's second-largest employer.

DefenseNews.com: GAO Dismisses Lockheed Martin's JLTV Protest

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and officials with Lockheed Martin show off the company's Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

The Government Accountability Office has dismissed Lockheed Martin's protest of the U.S. Army’s decision to award Oshkosh a contract to build its Humvee replacement, DefenseNews.com is reporting.

Lockheed Martin had wanted to build the joint light tactical vehicles (JLTVs) at its Camden plant.

According to DefenseNews.com, the GAO dismissed Lockheed’s protest because the company on Dec. 11 decided to file a "Notice of Post-Award Bid Protest" with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The company will file its official protest on Dec. 17, according to the GAO.

From the GAO decision: "Our office will not decide a protest where the matter involved is subject of litigation before a court of competent jurisdiction. Based on Lockheed’s submission of its Notice to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims stating its intent to file a protest with the court involving the same subject matter as the protests pending our Office, we are closing our files without further action."

From the Defense News piece:

According to a source with knowledge of the procedures, it is uncommon for a company to file with the court close to a GAO protest decision. The GAO was due to make a decision no later than Dec. 17.

Lockheed Martin filed its protest Sept. 8. The company said in a statement at the time: "Lockheed Martin does not take protests lightly, but we are protesting to address our concerns regarding the evaluation of Lockheed Martin's offer." It added: "We firmly believe we offered the most capable and affordable solution for the program."

Oshkosh was awarded the contract in August. The deal would have meant expansion for the Camden plant, with Lockheed Martin planning to hire 600 employees and add new facilities to support production of the vehicles. The project was set to receive an $87 million incentive package from the state if it got the contract.

By August, it had already manufactured 50 of the vehicles.