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Arkansas voters approved medical marijuana earlier this month and the governor says he’s open to seeing if the voter-approved tax structure should be changed in January’s legislative session. Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol on Monday, Governor Asa Hutchinson said he hasn’t yet made up his mind on new taxes or shifting where marijuana revenue should go.

Governor Asa Hutchinson is continuing his push to find so-called efficiencies in state government with a pair of re-organizing proposals for the legislative session beginning in January. At a press conference on Monday, the Republican governor announced he wants to move the Office of Energy from the state Economic Development Commission to the Department of Environmental Quality and to reduce the number of Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committees from 28 to eight.

Hutchinson said moving the Office of Energy out of AEDC is a move for “mission alignment.”

Tyson Foods ended its fiscal year with net income of $1.768 billion, 45% more than the previous fiscal year, thanks in part to lower grain costs, better margins in the chicken segment and continued success with its prepared foods business.

Harvest yields low in Northeast Arkansas, could force more farmers from the fields

Nov 17, 2016
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Low crop yields could force some farmers in Craighead County to abandon their livelihoods by the spring, Craighead County Extension Agent Brannon Thiesse told Talk Business & Politics.

Rain, humidity, periods of intense heat, and other factors have led to a relatively poor harvest for rice, soybeans, and corn farmers – three of the staple row crops in the region. There are roughly 200 farmers in Craighead County, and Theisse estimates up to 5% of them could go out of business as a result of poor yields.

Johnathan Reaves, KASU News

Arkansas State University may not have a polling site for the mid-term elections.  Craighead County Clerk Kade Holliday says a lack of a road near the Military Science Building, and lack of parking, made it difficult for voters to cast their ballots.  

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

This is part 2 of a series of reports entitled "What's the Issue?"  I spoke with Craighead County Clerk Kade Holliday about the issues that are on the November ballot.  We are talking about what each issue on the ballot is and what a "for" or "against" vote means.  Issue number 3 is titled "An Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution Concerning Job Creation, Job Expansion, and Economic Development" and Holliday says that this issue is a little complex.

Arkansas’s unemployment rate is up, though not by very much. The state also still rests below the national average in the September report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

After three months of flat unemployment numbers Arkansas’s rate ticked up from 3.9 percent in August to 4 percent in September. 

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment survived an Arkansas Supreme Court challenge in an opinion issued Thursday, but the court pulled an amendment that would allow casino operations in three Arkansas counties.

The second quarter economic story of Arkansas’ four key metro areas was much like the first quarter story: unchanged from the previous quarter, but healthy, with continued job gains and sales tax revenue growth, according to The Compass Report.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission hosted a day-long public hearing Tuesday on net metering, the industry term for people and businesses who generate their own electricity, typically through photovoltaic solar systems, and push that power back onto transmission lines.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission met Tuesday to consider changes to regulations on the process by which homeowners with solar panels or windmills can sell electricity back to utilities.

Arkansans are being asked to spend the week of September 26-30 feeding themselves on no more than $4 dollars per day to better understand food insecurity in the state.

What used to be known as food stamps is now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. In Arkansas, qualified low-income individuals receive an average of $3.74 per day from SNAP to help them afford groceries.

Arkansas Businesses Ready To Trade With Cuba As Restrictions Lifted

Sep 23, 2016

Candlemaker Burt Hanna, rice and grain operators and even an oil importer in Arkansas are ready to do business with Cuba, held back only by an embargo rendered 56 years ago that has only served to help impoverish a neighboring nation, according to Melvin Torres.

For the third straight month Arkansas’s unemployment rate is holding steady at 3.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ August report. It is a full point below an also flat nationwide unemployment rate.

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This press release comes from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission: 

Intimidator Inc., a manufacturer of 4x4 utility vehicles and zero turn mowers, today announced they are expanding their current manufacturing facility in Batesville and building a second facility in the Independence County Industrial Park. The company will invest $12 million in facilities and equipment while adding 400 new full-time employees over four years.

While a better Arkansas economy has helped lower the state’s 2013-2015 food insecurity rate to 19.2% from the 19.7% in the 2010-2012 period, national and regional food bank officials say more help is needed and the rates remain above pre-recession realities.

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Frito-Lay is planning another expansion of their Jonesboro plant and has asked the city for financial help. 

Jonesboro building permit values up 43% through first seven months

Sep 15, 2016
Brandon Tabor, KASU News

Jonesboro building permit values totaled $122 million for the first seven months of 2016, up an impressive 43% compared to the same period in 2015. The increase was largely fueled by expansions at Frito Lay and St. Bernards Healthcare.

The German pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer says it will buy U.S. seed seller Monsanto for $66 billion in an all-cash deal that will create the world's largest supplier of seeds and agricultural chemicals.

Low-wage workers and local leaders are continuing to push for an increase to the minimum wage in Arkansas.

Local protests for a $15 an hour minimum wage were first seen in late 2014 outside fast food restaurants in central Arkansas. Those efforts were part of a nationwide movement known as Fight for 15.

In this election year organizers took their protest to the steps of the state Capitol. Jay Harris, a member of Fight for 15, said there are many reasons for supporting an increased minimum wage.

Jonesboro and Craighead County sales tax receipts up more than 5% year-to-date

Sep 7, 2016
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Jonesboro has collected $11.6 million in city sales and use tax in the first seven months of 2016, up 5.1% over the same period in 2015, according to the city. Craighead County sales tax collections totaled $12.8 million in sales and use taxes, up 5.2%, or $639,000, from the same period in 2015, according to the county.

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  Another Northeast Arkansas group fighting to put an alcohol measure on the November ballot is also suing the county’s clerk. 

The group Keep Our Dollars in Independence County is now suing County Clerk Tracy Mitchell for rejecting signatures on a ballot measure to allow alcohol sales in the county. 

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The group Keep Revenue in Randolph County has been working for months to collect almost 4,000 signatures from registered voters for a petition.  

The petition was to give residents the opportunity to vote on making Randolph County a wet county on the November ballot.  Earlier this month, just a couple of days before the petition was due, the County Clerk’s office rejected over 169 pages of signatures, causing the group to be 361 signatures short. 

Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce targets specific sectors to lure job creators

Aug 3, 2016
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The Jonesboro metro area has enjoyed historically low unemployment during the last two years, but city leaders knew wage stagnation was a problem, and there was a need to be proactive in creating new job opportunities.

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Glen Fenter, president of the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW), has a passion for workforce education in Memphis and the Arkansas Delta region. Likewise, he is passionate about job creation. Not just any jobs, mind you, but the kind necessary to upgrade living standards and grow the area’s economy.

Fenter is far from alone in his zeal, as several two-year colleges and other groups work toward this end – many in association with one another.

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