KATHY DECK: BETTER CONSUMER CONDITIONS SET THE STAGE FOR JOB GROWTH - Economist Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, will be presenting at the 2015 Business Forecast on Friday, Jan. 30 in Rogers. 

She provides insight on the Arkansas economy in this preview for Talk Business & Politics. Deck says: 

 "While it is true that the pace of employment growth in the state has lagged the country, Arkansas finds itself poised to reach new employment heights in 2015 and 2016. Economic vitality in Arkansas is absolutely dependent upon the individual metropolitan areas thriving. At the end of 2014, about two-thirds of all jobs in the state of Arkansas were located in six of the state’s metropolitan areas: Central Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Hot Springs," Deck says.

Read her full analysis at this link. Talk Business & Politics is a media sponsor of the business forecast event.


AL BELL TO ENTER BUSINESS HALL OF FAME: Al Bell is one of the 2015 inductees into the UA Walton College of Business Hall of Fame, which will be held February 13, 2015. His profile appears in the latest magazine edition of Talk Business & Politics. Bell, a Brinkley native, is a pioneer in the music world having created the legendary Stax Records. Read his story here.

AEDC BUDGET BILL CALLS FOR $200M SUPERPROJECT FUNDING, $50M QUICK ACTION FUND: The appropriation bill that funds the Arkansas Economic Development Commission will allow for a lot of money to help land economic projects this year, according to the bill introduced Monday.

On Monday, the Joint Budget Committee turned in Senate Bill 111 that would fund AEDC, effective July 1, 2015. The bill has a $200 million line-item appropriation for funding of so-called “superprojects” under Amendment 82 of the Arkansas Constitution. It also seeks $50 million for spending through the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund. Read more here.

WINDSTREAM NAMES LANGSTON, DEMENT TO NEW EXECUTIVE POSTS: Windstream named Lewis Langston as chief information officer. He succeeds Cindy Nash who is leaving the company to pursue other career interests. Langston, a veteran of Alltel Wireless, AIS, and Allied Wireless, has extensive experience in the information technology field. Stephens Inc. executive Matt Dement was also named SVP of strategy, corporate development and financial planning & analysis for Windstream. The changes are effective Feb. 2.  


TOLBERT: GOV. HUTCHINSON SUPPORTS SEPARATING KING AND LEE DAY - Gov. Asa Hutchinson tells TB&P blogger Jason Tolbert that he thinks there should be a separation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee holidays. Read his comments and where the two bills on this issue stand.

REPORT FINDS HOPEFUL SIGNS IN ARKANSAS HEALTH PAYMENT INITIATIVE: Payment reforms have helped to reduce costs and improve care efficiency at the same time the state’s Medicaid growth rate has slowed from about 6% to between 2-3%, according to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement’s Statewide Tracking Report.

The report is the first of three studies meant to describe the effects of the Arkansas Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative (AHCPII). How does this program work? How does it fit into other health care reform efforts underway in the state? Read more here.

HUTCHINSON APPOINTS TO CORRECTIONS BOARD, AEDC, AND OTHERS: Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced five appointments to state boards and commissions on Monday. William “Dubs” Byers of Gould was named to the Board of Corrections. His appointment expires December 31, 2021, and he replaces Janis Walmsley.

Ken Shollmier of Little Rock was appointed to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. His appointment expires January 14, 2019, and he replaces AT&T Arkansas President Eddie Drilling on the board.

CAPITOL NOTEBOOK: PRIVATE OPTION REPEAL BILL FILED - A more immediate end to the Private Option could happen if seven senators have their way. Late Monday, Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, filed a bill to terminate the Private Option effective at the end of the year.

On Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson will present his balanced budget and the House Revenue and Tax Committee is expected to take up his middle class tax cut plan. However, changes may be in the works. Read more at this link.

JOHN BURRIS: THE BIG MOMENT - Talk Business & Politics blogger John Burris, one of the chief architect's of the private option, reviews Gov. Asa Hutchinson's health care reform speech.

"Gov. Hutchinson and others have to now decide what that coverage model is. He’s essentially hit the re-set button. I don’t know anyone who thinks that’s a bad thing. The debate we’ve had for the past two years has been tiresome, at times personal, and has eclipsed all other issues. There have been reasonable voices on both sides, but sometimes only the loudest have been heard," Burris writes. Read his full take here.

FORWARD EDUCATION GROUP TO RELEASE INITIAL REPORT: A new education coalition, ForwARd Arkansas, will release a report at midday today on the state of Arkansas education. The group will unveil its "State of Education" report to the Rotary Club of Little Rock (Club 99), which is meeting at the Clinton Presidential Center Tuesday.

The report includes the group's research on school performance, student demographics, test scores, graduation rates and other education metrics.

ForwARd Arkansas was established as a strategic partnership of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and Arkansas Board of Education and formally announced its formation earlier this month. It aims to push for more research-based state policy for pre-K through college education with a focus on schools in academic distress. Who all is on the steering committee of ForwARd Arkansas? Read more here.

EL DORADO PROMISE SEES AP ENROLLMENT DOUBLE: The El Dorado Promise turns eight years old this year, and community leaders are pointing to increases in Advanced Placement (AP) course offerings and enrollment as more signs of success. 

A study by the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas (OEP) on the impact of the El Dorado Promise shows that in 2006, prior to the Promise, about 11% of El Dorado High School students were taking one or more AP tests. By 2014, nearly one quarter of the high school’s population was taking at least one AP course. The study also shows that the number of students taking AP tests has more than doubled since the El Dorado Promise was announced in 2007.

According to school officials, student passage rates in AP courses have risen as the participation has increased, bucking a trend that usually shows lower pass rates after expansion.

The El Dorado Promise allows students of the El Dorado school district to attend any accredited two or four-year college or university in the U.S. The maximum amount of the Promise scholarship is based on the maximum resident tuition payable at an Arkansas public university, currently $7,889.

El Dorado Promise students are currently enrolled in 64 different colleges and universities and have received degrees from 37 colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

HIGHER ED CHIEF CANDIDATES FIELD 15 APPLICANTS: With Shane Broadway leaving the director's post of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education for his new role with the Arkansas State University System, 15 applicants have applied to be his replacement.

The director of ADHE is appointed by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board following a search process and selection that includes substantial input, review, and recommendation from the President’s Council, subject to confirmation by the Governor. The Director serves at the pleasure of the Governor and is a member of the Governor’s cabinet as an advocate for higher education, according to state law. A decision on a replacement is expected in the next two weeks.

UALR VICE CHANCELLOR RETIRING: UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson said Bob Adams, vice chancellor for finance and administration, will retire on June 30, 2015. A search for the new vice chancellor will begin immediately.

Adams came to UALR in February 2009 after serving as vice chancellor for business and finance for the Tennessee Board of Regents for seven years and previously in other state and higher education finance positions in Tennessee since 1973. Adams will retire to the Chicago area.

"Dr. King’s birthday is appropriately set aside and honored as a national holiday. As to Arkansas, I would prefer that the days of remembrance be separated for the two men." - Gov. Asa Hutchinson on separating the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee holidays.

"I do think you’ll see some movement in the House to get the capital gains brought back in some form of what it was, what we had passed in 2013." - Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, on Gov. Hutchinson's middle class tax cut bill and changes made to the capital gains tax rates.

"[S]ome of the business concepts that I had learned from Mr. Rockefeller to have the audacity to take chances, and the guts to spend the money that at the time was unheard of for a black artist." - Stax Records music pioneer and Brinkley native Al Bell.

"These numbers represent an impressive, if slowly paced, national economic recovery." - Economist Kathy Deck on the falling national unemployment rate.


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