Arkansas Poll shows concerns growing on economy

The Arkansas Poll, conducted by the University of Arkansas, shows voter attitudes are more pessimistic than a year ago. When asked if the economy was heading in the right direction or wrong direction, 63 percent of voters said it was heading in the right direction versus 20 percent who indicated the economy was off-track. Last year, 73 percent of voters said the economy was heading in the right direction, while 17 percent said it was heading in the wrong direction. The poll was conducted during the government shutdown.

Ross vows to eliminate tax on manufacturers

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross proposed a gradual elimination of the state sales and use tax on partial replacement and repairs of machinery used in manufacturing at a meeting in Arkadelphia Thursday. Ross said it was one of several targeted tax changes he would propose to help job creation in Arkansas.

For every percentage point of reduction, it costs the state $7-9 million, according to figures provided by the Department of Finance and Administration. Ross, who is mirroring Gov. Mike Beebe’s gradual elimination of the sales tax on groceries with this effort, said the cost to fully phase out the rest of the tax would cost about $40 million.

Deltic Timber posts 80 percent gain in quarterly net income

Deltic Timber’s buyout of a stake in Del-Tin Fiber continues to pay dividends. The El Dorado-based timber and real estate firm posted third quarter profits of $5.8 million compared to $3.2 million a year ago. Revenues rose from $36.5 million in last year’s third quarter to $56.5 million in the current quarterly report. The 80 percent increase in net income was largely attributed to Deltic’s manufacturing segment.

Home Bancshares, Liberty Bancshares deal closes

Home BancShares announced that its previously announced $280 million acquisition of Liberty Bancshares has officially closed. The two bank enterprises both received shareholder approval for the merger on Wednesday. Liberty Bank will now merge with and into Home Bancshares subsidiary, Centennial Bank. Under the terms of the agreement announced in June, Home Bancshares will issue approximately 8,764,242 shares of its common stock valued at approximately $290.1 million as of October 23, 2013, plus $30 million in cash for all outstanding shares of Liberty common stock.

South Coast Baking to add 150 jobs in Springdale

South Coast Baking Co. announced it would open a production facility in Springdale, creating 150 jobs averaging roughly $25 per hour. Irvine, Calif.-based South Coast Baking, one of the nation’s leading wholesale manufacturers of frozen bakery products such as frozen cookie dough, supplies products to Sam’s Club, Panera Bread, and Mrs. Field’s Cookies. It currently distributes products to more than 38 countries.

Mars Petcare plans $50 million expansion, 40 new jobs in Fort Smith

Mars Petcare announced Wednesday that is investing $50 million to expand its operations in Arkansas with more than 40 new positions at its pet food plant in Fort Smith. Construction has begun and production is expected to begin on the line this winter. The Mars Petcare Fort Smith facility employs 125 workers and manufactures Cesar Canine Cuisine, as well as wet pet food for private label brands.

Advanced Cabling Systems to add 20-25 jobs

North Little Rock-based Advanced Cabling Systems announced an expansion of its building technology integration company, a move that will add 20-25 technology jobs with salaries in the $50,000 range. Advanced Cabling Systems designs and installs voice, data and fiber optic and network cabling to commercial buildings.

Serco hiring 900 this week in Rogers

Serco is actively interviewing and hiring some 900 additional workers this week for its new Rogers data processing center. Aside from processing paper applications for the Affordable Health Care insurance program, the firm also handles visa processing for immigration and administration work for the U.S. Department of Defense and its family programs.

Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His email address is; his website address is