100+ business leaders in Arkansas express optimism for 2014

Talk Business Arkansas, in conjunction with the State Chamber of Commerce and consulting group CEG Partners, released its first “Business Leaders Confidence Survey,” which asked 106 CEOs and company managers their thoughts on the economy.

Some key takeaways:

• 56 percent said revenues would increase slightly during the next 6 months, with another 8 percent saying revenues would increase significantly.

• Just 16 percent said revenues would stay the same, and a combined 20 percent expect revenues to decline.

• However, among the health care sector, just 24 percent expected increased revenues with 64 percent saying finances would decrease slightly or significantly.

• 40 percent of business leaders expect significant or slight employee hiring. Thirty-five percent see no change, while 24 percent expect a slight decline in headcount.

• 41 percent expect to increase slightly their capital expenditures in Arkansas, while 31 percent expect no change. Just 17 percent expected to decrease cap ex spending.

HP to add 200 new jobs to Conway facility

Gov. Mike Beebe and representatives of Hewlett Packard announced the company’s plans to add 200 new jobs in Conway less than six months after the technology giant laid off around 500 in Arkansas. The 200 jobs will largely involve software engineers, business analysts and managers. Company officials said the jobs were related to HP’s government and health care IT sectors across the U.S.

Mountain Home manufacturer adding 50 jobs

Epoxyn Products, a manufacturer of high-performance work-surface solutions for research, educational and health-care laboratory environments, announced plans to expand its manufacturing facility in Mountain Home, creating 50 new jobs. Epoxyn Products is part of Hamilton Scientific, a 132-year-old laboratory furniture and equipment supplier with corporate headquarters located in De Pere, Wis. Epoxyn Products offers both epoxy and phenolic resin, two laboratory work surface materials.

Poultry group taking over Pine Bluff facility, adding 100 jobs

Summit Poultry, Inc., an Arkansas corporation, has entered into an agreement to acquire the former Horizon Foods poultry processing facility in Pine Bluff. Summit actually took possession of the plant in early December. It will process spent hens, primarily for export markets around the world. According to company officials, Summit Poultry has already hired workers to fill 100 available positions at the plant. Most of the new hires formerly worked at the processing plant under previous management.

Entergy completes move to MISO

In a move expected to save nearly $250 million during the next decade, Entergy Arkansas announced it has completed its integration into the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), a regional transmission grid operator. MISO, in coordination with other regional grid operators, coordinates the flow of electricity throughout the nation’s electricity transmission system. Some have likened its efforts and others such as Southwest Power Pool to the air traffic controllers for electricity across the nation. On Wednesday night, the transfer, or “cutover,” to MISO’s system occurred.

Lawmakers say tax cuts not dependent on private option

During the regular legislative session earlier this year, some state lawmakers and Gov. Mike Beebe frequently discussed a connection between nearly $140 million in delayed tax cuts and approval of the state’s private option, a health insurance plan for lower income citizens.

However, legislators said last week they view the tax cuts as permanent, regardless of what happens with the private option in the upcoming fiscal session. “To me, they are two independent issues,” said Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, chairman of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

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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 e-mail address is roby@talkbusiness.net; his website address is