AEDC director addresses legislative reports on Big River Steel


Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, says if Arkansas lawmakers don’t move forward on the $1.1 billion Big River Steel superproject, it will kill the deal. He also was asked if turning the project down would diminish the ability of Arkansas to recruit similar projects in the future.

“It largely depends on the outcome of some of these hearings we have coming up,” Tennille said. “It’s certainly understandable if, based on factual evidence and sound economic theory, that we take a pass. If we send the message to the world that we are intolerant of any risk at all, I don’t think we’ll get an opportunity to look at another project.”

Wal-Mart expects bigger loss from bribery probe

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it incurred $157 million in expenses during fiscal 2013 relating to the ongoing investigations linked to alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in several of its international markets. The retailer expects those costs will escalate as the investigation has expanded from Mexico and now includes probes in Brazil, India and China.

Wal-Mart to test lockers for online orders

Wal-Mart officials on Tuesday announced plans to begin testing the use of self-service storage lockers in a limited number of the stores this summer. Neil Ashe, CEO of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce unit, made the announcement to a group of reporters at an e-commerce media day in San Bruno, Calif., on Tuesday.

With more than 4,000 U.S. locations, Wal-Mart has a clear advantage for rapid order fulfillment if details are worked out and the entire store network is involved in the locker model. Many of those stores are also open 24 hours a day, which provides more convenience for shoppers.

State Medicaid officials calculate $670 million in savings over decade

New numbers released from the Department of Human Services indicate the private insurance option being considered by lawmakers could save the state $670 million over the next decade.

On Wednesday, DHS released actuarial figures that show the private option would save an estimated $30.7 million in FY 2014, $151.3 million in FY 2015, and $176.4 million in FY 2016.

Those three years account for the federal government’s 100 percent commitment to fund Medicaid expansion, which Arkansas lawmakers have received permission to shift into subsidized health insurance plans for low-income workers in a forthcoming insurance exchange.

After year three, the state of Arkansas must gradually pick up the tab for a portion of the Medicaid expansion dollars, eventually a 10 percent cost-share by FY 2023.

State Chamber/AIA endorse private option path

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas are throwing their weight behind the “private option” plan to move Medicaid expansion dollars into a legislative plan that would subsidize health insurance for low-income workers in a forthcoming insurance exchange.

The State Chamber and AIA are among the most influential business lobbying groups at the state capitol and represent major employers and mid-size and small businesses across Arkansas.

Speaker Cater’s capital gain tax cut bill passes house committee

House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) received approval for his capital gains tax bill, HB 1966, which raises the exemption level on new and existing investments. The House Revenue and Tax Committee approved the measure on a voice vote on Tuesday afternoon.

The bill moves the capital gains tax exemption from 30 percent to 70 percent on two sets of investments. The first level of investment involves new investments starting July 1, 2013. The bill also moves the exemption level to 70 percent on existing investments in excess of $5 million.

The Department of Finance and Administration estimated that the tax cut would alter state revenues by $3.1 million in year one, $10 million in year two, $18.3 million in year three and $27.9 million in year four.

House tax panel approves income tax bracket reform measure

The Arkansas House Revenue and Tax committee also approved a change to the state’s income tax brackets, a move that could deplete state revenues by $57 million a year. HB 1585 by Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) would make changes to the personal income tax rates by elevating the top tax rate from $34,000 to $44,000 and then lowering the top tax bracket from 7 percent to 6.875 percent. HB 1585 also makes technical corrections to the lower income tax tables.

Steel processor bringing 40 jobs to Fort Smith

Atlanta-based Phoenix Metals Company plans to invest $12 million in a new 65,000-square-foot metal processing and service operation at Chaffee Crossing near Fort Smith. The project could employ up to 40 workers with an average wage of $15 per hour. Phoenix Metals, which uses advanced laser and other cutting machines, has 12 operations including a processing site in Russellville.

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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 Web site address is www.talkbusiness.