Mike Ross makes it formal: He’s in Governor’s race


Former 4th District Congressman Mike Ross made it official on Wednesday that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for Arkansas governor in 2014.

Ross, who started his formal campaign announcement tour in his hometown of Prescott, has been mulling the race since January when Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel dropped his bid after admitting to an “inappropriate relationship” with a Hot Springs attorney. Former Lt. Governor Bill Halter has already declared he will seek the Democratic nomination for governor. Republicans Asa Hutchinson and Curtis Coleman have also announced.

Ross served 12 years in Congress representing the expansive southern and western Arkansas 4th District. He chose not to run for re-election in 2012 and took a private sector job with electricity transmission operator Southwest Power Pool. He resigned from that job two weeks ago.

Griffin calls on ExxonMobil to move Pegasus pipeline

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, sent a letter to Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil Corp., urging Exxon to support the Central Arkansas Water (CAW) utility’s request to relocate a section of the Pegasus pipeline.

“I urge ExxonMobil to develop and implement CAW’s request and work to provide an effective plan to relocate the pipeline,” Griffin wrote.

Legislature moves on tax cut bills

After striking a deal to garner a supermajority of votes for the “private option” health insurance plan, state lawmakers approved about a dozen tax cutting measures that could lead to nearly $170 million in reduced state revenues.

The tax cut bills included income tax reform, capital gains taxes, the grocery tax reduction and a sales tax on utilities for manufacturers. Also, lawmakers supported tax breaks for dentists, agricultural entities, veterans and timber harvesters.

Wal-Mart rolls out new sustainability goals

Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke announced new goals in the retail giant’s efforts to ramp up its sustainability efforts. The company committed to achieving the following goals by Dec. 31, 2020:

— Drive the production or procurement of 7 billion kWh of renewable energy globally every year, a 600 percent increase over 2010 levels;

— Reduce the kilowatt per square foot energy intensity required to power its buildings globally by 20 percent compared to 2010 levels;

— Install solar power on at least 1,000 rooftops and facilities by 2020;

— Continue to develop projects in wind, fuel cells and other technologies;

— Procure offsite renewable energy from utility-scale projects, such as large wind projects, micro-hydro projects and geothermal;

— Increase LED usage in sales floor lighting, parking lots and other applications; and

— Focus on market-relevant scalable technologies, including high efficiency HVAC and refrigeration systems and sophisticated energy/building control systems.

Home Bancshares posts record first quarter

Home Bancshares Inc., parent company of Centennial Bank, posted higher first-quarter net income from a year ago on the strength of an improving loan portfolio. The Conway-based bank holding firm said it achieved first quarter net income of $17.5 million compared to $14.5 million of net income one year ago.

“This is the eighth consecutive quarter we have reported the most profitable quarter in the Company’s history,” said Chairman John Allison. Home Bancshares also announced a two-for-one stock split.

Simmons First quarter net income slips

Simmons First National Corp. reported first-quarter earnings of $5.93 million compared to $6.35 million one year ago. The Pine Bluff-based banking company disclosed merger related expenses that had some effect on its bottom line.

“Considering interest rates continue at historical lows and due to the seasonality that we experience in the first quarter each year, we were pleased with our overall earnings performance,” said Chairman and CEO J. Thomas May.

Bank of the Ozarks appoints two new board members

Peter Kenny and Dan Thomas have joined Bank of the Ozarks board of directors. Thomas was additionally appointed as vice chairman of the company and its subsidiary bank.

Peter Kenny is managing director of institutional sales trading at Knight Capital Americas L.P. He has more than 25 years of experience in the equity trading industry.

Dan Thomas is vice chairman and chief lending officer of the company and president of Bank of the Ozarks’ Real Estate Specialties Group. Thomas joined Bank of the Ozarks as executive vice president in 2003 and later formed the RESG in Dallas to originate and service large and complex real estate lending transactions.

SGL to invest $26 million in Ozark plant

Officials with SGL Carbon announced Wednesday a $26 million upgrade to their facility in Ozark. The investment is not expected to create any new jobs, but represents a significant upgrade in the company’s facility.

The Germany-based company employs more than 90 people in the Ozark plant, which produces high-power graphic electrodes that create heat in electric arc furnaces used in steel mills. Work on the expansion is expected to be complete by June 2015.

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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 email address is robytalkbusiness.net; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net