State financial officials upgrade forecast, surplus as economy improves


In a letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Economic and Tax Policy, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Director Richard Weiss revealed that the official general revenue forecast for the state is being revised upward.

Weiss said that his agency is transferring a surplus of $145.6 million from FY 2012, which ended June 30, 2012. He also said DF&A is forecasting a $113.6 million increase in revenue collections above current projections in FY2013 and a $92.4 million increase in FY2014. The reason for the optimism? Improving economic conditions, albeit slow improvement.

Murphy Oil net income improves in first quarter

Murphy Oil Corp. reported higher net income in the first quarter of 2013 of $360.6 million on lower revenue of $6.639 billion. One year ago, the El Dorado-based oil and gas company posted net income of $290.1 million in the first quarter on revenue of $6.956 billion. The company’s downstream operations, which will be spinning off from the parent company later this year, showed improvement.

Arkansas Best narrows quarterly loss

With improving revenue, trucking and transportation giant Arkansas Best posted a narrower first quarter loss compared to a year ago. Arkansas Best reported a net loss of $13.4 million versus an $18.2 million setback one year ago. Revenues grew to $520.69 million in the quarter compared to $440.87 million in last year’s first quarter. The Fort Smith-based trucking firm used its earnings report to highlight its continuing contract negotiations with its labor union, which has been a source of contention for months.

Metropolitan National Bank posts profit

Little Rock-based Metropolitan National Bank announced its financial results for the quarter ending March 31, 2013. For the first quarter of 2013, the bank posted a profit of $662,000 compared to a loss of $1.04 million during the same time period in 2012. The bank’s Tier 1 Capital Ratio stood at 6.30 percent and Risk Based Ratio was 10.85 percent as of March 31st. Both ratios have improved from a year ago when Tier 1 was 6.18 percent and Risk Based was 9.57 percent.

Peabody Hotel makes the move to Marriott

With the changeover from the Peabody Hotel to the Marriott Hotel, new general manager Bill Fontes says Marriott’s planned $16.5 million renovation will bring big changes to the landmark Central Arkansas hotel.

Starting in the guest rooms, new flat-screen TVs will replace old tube-supported ones. Guests can expect increased bandwidth and even in-room coffeemakers, which were not provided by the previous hotel management. Other big changes include exterior and interior changes such as signage, a new lobby, front-desk and ballrooms. Fontes also said that the Capriccio Grill, the Peabody’s main restaurant, will become the Pancetta Regional Kitchen and Wine Bar.

Rutherford leaving attorney general’s office to join McLarty Companies

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced the departure of his chief of staff, Blake Rutherford, who will be joining the McLarty Companies later this month as a vice president for communications, strategy and corporate social responsibility. Rutherford has been with McDaniel since September 2010. He previously served as director of public communications for Stone Ward and as an attorney with Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP in Little Rock. With the McLarty Companies, Rutherford will report to Chairman Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty and Senior Vice President Franklin McLarty. Staff attorney Erika Gee will take over for Rutherford when the transition occurs.

Arkansas Small Business award winners named

The 23rd annual Arkansas Small Business Awards Luncheon handed out awards on Thursday, including its Small Business of the Year winner. The event, held at Verizon Arena, is hosted by the Arkansas district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas.

This year’s awards:

Minority Small Business Champion — Michel Leidermann, the owner of PanAmerican Consulting and editor of El Latino newspaper in Little Rock

Young Entrepreneur of the Year — Donald R. Stone, founder and president of Doughboy Arkansas Youth Catering Company in Little Rock

Arkansas SCORE District Chapter of the Year — Little Rock SCORE

Top SBA Lender — Arvest Bank of Bentonville

8(a) Program Graduate of the Year — Ron Woods, president and CEO of Woods Group Architects, Inc. of Little Rock

Small Business Person of the Year — Charlott “Chotsie” Adney, president of Advanced Aesthetics of Arkansas, Inc. of Little Rock.

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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