After intense political pressure from Democrats and Republicans, Arkansas State Treasurer Martha Shoffner resigned in the midst of facing federal charges of extortion. Shoffner, who was arrested by the FBI last weekend, sent a letter of resignation to Gov. Mike Beebe which read:
“It is with great sadness that I tender my resignation of the office of Treasurer of the State of Arkansas. I am proud to have been elected by and to have served the people of the State of Arkansas and regret that I can no longer perform the duties and responsibilities owed to the public. Please accept this resignation effective 5:00 p.m. today’s date, May 21,2013.”
Shoffner’s resignation sets up a path for Beebe to name a replacement to fill out her term of office, which ends in January 2015.
Wal-Mart hires Bartlett for corporate affairs post
Wal-Mart announced Wednesday that Dan Bartlett, 41, will become the company’s new executive vice president of corporate affairs in late June. Bartlett, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, was most recently president and CEO of the U.S. arm of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a global business advisory firm serving corporations, non-profits and associations in 52 countries.
Electric Cooperatives CEO testifies on cyber security
Duane Highley, CEO of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee, which is examining steps that the federal government and private sector are taking to bolster the security of the electric grid against cyber attacks. Highley said that cooperation of industry and government groups has resulted in significant standards to protect the nation’s electric grid, but he also called for more information to be shared.
State chamber testing attitudes on tort reform
Members of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce are being asked to offer feedback on a potential tort reform ballot issue in 2014 and the group’s CEO says a decision has not been made on whether to proceed. In the recently concluded legislative session, infighting among lawmakers and interest groups resulted in no tort reform measure being referred to voters in the 2014 general election. The only path for supporters of a proposal would be to collect signatures to qualify a measure for the ballot next year.
Arkansas jobless rate fall to 7.1 percent
Month-to-month employment numbers improved for the first time in a year as Arkansas’ jobless rate fell one-tenth of a percent to 7.1 percent in April. One year ago, Arkansas’ unemployment rate stood at 7.3 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate in April 2013 fell one-tenth of a point to 7.5 percent. Labor data showed Arkansas’ civilian labor force rose by an estimated 900 net new workers between March and April — the first increase in those employed since April one year ago.
Small business advocate says climate improving
Janet Roderick, state director of the Arkansas Small Business Technology and Development Center (ASBTDC), says she’s seeing job growth and branching out. “We are seeing a kind of improving small business climate,” said Roderick. “When I say that, the last year we’ve seen more small businesses begin to do a little more expansion.”
The ASBTDC provides management and technical assistance to small businesses throughout the state. In 2012, the ASBTDC helped small businesses in Arkansas create or retain 1,447 jobs, increase the sales for businesses they worked with by $50.4 million, and assisted in obtaining nearly $55.5 million in total capital. Roderick says the two major areas she sees small businesses struggle with the most are “access to good trained employees” and “access to capital.”
Four Arkansas companies honored for global trade success
Gov. Mike Beebe presented four Arkansas companies with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Global Trade during an awards luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion on Wednesday. The award honors companies for their leadership in exporting goods and services throughout the world.
This year’s winners are:
Agribusiness – Tyson Foods (Springdale)
Small Manufacturer Exporter – Conway Machine Inc. (Conway)
Medium Manufacturer Exporter – Alliance Rubber Company (Hot Springs)
Large Manufacturer Exporter – Welspun Tubular (Little Rock)
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 robytalkbusiness.net; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net