Arkansas Business: Week in review

    6:07 AM, Oct 5, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- It's been another busy week in the Natural State. Lance Turner has your Arkansas Business Week in Review.

    It was a week in which Arkansans came to terms with the partial shutdown of the federal government. The shutdown, which went into effect on Tuesday, has so far directly affected around 700 state employees.

    That was an improvement from original estimates of about 1,000 workers, this, after state agencies found financial resources that kept workers in place, at least for now.

    On Wednesday, the state Department of Finance and Administration cautioned that the number of furloughed workers could increase as federal money previously authorized for various programs runs out.

    Workers were furloughed in the state Military Department, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Labor Department, to name a few. The Arkansas National Guard also furloughed workers and delayed training exercises, federal workers in Arkansas were also affected, and the state's federal parks and forests were closed.

    Gov. Beebe said Wednesday that that if federal employees are off the job too long, state income tax revenues could dip.

    Still, there was good jobs news this week. Hino Motors Manufacturing USA announced Tuesday that it will expand its 400,000-SF Marion manufacturing plant, investing $55 million and adding 200 jobs.

    The company said the expansion will add to its capacity to make axles and suspension components for Toyota's Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia trucks. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission said Hino received two performance-based incentives for the expansion.

    The project also received a $1.2 million Community Development Block Grant to help cover infrastructure costs. Hino said it hopes to begin hiring in 2015 and have expansion online by 2017.

    Also this week, there was more movement in what's becoming an increasingly heated takeover attempt of USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren. Knight Transportation of Phoenix, which last week revealed that it proposed a $242 million takeover of USA Truck, said that it has increased its stake in USA Truck. Knight now says it owns about 12 percent of USA Truck's outstanding shares, that's up from the 8 percent ownership it claimed last week.

    In a statement, Knight also said it was "disappointed" that USA Truck has rejected its offer. USA Truck has said Knight "substantially undervalues" the company. Knight also said that it talked with "several" of USA Truck's largest shareholders who support Knight's takeover proposal and encouraged Knight to continue to pursue a deal.

    Elsewhere in Arkansas, the bank consolidations continued.

    Arvest Bank announced Wednesday that it is buying National Banking Corp., the holding company of North Little Rock's National Bank of Arkansas. The two firms didn't disclose a purchase price, but said the deal is set to close in November, and that the merger of NBA branches and customer accounts into Arvest should take place late in the fourth quarter or early in the first.

    NBA has seven locations in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood, Maumelle and Conway. As of June 30, it reported total assets of $187 million and a staff of 80. The bank recorded a loss of $44,000 through the first six months of this year after ending 2012 with an $8,000 profit.

    And finally, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville is adding two new online-only distribution centers, this, as it budgets to increase online orders and carry more products at Walmart.com. The retailer said yesterday that it's adding new centers in Fort Worth, Texas, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Each one employs around 300 people.

    Wal-Mart already has more than 130 distributions centers and many handle a mix of online orders and products shipped for sale at its physical stores. The expansion of the distribution centers comes as Wal-Mart increases its projection for online sales this year, it now expects $10 billion in sales, up from $9 billion.

    The company is also more than doubling the number of items it carries on its website to several million heading into the holiday shopping season.

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