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Jefferson County exploring economic sales tax
June, 02nd 2008

By Roby Brock

Economic leaders in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County are pushing for a half-cent countywide sales tax that would generate up to $4.5 million annually for economic development recruiting and incentives. Other cities and counties in Arkansas have recently enacted dedicated taxes to generate funds that can help sweeten financial incentives or to invest in necessary infrastructure to land lucrative job prospects. Pine Bluff city officials expressed reservations on the tax proposal, citing a loss of population and revenues over the last decade.

Tyson Foods could expand in India

Tyson Foods is negotiating a deal to join forces with India's Godrej Group for a poultry processing joint venture in the country's burgeoning protein market. However, the Springdale-based meat giant said it is premature to report on any potential agreements.

Market watchers say the joint venture would benefit both parties. Tyson Foods could obtain easy entry through the supply-chain and distribution channels owned by the new partner, allowing it to tap into one of world's fastest-growing markets for chicken products. The two groups already have a relationship through Siloam Springs-based Cobb-Vantress, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods involved in poultry breeding.

Radio sale gets green light

Clear Channel Communications' $17.9 billion go-private radio sale is apparently fully funded and could close by the end of the third quarter of this year. For 10 radio stations in Jonesboro, Fort Smith and Fayetteville, the news could signal a clearer direction on their fate.

The private equity buyout by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital has been pending since last summer, but since March litigation over the price and pace of the deal's closure has stalled the transaction. Under the terms of the amended merger agreement, Clear Channel shareholders will receive $36 in cash or stock for each share they own. Clear Channel radio stations in Little Rock would not be affected by the deal.

Windstream could go on acquisition tear

A recently released Credit Suisse analyst memo contends that Windstream Corp., the Little Rock-based rural telecom, could be poised for major growth through acquisitions. When Windstream spun off from Alltel in 2006, it was limited in the number of shares it could issue to raise capital for buyouts, but that restriction expires July 8. The report singles out Citizens, Iowa Telecom and Consolidated as three rural telephone companies ripe for a buyout.

Home BancShares to combine two bank entities

Home BancShares, the Conway-based bank holding company, will combine two of its banking entities as part of an efficiency and review study started earlier this year. Home Bancshares will merge the Bank of Mountain View into Community Bank if regulators approve the request. Bank officials say they are continuing their review and evaluation process, and that other bank charter consolidations will be considered.

Tech firm locates in Springdale

This week, Duralor LLC, a producer of high performance coatings for cutting tools and machine parts, broke ground on its international headquarters in the Springdale Technology Park. The knowledge-based company plans to hire 10 employees in its first year, with plans to add 100 more within five years. Company officials report that the average annual wage for the initial 10 employees will exceed $60,000.

Duralor plans to move into the new facility in this fall and will begin production in early 2009. Duralor has developed a process that coats tools and other metals through nanotechnology. The process can improve tool life by 300 percent or more compared to conventional coatings. Research from the University of Arkansas led to the formation of the company.

Colorado tech firm looks to double in Arkansas

A company that provides information technology services annually for state and local governments in Arkansas announced Tuesday it will double its presence in Little Rock to pursue commercial customers. CIBER Inc. hopes to double it's current staff of 22 in Little Rock within a year, according to area director Shane Davis. The Colorado-based company, which provides $20 million in outsourcing, custom application and other services to state and local governments in Arkansas, provides IT consulting services to mid-market and Fortune 1,000 companies nationwide. It began selling its commercial services in Arkansas five months ago, recently landing an account with Nucor Steel in Blytheville. CIBER also has an account with Acxiom and does about $15 million worth of business with them annually.

Acxiom, Dillard's, Simmons declare dividends

The board of directors of Acxiom Corp. declared a quarterly cash dividend of 6 cents per share, payable on June 23 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on June 3.

Dillard's Inc. announced that its board of directors declared a cash dividend of 4 cents per share on the company's Class A and Class B common stock payable Aug. 4 to shareholders of record as of June 30.

Simmons First National Corp.'s board of directors declared a regular 19 cents per share quarterly cash dividend. The dividend is payable July 1 to shareholders of record June 16.

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