The state’s economic chief says if there are further cuts beyond the Governor’s efforts to reduce the grocery tax, they should be focused on targeted pro-business efforts and not undermine current economic incentive programs. Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Grant Tennille said his recent comments regarding a tax break for industry re-investing in Arkansas should be debated as an alternative to a goal of broader corporate or individual income tax reduction.

"If some members of the legislature are looking at tax policy changes that could be made to improve the business climate in the state of Arkansas, their focus so far has been on the income tax, both corporate and personal. My message has been if you’re going to look, let’s look at some taxes that may be a) more affordable and b) may have a bigger impact on business," he said.

Some Republican legislators are advocating for reductions, restructuring or the elimination of the corporate and individual income tax structure in Arkansas.

Senator Boozman supports half-cent highway tax proposal

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said on Thursday that he personally supports a legislatively-referred temporary half-cent sales tax proposal that would fund Arkansas’ four-lane highways. The measure, Proposed Amendment 1, will be on the ballot this November. It outlines a 10-year, half-cent sales tax increase that would fund roughly $1.2 billion in four-lane highway construction and repairs across Arkansas.

"I think in looking at this personally, the voters of Arkansas are going to have to decide for themselves. But as I look at it, I really do think it’s the right thing to do. I personally will vote for it," Boozman told a group of economic leaders at a transportation forum held by the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The meeting was to discuss future federal highway funding.

Fort Smith whirlpool plant sale pending

Whirlpool Corp. officials say they have sold the more than 2 million square-foot plant in Fort Smith, but the potential new buyer is not a company that will directly bring production and jobs back to the plant. Benton Harbor, Mich.- based Whirlpool announced in October 2011 it would close its refrigeration production plant in Fort Smith terminating nearly 1,000 jobs.

According to Whirlpool, Concord, Ontario-based Infinity Asset Solutions has purchased the building, but local chamber officials say due diligence must still be performed before the deal closes. Infinity notes on its website that the company "focuses on the disposition of assets for private and public companies, insolvency and financial institutions, as well as leasing companies."

DF&A suggests sales tax holiday contributed to lower August revenues

August was a sluggish month for state revenues as individual income tax collections, corporate taxes, and sales taxes all declined, and state finance officials said a sales tax holiday may be partially to blame.

For the month, August net available general revenues totaled $369.1 million, down 1.2 percent from a year ago and 0.8 percent below forecast.

"Results were mainly driven by a shortfall in sales and use tax collections, with results falling below forecast and year ago levels. Sales and Use taxes were down in all business and consumer-related categories except automobile sales," state economist John Shelnutt with the Department of Finance and Administration said. "In addition, some spending for school supplies and clothing in July may have been postponed to take advantage of the sales tax holiday in August. Although, this cannot be determined since businesses are not required to report all sales of property by category."

Aircraft cabinet maker to expand in Sherwood

Custom Aircraft Cabinets (CAC), a specialized woodworking and upholstery manufacturer supplying private, corporate and head-of-state aircraft companies globally, announced an expansion of its manufacturing plant at a new location in Sherwood.

The company will add 150 new jobs at an hourly average wage of $15 to $20 and invest $5.9 million in the expansion. With the expansion, CAC will employ a total of more than 290 people. CAC’s newest expansion will also result in the growth of its sister company, Reliable Fire Protection. Reliable Fire Protection will add 20 additional jobs at an hourly wage of $20, bringing total employment to 70 at a nearby facility.

Dillard’s promotes Chris Johnson to real estate VP

Chris Johnson will serve as Dillard’s Vice President of Real Estate, the company announced on Thursday. Johnson, who has served as the Dillard’s Vice President of Accounting since 2006, will assume the role following the retirement of James W. "Wes" Cherry, Jr. in December. Johnson is a Certified Public Accountant and has served as Chief Financial Officer of CDI Contractors, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dillard’s.

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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 e-mail address is roby@talkbusiness.net; his Web site address is www.talkbusiness.net.