Gov. Mike Beebe said Wednesday (Sept. 11) that any short-term solution to a $53 million shortfall in the Public School Health Insurance program must be tied to a long-term solution that could include reducing or repealing recently passed tax cuts.

Beebe’s options included reducing or halting tax cuts approved in the recent session, pulling money from other funds, increasing state control of how school districts allocate money for insurance and reviewing the system for possible changes. Beebe did not address some legislators’ suggestions to look at surplus money from the recently-ended fiscal year.

Simmons First scoops Metropolitan for $53 million

In a court hearing Thursday, bank officials revealed that Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National Corporation’s winning bid for Metropolitan National Bank was $53.6 million. Little Rock-based Metropolitan, whose parent company, Rogers Bancshares, has been embroiled in a bankruptcy proceeding, was the focus of three bidding entities.

In a conference call with analysts on Thursday afternoon, Simmons First CEO-elect George Makris said he expected the deal to close in December 2013. Makris also said Simmons expected "some significant branch consolidations" as a result of the deal.

New jobs coming to Fort Smith

Thermold Magazines, a manufacturer of a variety of magazines for firearms and weapons products, announced that its U.S. headquarters will relocate to Fort Smith, Ark., from North Carolina. The move will bring 65 new jobs and a $7 million investment to the Fort Smith region. Thermold Magazines began in the 1960s as a molded plastics injection manufacturer serving the automotive industry. The company later began producing weapons magazines.

Home sales up 19 percent in July

Home sales in Arkansas rose 19 percent in July as the state’s housing market continued to improve. Year-to-date home sales are up 10.7 percent statewide. In the top 5 counties, which include the biggest markets in central and northwestern Arkansas, home sales were up 21.5 percent in July and 15 percent for the year. Experts contend that slightly rising mortgage rates have encouraged more home buyers to jump into the market.

Arkansas Research Alliance signs agreement with FDA

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. and Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) president and CEO Jerry Adams signed a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) that should help boost the state’s tech sector.

Under the PIA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will provide technology-related assistance to Arkansas-based research institutions and identify agency-developed technology that may be potential candidates for commercialization. FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) near Pine Bluff will administer the program.

High-speed internet conference slated for late September

Connect Arkansas is hosting the "Connecting Arkansas Internet Conference" September 25-26 at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Little Rock. The goal of the conference is to provide a more complete picture of high-speed Internet in Arkansas. The two-day sessions will explore a myriad of ways broadband is functioning in Arkansas commerce and education.


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; his website address is