About 30 Arkansas lawmakers announced the formation of the Legislative Steel Caucus, a coalition of government and business leaders hoping to duplicate what the natural gas industry did during the Fayetteville Shale’s early years.

The group was announced a week after state officials revealed the $1.1 billion Big River Steel Mill project near Osceola (Mississippi County). That John Correnti-led project is expected to initially employ 525 workers with average salaries in the $75,000 range.

Sen. David Burnett (D-Osceola) and Rep. Monte Hodges (D-Blytheville) were announced as co-chairs of the group, which included lawmakers from Fort Smith, McGehee, Hope and Little Rock.

Senate, House hear superproject details

Arkansas economic and finance leaders fielded more than five-and-a-half hours of questions from the Arkansas House and Senate on the state’s recruiting of a $1.1 billion Big River Steel Mill superproject to Osceola.

Legislators must agree to a $125 million bond issue, or an alternative financing of the deal, to move the project forward. The state’s Amendment 82 allows for the Arkansas Legislature to use general obligation bonds for major economic development projects.

Quarterly loss dents P.A.M. Transportation earnings

P.A.M. Transportation Services, Inc. reported a net loss of $311,010 in its fourth quarter, but the Tontitown-based trucking firm still finished the year in the black. P.A.M. Transportation closed 2012 with a $2.178 million profit compared to a $2.857 million loss in the previous year.

Operating revenues in the fourth quarter were $95.77 million, a 7.1 percent increase compared to $89.388 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. For the full year, revenues topped $380.63 million, a 6 percent increase from 2011.

Arvest mortgage tops $2 billion

Arvest Bank said its mortgage lending and servicing activities for 2012 were part of a record-breaking performance. The bank originated more than 17,000 mortgage loans – both refinance loans and purchase money loans – totaling $2.56 billion in 2012 compared to $1.58 billion in 2011, a 62 percent increase. The bank reported a 37 percent increase in the value of purchase money mortgages from $597 million in 2011 to $818 million in 2012.

Arvest also said its mortgage servicing portfolio had a record year, reaching approximately 62,000 loans in 2012. The outstanding balance of those loans grew from $6.3 billion in 2011 to $7.1 billion in 2012, or an increase of 12 percent in the value of loans being serviced.

Tyson Foods earns an ‘A’ in sustainability

Tyson Foods, Inc. received an "A" from the Global Reporting Initiative for its latest corporate social responsibility report. The new sustainability report is the fourth Tyson Foods has produced since 2005, but the first to receive the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Application Level "A." The designation represents a high degree of disclosure and transparency in sustainability reporting. GRI is a world-recognized organization that promotes economic, environmental and social sustainability.

McDaniel sues Standard & Poor’s

Joining several other states and the federal government, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed a lawsuit against Standard and Poor’s, alleging that the credit rating agency intentionally misled investors in the way it rated the toxic assets at the center of the nation’s 2008-9 financial crisis.

According to McDaniel, S&P is accused of forsaking its claims of independence and objectivity by improperly rating structured finance securities that were backed by subprime mortgages. S&P allowed its analysis to be influenced by its desire to earn lucrative fees from its investment bank clients, McDaniel claimed in a court filing.

Murphy Oil USA announces executive management team

Murphy Oil USA, the retail spin-off subsidiary of El Dorado-based Murphy Oil Corp., announced its executive management team on Monday. In addition to previously announced president and CEO Andrew Clyde, Murphy Oil USA announced the following positions:

– John Rudolfs, currently executive vice president marketing MOUSA, will lead marketing operations including fuel, merchandise, and asset development.

– Mindy West, currently vice president and treasurer Murphy Oil Corporation, will be responsible for Murphy Oil USA, Inc. finance and accounting functions.

– John Moore, currently manager law and corporate secretary Murphy Oil Corporation, will have responsibility for the legal, insurance, and human resources functions.

Banker, developer Doyle Rogers dies at 94

Doyle Rogers, chairman of the board of Metropolitan National Bank and a highly successful real estate developer and businessman, died at the age of 94. A Newport native and Batesville resident, Rogers has been the long-time leader of Little Rock-based Metropolitan National Bank and was chairman of the board for the Doyle Rogers Company, a commercial real estate firm. He was renowned for several important skyline contributions to downtown Little Rock. Rogers was the developer for what is now known as the Peabody Hotel and the Stephens Building.


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.