Arkansas landed its first official "superproject" as Big River Steel announced plans to construct a $1.1 billion steel mill in Mississippi County near Osceola. The mill will employ 525 workers initially with average annual wages of $75,000 – more than double the state’s per capita income.

The mill will be located on a 1,000-acre site in northeast Arkansas near Osceola, giving it access to the Mississippi River, a key factor in the site location. The Mississippi County site beat out several other locations in Arkansas and dozens of other potential sites in 10 other states.

Big River Steel was formed by long-time steel executive and entrepreneur John Correnti and a team of industrial and financial investors. Correnti once headed Nucor Steel and its two steel mills also located in Mississippi County. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the steel industry.

Steel mill plant could boost state GDP by $236 million

A quick study of the potential long-term economic impact of the planned $1.1 billion steel mill in northeast Arkansas suggests that the operation could eventually boost Arkansas’ GDP by $236 million a year.

The economic impact study, performed by University of Arkansas at Little Rock researcher Gregory Hamilton, does not include indirect benefits of supplier businesses that might locate. Hamilton’s study was performed using a software program to quickly calculate economic impact of jobs gained or jobs lost.

Internet marketer Inuvo to relocate from New York to Conway

Internet marketer and technology firm Inuvo Inc. is moving its corporate headquarters from New York to Conway and adding 50 new jobs over the next four years. The company said that senior leaders with Inuvo have "committed personally to the move." Inuvo develops consumer applications for the Internet and delivers targeted advertisements onto websites owned by partners and the company. In 2012, Inuvo reported revenues of $53.3 million dollars, up 49 percent from the previous year.

Medicaid funding gap shrinks to $61 million

A $138 million funding gap in the state’s Medicaid program has shrunk to $61 million, according to state officials. Gov. Mike Beebe and the Arkansas Department of Human Services disclosed the improved financial scenario just one day before an expected damaging audit was released on the state Medicaid program.

DHS director John Selig said the improved budget situation meant potential cuts to Level 3 nursing home care and three other programs would be averted. DHS said the ARHealthNetworks, Medicaid’s adult dental program and community-based services for the elderly would also be spared by the budget improvement. State officials are still planning to use as much $70 million in budget surplus to shore up funding for Medicaid.

Murphy Oil post big fourth quarter turnaround

Murphy Oil Corp. posted a big turnaround in its fourth quarter earnings as the El Dorado-based oil and gas firm prepares to divide its upstream and downstream operations.

In the fourth quarter, Murphy Oil announced net income of $158.7 million compared to a net loss of $113.9 million in the previous year’s fourth quarter. The quarter would have been stronger but impairment charges of $261 million related to oil production operations in the Republic of the Congo and an ethanol production plant in Hereford, Texas, held earnings back.

For the full year, Murphy Oil posted net income of $970.9 million versus $872.7 million in 2011. Murphy Oil announced in 2012 that it would spin-off its retail operations, known as downstream business, to become a pure-play oil and gas exploration firm. The spin-off company, Murphy Oil USA, is expected to launch in 2013.

Fourth quarter loss pounds Arkansas Best

A storm-impacted fourth quarter didn’t help Arkansas Best Corp.’s bottom line. The Fort Smith-based freight hauler posted a $7.9 million quarterly loss compared to a profit of $1.4 million one year ago. For the full year, Arkansas Best ended with a $7.7 million loss after turning a $6.2 million profit in 2011.

Company officials said Hurricane Sandy’s disruption of commerce along the eastern seaboard was partially to blame. They estimated that the hurricane sliced as much as $2.5 million off the company’s top line. Arkansas Best also had a one-time charge of $2.4 million related to an actuarial adjustment to its workers’ compensation expenses.

Mounting losses drive USA Truck $17.5 million in the red

USA Truck added another quarter of pain to its 2012 financial performance. In the fourth quarter the Van Buren-based trucking firm posted a $3.1 million loss to bring its full year losses to more than $17.5 million.

The quarterly performance was an improvement from a year ago when USA Truck reported a $4.3 million loss, but the full year results were a 62 percent decline from 2011′s net loss of $10.77 million.

Revenue for the trucking firm improved during the quarter to $134.7 million, up from $126.2 million in last year’s comparable quarter. Full year revenue declined slightly from $519.4 million to $512.4 million.

Acxiom earnings climb despite revenue slip

Despite declining revenue, database marketer Acxiom posted higher earnings in its third quarter. The Little Rock-based firm reported net income of $14.5 million for the quarter compared to $7.9 million one year ago. Revenue was $273.1 million, down slightly from $280.9 million.

Pryor to chair agriculture subcommittee

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (D) has been appointed chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. The position will give Pryor influence to help prioritize funding for federal programs that will benefit Arkansas farmers, producers, and rural communities. His subcommittee is responsible for funding the Food and Drug Administration, which has a significant footprint in Arkansas with NCTR in Jefferson County.

Power Technology acquires German laser firm

Power Technology, Inc. has acquired the business of KLASTECH GmbH, a German-based laser manufacturing operation. Terms of the private transaction were not disclosed. Little Rock-based Power Technology is a global leader in laser manufacturing. KLASTECH manufactures advanced diode pumped solid state (DPSS) lasers for metrology, holography, bio-fluorescence, Raman spectroscopy, and semiconductor inspection applications.


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 Web site address is