Custom Aircraft Cabinets, a North Little Rock-based cabinetmaking firm that supplies upholstery and cabinets to the aerospace industry, announced today that they're planning a new $5.9 million expansion into Sherwood. The plant will hire 150 new workers, at wages between $15 to $20 per hour. CAC's sister firm, Reliable Fire Protection, will also add 20 jobs at $20 per hour, bringing Reliable's total workforce to 70.
UPDATE ON AN ITEM FROM YESTERDAY: The Pulaski County clerk found no lobbying registration forms on file for several of the people who've been working to organize opposition to the land use ordinance for the Lake Maumelle watershed that is pending before the Quorum Court.
I have calls or e-mails out to three of the people who've been involved, including Brent Stevenson, who's registered with the state as a lobbyist for both Deltic Timber, the major property owner in the watershed, and Koch Industries, whose owners are a source of financial support for Americans for Prosperity, another political group that has been working against land-use rules in the watershed. AFP's leader in Arkansas, Teresa Oelke, also a state-registered lobbyist, has been among those involved in the land use fight. Oelke, who lives in Rogers, also has no form in file in her home county of Benton.
Are they lobbyists for purposes of this issue as defined by law? Should they be required to register with the county since they oppose a rule considered earlier by a county planning board and soon by the Quorum Court? Until I hear more from them, I can't say. But I'll provide a couple of the pertinent rules on the jump, from the state Ethics Commission.
UPDATE: The anti-land-use crowd apparently has a compromise in the works that it hope might peel off some sponsors from the pending ordinance, currently signed by a majority of the Quorum Court. A last-minute substitution acceptable to the AFP/Deltic/Tea Party crowd? Land use for a giant watershed dictated by a tiny handful of land owners? Would not be good.
UPDATE II: After the lobbying rules, find a letter from County Judge Buddy Villines in support of the ordinance. He responded to the petition drive seeking stronger land use protection that the ordinance currently provides.
UPDATE III: Fancy that. Deltic/Koch mouthpiece Brent Stevenson didn't call me back today, but he did find time to drop by the secretary of state's office and update his lobbyist registration form. He's added Mark and Lori White of Bigelow and the Pulaski County Property Owners Coalition of Bigelow, both part of the anti-zoning movement. I'm sure that update was coincidental to my item this morning. No action or return call from the AFP lobby contingent.
UPDATE IV: I've now heard as well from the Koch front group, Americans for Prosperity, who contends that local lobby registration hasn't been required to date, but is planned. I'd quibble with the interpretation (I think her status as a paid, active lobbyist on a local issue is well-established and has already triggered a reporting requirement), but they are acknowledging the activity and plan to register, so that's a step in the transparent direction.
Whirlpool, which once employed as many as 4,600 in Fort Smith (now about 1,100), may be heading to zero as it evaluates continued production of side-by-side refrigerators. City Wire is all over the story and the news is dire.
Two sources told The City Wire on Monday (Aug. 22) that two companies — possibly divisions within Whirlpool Corp. — have been or will soon be at the Fort Smith plant to bid on the equipment used to produce trash compactors and built-in refrigerators (BIR). The sources independently verified the move is a clear indication the lines are leaving the Fort Smith plant, leaving only side-by-side refrigerator production at the large manufacturing facility.
“Because we’d only be producing them (side-by-side refrigerators), we were told that those (side-by-side) units were in decline and that, and this is exactly what was written, ‘plant closure was certain,’” a source told The City Wire.
In Whirlpool corporate-speak, it is studying options.
The unemployment rate in May in Arkansas was 7.8 percent, up from 7.7 percent the month before. The workforce also shrank.
A reader sends another news article from Kentucky about developers of the creationism theme park— truly a Six Flags Over Jesus concept — seeking still more government support in Kentucky, this time for a freeway interchange.
The article is instructive on a number of counts. It includes a rich list of previous articles about the controversial park. I particularly liked this one. It seems the feasibility study cited by the state on the fabulous numbers of tourists and jobs that are to be created by the project was never viewed by anyone in state government and the developers won't make it available to the press.
“The press release was a joint effort, and the Ark Encounter provided the numbers for the release based on their own research, much like how we work with companies on jobs announcements — they give us the info about their job numbers and investment and we work together on a release,” Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear, told the newspaper in an e-mail.
Friends, this is how the economic development shell game too often works. Governments pass out money, bushels of it, based on grandiose promises. News releases regurgitate the promises. Rarely does anyone check back to see if promises were fulfilled, much less justified in the first place. The government economic development jobs — a huge industry in itself — depend on the everything-is-rosy scenario. It is how, for example, the Little Rock mayor and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce can claim an explosion of economic development here thanks to their efforts while, demonstrably, the city is mostly moribund. (Yes, I know, other economies are worse. Thank goodness for the capital city's full complement of government and medical center employment.)
Promise now, worry later about the quacks, liars and unsafe operators dredged up regularly by the corporate welfare system. It's only going to get worse on taxpayers. Tax credits are no longer the giveaway of choice. Direct payment of taxpayer money (such as $200,000 to the LR Chamber) is much preferred. Mississippi County taxes groceries of county residents to provide direct cash grants to companies already in town, such as a handout recently approved for a greeting card plant's mechanical upgrades. Call it economic development. Call it ransom for jobs. Maybe the Arkansas Times should apply to the Little Rock City Board of Directors for some money for computer system upgrades. We could call it a service contract for independent journalism.
Free market? Socialism? Next time some good suit spits those words at you in a huff of righteousness, ask about corporate welfare and whether he accepts it.
Dillard's will hire 300 people as part of a new facility to fulfill Internet orders in the former Target distribution center in Maumelle.
Details from a state news release:
Awesome Products, which makes detergent and other household cleaning products, has announced a new facility in Marked Tree and an expansion in West Memphis that together will create 240 jobs.
Pulaski County's weekly wage average of $863 ranks the county at 169th nationally in counties with more than 75,000 workers, and is less than Little River County's average of $928, data released today by the Southwest office of the Bureau of U.S. Labor Statistics show. Two links to the bureau's data — for all counties in the U.S. and in interactive map form — offer every permutation of employment data you could possibly want. More highlights on jump.
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