The Friday Wire: Hispanics, taxes and chicken

A dearth of political candidates for legislative seats, tough allegations against the poultry industry, growth in Hispanic buying power and comments about “intimidator” Putin are part of the Northwest Arkansas Friday Wire for March 7.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
• The (almost) non-election election cycle
The list of folks who filed to run for legislative seats in districts representing the Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith areas turned out to be shorter than a grocery list on a $5 budget.

It must have been disappointing for those who thought the creation of a two-party system in Arkansas would result in more competition for legislative races. Of the 30 Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas House and Senate districts up for election in 2014, only 12 are contested. And of those 12, six are contested in the GOP primary only. And of the six that will have a November general election contest, only four will see a Democratic-Republican matchup. The other two will see a Republican candidate square up against a Libertarian candidate.

In the Arkansas Senate, 17 of the 35 seats up for re-election. Of the 17, only four will have a November contest. In the 100-member Arkansas House, only 38 seats will see a November contest.

Overall, Republicans had 132 candidates file for 98 different federal and state offices, while Democrats had 88 candidates file for 81 different federal and state offices, according to a report from Talk Business writer Jason Tolbert. Libertarians had 19 candidates file, the Green Party has two candidates, and only one candidate filed as an Independent.

Kudos to those who were pining for Republicans to “win” the political filing season. However, if you were hoping for a healthy slate of candidates under the belief that competition improves the chances for better government, well, better luck next cycle.

ICYMI
Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it ...

The Supply Side: Pursuing the Hispanic market
Hispanic and Latino shoppers across the United States wield more than $1.2 trillion of buying power annually with projections of $1.5 trillion by 2015, according to Nielsen. That economic power is why Wal-Mart, Home Depot and most major retailers invest in marketing efforts to woo this important demographic.

Stable NWA apartment sector
A growing local economy and increased enrollment at the University of Arkansas kept multifamily occupancy levels stable at 96.5% last year, despite the opening of 823 new student housing units since the fall of 2012.

Negative statewide tax revenue trend
The growth of year-to-date tax collections in Arkansas is on a downward trend, and the February gross revenue number was below the budget forecast. The February report also showed a continued decline in collections related to consumer spending.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$140 billion: The combined net worth of the Walton family heirs, dubbed the world’s wealthiest family, according to Forbes Annual Billionaire List. The children of Sam and Helen Walton saw their wealth rise 20.9% during 2013 spurred on from the bull market and record stock prices last year.

$1.2 trillion: The buying power of the Hispanic demographic across the U.S. this year, according to Nielsen.

$444 million: A three-year contract value between Tyson Foods and the U.S. Department of Defense to provide meat for commissary sales to military personnel.

$241 billion: The amount consumer debt rose in the fourth quarter of 2013, the largest period increase seen since the fall of 2007, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. 

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
A meat racket?
Christopher Leonard's new exposé on the chicken industry, The Meat Racket, doesn't devote much ink to the physical object on our plate, the chicken meat itself. Instead, Leonard focuses on the economic machinery that delivers the meat to us, or, as he puts it, "the hidden power structure that has quietly reshaped U.S. rural economies while gaining unprecedented control over the nation's meat supply."

Southern issues
Look, there are lots of things to love about the South. It's clean and quiet. There's delicious food, good people and often amazing weather. But that's exactly why it makes us so sad to think about all the ways in which the region is struggling today.

Selfies Bring Ashtags to Lent
Gaby Driessen stopped by St. Peter's Church here and a priest put a thick smudge of ash on her forehead — a traditional way Catholics and other Christians physically show their commitment to the faith on Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Then she did what many 24-year-olds would. She took a self-portrait, or selfie, with a friend and they posted it on Instagram.

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WORD ON THE WIRE
"He's an intimidator. He's a ruthless man. He's former KGB. He has to be reminded that after the Cold War that most of Eastern Europe has chosen to move to the West.”
– former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza said during a Wednesday lecture at the University of Arkansas

“While I appreciate that the President finally heard my concerns about his proposed cuts to Social Security, I’m frustrated to see more of the same in his budget blueprint. Once again, we see lopsided tax increases, as well as cuts to the Corps of Engineers, the Small Business Administration, and drinking water improvement programs — to name a few.”
– U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in criticizing the 2015 federal budget proposed by President Barack Obama

“The drive-through (depot) options for (pick-up) play heavily on convenience and will be particularly effective in driving incremental business with shoppers who already trust Wal-Mart yet may shop elsewhere for fill-in trips. This is a powerful attack on drug retailers and dollar stores that continue to expand into consumables and fresh produce in particular. Until Wal-Mart’s small format stores proliferate, drive-through options are a great way to keep convenience-focused, price-sensitive customers from seeking other options.”
– Carol Spieckerman, CEO of NewMarketBuilders, about a plan by Wal-Mart to tether its retail network

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