The Friday Wire: The long manufacturing road and a nursing home controversy

Manufacturing jobs, controversy surrounding a nursing home company owner, campaign money, more Clinton disclosures and a talking baby are part of the March 21 Friday Wire for the Fort Smith region.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
Long road back
For those who believe manufacturing recruitment should capture a bulk of our incentive structures and energies because that’s the best bet for the future health of the Fort Smith regional economy, well, good luck with that.

Just to return to the regional manufacturing jobs employment of 10 years ago would require a more than 5% gain in manufacturing jobs per year for the next 10 years. And that would only get us near 28,500 jobs, well below the record level for area manufacturing employment.

Preliminary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show 18,200 manufacturing jobs in the Fort Smith metro area in January. That’s down from 18,400 in December and down from 18,300 in January 2013.

The estimated January manufacturing employment also is down 36.1% compared to January 2004 employment of 28,500. The January employment is the second-lowest employment level in the sector in modern history. The lowest level was 18,100 which was recorded in February 2013.

Average annual employment in the sector in 2013 was at a multi-decade low of 18,300. The record average annual sector employment was 31,700 in 1999. The average fell below 30,000 in 2002, fell below 25,000 in 2009 and fell below 20,000 in 2012.

The region is long overdue for an aggressive and consistent economic development strategy that looks beyond what worked in 1970.

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 ...

New complaint filed in Maggio case may involve Fort Smith businessman
Attorneys for the family of a Faulkner County woman who died in April 2008 due to what the family alleged was neglect and negligence have added even more fuel to the fire in the case of Circuit Judge Mike Maggio – fuel that could mean trouble for Fort Smith businessman Michael Morton.

Campaign finances
The race for the U.S. Senate is not the only big senate race happening in the Natural State and political observers are starting to take notice. The District 9 Senate Republican primary, which will pit incumbent Sen. Bruce Holland of Greenwood against Rep. Terry Rice of Waldron, will take place May 20 and already tens of thousands of dollars are pouring into the race.

Minimum wage support
Arkansas Economic Development Commission director Grant Tennille says he’s supportive of efforts to raise the state minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, calling it a “jobs creator.”

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
126.01%: The increase in home sales values in Crawford County in February 2014 compared to the same month last year. During the same period, Sebastian County saw a drop of more than 20%.

$600,000: The amount spent on the Senate District 21 special election held earlier this year in Jonesboro. Consultants who spoke with The City Wire said a competitive primary in Senate District 9 between Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, and Rep. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, would likely be an expensive race, as well. It's a trend they said was becoming more the norm across Arkansas.

60: Consecutive months that the Arkansas jobless rate has been at or above 7%. The January rate was 7.3%.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
More Clinton disclosures
President Barack Obama's White House has moved to extend the review of roughly 8,000 pages of Clinton White House documents withheld under confidentiality provisions which expired early last year, according to a statement issued by the National Archives.

Have we heard the last of the E-Trade talking baby?
Digital discount broker E*Trade Financial Corp on Thursday bid farewell to the precocious baby who starred in the television commercials advertising its trading platform for the last seven years.

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Why people bet on the favorite
Everybody likes to cheer for the underdog, but hardly anyone bets on the underdog to win. We tend to put our money on the favorite most of the time. In fact, we bet on the favorite far more frequently than we should. To understand why, you have to understand some of the basic functions and malfunctions of human decision-making.

WORD ON THE WIRE
"The concerns that have been brought to my attention by many citizens in the Fianna Hills area are the other potential developments that are being asked in the PZD. These other potential developments are something that I am going to research and get a better understanding on how they could affect the existing homeowner property values."
– Fort Smith Vice Mayor Kevin Settle, addressing the proposed planned zoning district for the Fianna Hills Country Club renovation

"When I talk to people about quality of life, they talk about police, fire and ambulance. They have never spoke to me about the golf course. Police, fire and ambulance. Every time you lose $184,000 a year, it comes from police, fire and ambulance. It's money that you can't spend on that. So I would think when businesses talk about quality of life, they talk about police, fire and ambulance. I mean, he talks about families coming here. Would that not be something families would be interested in?"
– Sebastian County Justice of the Peace Shawn Looper, refuting an assertion by Fort Smith Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tim Allen that the county's golf course at Ben Geren Regional Park was among the amenities that helps sell the region to businesses

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Coming To Fort Smith

Quality of life in a community involves many things like a low crime rate, good fire protection, reasonable taxes, great parks, great entertainment, a business friendly government, good golf courses, sporting opportunities like hunting and fishing, near local rivers and lakes for boating and outdoor activities, great schools, good jobs, great banks, and just a little of something for everyone. We have many of these things but need much improvement in some areas to qualify as a community on the move and a place where up and coming families would want to settle. We all know where the problems are so lets fix the problems and move forward and quit denying that the problems exist.