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The Friday Wire: Herbal questions and Whole Foods

Voter opinions on medical marijuana, Whole Food’s interest in Fayetteville, medical sector expansions in Benton County and a banker shift in Benton County are part of the Northwest Arkansas Friday Wire for April 11.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
• Herbal medicine
Don’t be surprised when your fellow Arkansans vote in November to add the Natural State to a roster of 20 states that allow some form of marijuana use for medical purposes.

A recent Talk Business-Hendrix College poll of more than 1,000 likely Arkansas voters showed 45% oppose medical marijuana and 45% support the idea.

A ballot item likely to make the Arkansas ballot in November would provide Arkansans the ability to use medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation and to allow patients to purchase medical marijuana at a regulated not-for-profit dispensary.

Are we witnessing something similar to the polling for the 2012 medical marijuana question when a wide margin of Arkansans said they would oppose it? When the votes were tallied after that vote, the question was defeated by less than 3%, and it passed in conservative areas like Sebastian County.

Although polls are anonymous, it may be that poll respondents have a hard time admitting to themselves that they would support medical marijuana. While all drugs come with problems, the decades of brainwashing from government, religious and other societal leaders about the dangers of marijuana is hard to overcome. But when folks get in the poll booth, they may vote more in line with their conscience.

If nothing else, a favorable vote would likely boost the economy in Newton County.

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 ...

A new banker
Arvest Bank has chosen Fort Smith banker Craig Rivaldo to head up its Benton County market operations. Jason Kincy, spokesman for the bank made the announcement in an email release this afternoon (April 8), just shy of one month after Dennis Smiley’s resignation on March 13.

Whole Foods coming to Fayetteville?
Whole Foods Market appears to have taken one more baby step toward a Fayetteville location. Plans submitted to the city of Fayetteville this week show what appears to be a Whole Foods Market planned for 3535 North College Avenue.

Real estate market improvements
Commercial vacancy rates are improving across Northwest Arkansas with positive absorption of existing space but there is still too much unoccupied space not generating income for owners, according to the Skyline Report.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$20 million: The investment by Mercy NWA for new clinics and expanded healthcare in Benton County over the past nine months

260: The number of vendors registered at area farmers markets in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville

35%: The drop in harassment and discrimination charges filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 2012 to 2013. Industry professionals told The City Wire that the numbers for 2013 were not all that low, but instead equated the drop to an unusually high number of sex-related harassment and discrimination charges filed in 2012.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
Alaska Dispatch to purchase Anchorage Daily News
In what amounts to a stunning media shakeup in the 49th state, the still-young online news organization Alaska Dispatch announced on Tuesday it has signed a deal with the nation’s second-largest newspaper chain to purchase the Anchorage Daily News, a 68-year-old publication with two Pulitzer Prizes.

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Whole Foods takes over America?
Whole Foods' vision is a bold gambit when you consider the state of its competition. Supermarkets lost 10 points of share between 2001 and 2013 to the slew of nontraditional players that have gotten into the food game, according to Nielsen.

WORD ON THE WIRE
“If Democrats can squeeze an extra percentage point or two out of their base or Republicans do the same, it could swing the election if it remains this competitive. It is also interesting to note that the undecided margin in this race has shrunk considerably from six months ago.”
– Talk Business & Politics editor-in-chief Roby Brock, discussing new poll numbers in the race for Arkansas governor in a dead heat

"There are incredibly talented, capable, high achieving – dare I say wealthy – people who don't have a four-year bachelor’s degree. It's not the end all and be all. Now do we need more Arkansans with four-year bachelor degrees? Sure we do. We're last, or second to last, depending (on different rankings). That's unacceptable. We've got to have more. But do we need an increasingly large population of specifically skilled individuals who have helped make our industrial and manufacturing (industry) efficient and productive? Absolutely. It's not either/or, which is the choice I think a lot of folks were laboring under for a long time."
– Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, in a speech to the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce

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