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The Friday Wire: The Whirlpool footprint and dumb federal policies

Reducing the Whirlpool footprint, a rise in area building activity, prayer at public meetings and dumb federal policies are part of the May 9 Friday Wire for the Fort Smith region.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
Reducing the Whirlpool footprint
The importance is primarily three-fold that Columbus, Ohio-based Spartan Logistics is purchasing the large (620,000 square feet) distribution facility on the shuttered manufacturing site owned by Whirlpool.

First, it puts part of a facility that once was home to more than 4,500 good-paying jobs back to full use. Spartan officials say the facility could be home to as many as 200 jobs, and while they may not come with the pay and benefits of union-member manufacturing jobs, they are jobs. And it is a start.

Second, it proves to Fort Smith residents and the national business world that the facility is usable; that the space may again be productive. And with part of the overall Whirlpool complex tainted with cancer-causing leftovers, that proof is more important than we might have realized.

And third, it reduces Whirlpool’s ownership of assets within the region’s economy. In stark contrast to the many years that Whirlpool may have been a good actor in the regional economy, the company did not make a graceful exit.

We should thank Spartan officials for their selection of Fort Smith to help grow their business, and also tip the hat to the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce and other local interests who helped secure the deal.

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 ...

Rise in building activity
Building permit values for the cities of Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren increased 26.23% in April from the same period in 2013. Permits issued in the three cities were $23.163 million, compared to $18.35 million in April 2013.

New Arvest poll
Consumer sentiment is a strong factor in economic performance given that household purchases comprise about 70% of the nation’s gross domestic product. National polls like the Thomson/Reuters Michigan Sentiment Survey and the Consumer Sentiment Index are reported monthly. But, Arvest Bank seeks to drill down to a more regional and local reading of consumer sentiment with a poll of its own.

‘Shop Local. Sell Global’
The 2014 Business Expo, hosted by the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, emphasized growing businesses in a global economy. "Shop Local. Sell Global." was the message chamber members heard from numerous speakers.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$243.4 million: Expected price that Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National Bank will pay to acquire Community First Bancshares based in Union City, Tenn.

53.5%: Number of respondents in a new Talk Business-Hendrix College survey who said they will vote for U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, in the GOP primary for Arkansas Lt. Governor.

$21.759 million: Value of permits issued by Fort Smith during April, up 23.24% compared to April 2013.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
Technology and dumb federal policies
Regardless of political persuasion, few who ever visited or tried to use HealthCare.gov after its launch would argue that the Obamacare website was anything other than a colossal acquisition failure. The site wasn’t openly bid. It was limited to companies “pre-qualified” to do IT business for the feds. But the HealthCare.gov fiasco is only the visible tip of the iceberg that is federal government procurement, and notwithstanding the titanic disaster of that experience, neither Congress nor the administration is trying to fix it.

The payday lender debate continues
The demise this week of a Louisiana bill that would have reined in payday lending demonstrates how hard it is for states to regulate the quick loan industry, which consumer groups criticize as a trap for the working poor.

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WORD ON THE WIRE
"There've been some national baseball and softball contacts we've made who've contacted us about getting this thing up and going with tournaments and high-level activity to the complex. It's exciting to us and it's the economic development that we've stressed all along that would be a benefit to our region."
– Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, about the ongoing development of the new River Valley Sports Complex at Chaffee Crossing

“Prayer is an important part of my daily life and in the lives of countless Americans and I am thankful the Supreme Court has upheld this core American value.”
– U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in response to the 5-4 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold public prayer as part of a public meeting

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