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LITTLE ROCK - Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman has launched his first negative ad against Democratic challenger Conner Eldridge, portraying the former federal prosecutor as a gift from President Barack Obama to predominantly conservative Arkansas.

Boozman's campaign on Friday launched the 30-second ad statewide, its fourth in the first-term lawmaker's general election campaign. The ad shows a box being delivered to a home with a note from the president, who remains deeply unpopular in Arkansas, praising Eldridge as supporting his policies.

It's the first time Boozman has run an ad even mentioning Eldridge, who trails in fundraising. Eldridge has run ads criticizing Boozman and accused the incumbent of using scare tactics to distract from what he's called a lack of achievement in the Senate.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

LITTLE ROCK - Medical marijuana supporters began airing their first TV ad for one of two legalization proposals on the Arkansas ballot next month, touting the measure as a way to help treat children with seizures.

One of the state's top opponents of medical marijuana, however, said the ad shows that there's a way to use compounds from marijuana to help patients without a more widespread medical pot initiative.

Informing Arkansas, a group affiliated with the campaign behind one of the ballot proposals, bought more than $154,000 worth of airtime to begin airing the 30-second spot in the Little Rock, Fort Smith and Fayetteville markets, according to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission. The ad features a New Mexico mom who says cannabidiol, or CBD, which is derived from cannabis, helped stop her infant daughter's seizures.

"Without medical marijuana, I would have a lifeless baby in a wheelchair," the mother says in the ad.

The spot began airing days after a coalition of groups that includes the state Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau began running ad statewide criticizing both medical marijuana proposals.

Both measures would allow patients with certain medical conditions to buy marijuana from dispensaries, but differ in their regulations and restrictions. Each would allow patients under the age of 18 to use medical marijuana with their parents' permission.

State Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, a spokesman for the coalition, said the pro-legalization group's ad backs up his argument that there's a way to make compounds from marijuana available without a broader measure that he says would lead to drug abuse.

"We don't need to legalize the plant," said Bledsoe, who noted that other states have passed laws allowing access to CBD for some patients.

The supporters of a competing medical marijuana proposal have said they don't expect to run TV ads for their measure. Arkansas voters narrowly rejected legalizing medical marijuana four years ago.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

LITTLE ROCK - An Arkansas city says its ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity doesn't violate a state law that was intended to prevent such local protections, and argues the state's highest court doesn't need to weigh in on the law's constitutionality.

Attorneys for the city of Fayetteville told the state Supreme Court on Friday that a judge who upheld the ordinance didn't rule on the constitutionality of a 2015 state law preventing cities and counties from adopting anti-discrimination ordinances that go beyond what the state protects. Arkansas civil rights law doesn't include sexual orientation or gender identity.

Fayetteville said those protections are laid out in other state laws, so the ordinance is allowed. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has asked the court to strike down Fayetteville's ordinance.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

WASHINGTON — Unemployment rates rose in three of eight U. S. swing states last month, fell in two and were unchanged in the remaining three.

The Labor Department said Friday employers cut jobs in four swing states and added them in three, with job totals flat in New Hampshire.

The figures reflect broader trends that were evident in the national jobs report issued earlier this month: Hiring has slowed from last year's healthy pace to a still-decent level. And more Americans are searching for work, apparently encouraged by the steady job gains of the past several years. That has pushed up the unemployment rate, as not all immediately find work.

For example, Michigan added 5,400 jobs in September, though its unemployment rate rose to 4.6 percent from 4.5 percent. That's because the number of people working or looking for work increased by about 14,000 last month.

The unemployment rate rose to 4.7 percent last month from 4.6 percent in August in North Carolina, and ticked up to 4.8 percent from 4.7 percent in Ohio. The rate fell sharply to 5.8 percent from 6.3 percent in Nevada, and to 2.9 percent from 3 percent in New Hampshire.

The jobless rate was flat in September in Florida, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

Florida, Michigan and North Carolina added jobs last month, while employers cut back in Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Nevada's rate fell in part because some of the unemployed actually stopped looking for work. The government doesn't count someone out of work as unemployed unless they are actively searching.

Over a longer time horizon, the unemployment rate has fallen in the past year in five of the eight swing states: Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire and North Carolina. It rose in Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

All eight states added jobs in September compared with 12 months earlier.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Bear State Financial Inc. of Little Rock on Thursday reported third-quarter earnings of $4.7 million, up 47 percent from the same time last year.

The company, which passed the $2 billion asset mark during the quarter, also reported diluted earnings per common share of 13 cents, up from 10 cents in the same quarter last year.

"Core earnings" were $4.3 million, or 11 cents per share, compared to $3.1 million, or 9 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.  

"The bank's third quarter performance was highlighted by growth of over $30 million in total loans and $12 million in deposits along with record results in the mortgage banking business," Mark McFatridge, president and CEO of Bear State Financial, said in a news release

"We remain focused on carrying out our core initiatives, which includes diversifying the make-up of our commercial loan portfolio. Thanks to this effort, commercial and industrial (C&I) loans now represent over 20 percent of our total loans outstanding," he said.

Assets, loans and deposits all increased during the quarter, mainly because of the firm's acquisition last year of Metropolitan National Bank of Springfield, Missouri. Total assets were $2.01 billion at Sept. 30, up 37 percent from the same point last year. Total loans were $1.52 billion, up 41 percent, and deposits were $1.65 billion, up 37 percent.

Quarterly net interest income was $16.8 million, up from $12.2 million in the same quarter last year. Non-interest income was $4.3 million, up from $3.3 million last year.

The University of Central Arkansas announced Friday that the list of applicants for president has been narrowed to four after eight were interviewed by committee in Dallas on Wednesday and Thursday. 

The four who will now be interviewed on campus are:

  • Houston Davis (Roswell, Georgia), interim president of Kennesaw State University, Georgia.
  • Len Frey (Jonesboro), vice chancellor for finance and administration at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro.
  • Nagi Naganathan (Toledo, Ohio), professor and dean of engineering, University of Toledo, Ohio.
  • Darrell F. Parker (Cullowhee, North Carolina), dean and professor of economics, College of Business, Western Carolina University, North Carolina.

UCA has said its goal is to have a new president in place at the beginning of the year.

Arkansas' seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of a percentage point, from 3.9 percent in August to 4 percent in September, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Workforce Services.

The report showed Arkansas' civilian labor force increased by 972, a result of 1,513 more unemployed and 541 fewer employed Arkansans.

The U.S. jobless rate also increased by one-tenth of a percentage point in September, reaching 5 percent.

More: View the complete report here.

In September 2015, Arkansas' unemployment rate stood at 5 percent, while the U.S. unemployment rate was 5.1 percent.

Since last year, Arkansas' civilian labor force has increased by 23,763 people to 1.35 million. That number includes 54,817 unemployed Arkansans.

"While unemployment is up slightly over the month, there are still 11,385 fewer unemployed Arkansans than in September 2015," said Susan Price, the Bureau of Labor Statistics program operations manager. 

Compared to September 2015, Arkansas' nonfarm payroll employment increased by 14,200, with eight industry sectors posting growth and three posting a declines:

  • Educational and health services added 7,700 jobs, with jobs in professional and business services making the majority of the growth, up by 3,900.
  • Professional and business services rose by 3,900, with professional, scientific and technical services posting most of the gain. 
  • Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 2,400, mostly in food services. 
  • Trade, transportation and utilities rose by 1,900, with retail and wholesale trade jobs offsetting losses in transportation, warehousing and utilities. 
  • The "other services" sector added 1,000 jobs. The sector includes automotive repair, dry cleaning services and social advocacy organizations. 
  • Construction lost 1,300 jobs.
  • Mining and logging lost 1,200 jobs.
  • Manufacturing lost 700 jobs.

Since August, four major industry sectors added jobs, offsetting declines in six sectors:

  • Jobs in government rose by 13,000.
  • Educational and health services added 4,600 jobs. 
  • Manufacturing rose by 1,000.
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities decreased by 1,600. 

LITTLE ROCK - Competing proposals to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas would cost the state more to administer than they would create in new tax revenue, state finance officials said Thursday, projecting they'd need as much as $5.7 million in additional funding if voters approve either measure next month.

The Department of Finance and Administration said each proposal would generate nearly $2.5 million in sales tax revenue annually, though it warned it would take 18 to 24 months to reach that point. The department said the new tax dollars wouldn't be enough for the costs it and the Department of Health would face for overseeing the medical pot program.

"At a state sales tax rate of 6.5 percent, I think it would be a challenge for the state of Arkansas to get to a point where it would actually be a revenue neutral proposal," Paul Gehring with DFA told a joint legislative panel.

Both proposals on the ballot would allow patients with certain medical conditions to buy marijuana from dispensaries, but differ in their regulations and restrictions. For example, one proposal would allow patients to grow their own marijuana if they don't live near a dispensary.

The analysis looked at estimated sales tax revenue from the dispensaries. It doesn't include additional costs other agencies have claimed they would face if either measure is approved. The director of the Arkansas State Police, Col. Bill Bryant, told the panel his agency would need $2.8 million in additional funding to hire new staff and buy new equipment if medical marijuana is legalized. The state Crime Lab has also said it would need additional funding if medical pot passes.

The proposal estimated more than $38 million in annual medical marijuana sales. It also doesn't factor in additional tax revenue the state may see from related businesses, including security and grow lighting, that the dispensaries may need or income tax revenue from workers hired.

The head of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, one of the pro-medical pot groups, dismissed the analysis since Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is an outspoken opponent of the proposals. She said it ignores the jobs that she says would be created at the dispensaries and other businesses.

"It will produce a huge amount of revenue and the program will pay for itself," said Melissa Fults, the group's campaign director.

A lawmaker on the panel questioned whether the projected revenue was downplayed, noting it was based on per capita sales in only six other states that have medical marijuana. Half the states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some fashion.

"I'm going to remain skeptical until I have numbers from every single state, every one that is legal right now. I'm going to remain skeptical because it appears based off what we've looked at that the lower numbers were used," said Republican Rep. Michelle Gray, who said she's opposed to both proposals.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas' high court issued opinions Thursday sending two cases back to lower courts to consider whether flawed testimony from FBI forensics experts is enough to overturn the convictions of two men.

The justices said there was enough evidence to ask the lower courts to consider the arguments made by attorneys in both cases for writs of error coram nobis, a legal move that allows a court to reopen a case when a substantial error is found that did not appear in the original judgment. In the cases Thursday, the error at issue is the testimony of an FBI expert on microscopic hair analysis.

The Justice Department announced last year that several experts had overstated the strength of similar forensic evidence dating back decades. The Arkansas cases are two of more than 250 identified nationwide by the Justice Department, which stressed that the flawed forensic testimony did not necessarily establish the defendants' innocence.

Lonnie Strawhacker was convicted of rape in Washington County in 1990 based partly on testimony from an FBI hair-comparison expert during his trial. Eugene Pitts was convicted of capital murder in the 1979 kidnapping and slaying of a North Little Rock veterinarian also based partly on testimony from the same FBI expert, identified as Michael Malone.

John Wesley Hall, a lawyer for Pitts, said the rulings Thursday are far from the last word in the appeals.

"This is not a retrying. It's to establish whether (Pitts) is entitled to a new trial... and how the bad hair testimony affected the verdict," Hall said.

The state had argued that the flawed testimony did not fit into the established categories for error coram nobis, saying that granting the petitions could open a floodgate of appeals in other cases. Petitions have been granted for defendants later found to have been insane at trial, coerced guilty pleas, evidence withheld by prosecutors and third-party confessions to the crime during the appeals process.

"We acknowledge that Strawhacker's claim may not neatly fall within one of the four established categories," the justices wrote in a majority opinion. "But the categories are not set in stone."

The opinion goes on to instruct the lower circuit courts on how to determine the validity of the appeal under the specific legal maneuver. Justice Paul Danielson wrote in his dissent that the attorneys and courts should consider other established avenues of challenging the testimony before expanding the definition of error coram nobis.

Strawhacker's case will be heard in Washington County, and Pitts' case will be heard in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

As for future issues with forensic testimony, the Justice Department issued a memo in September saying it was developing a new code of professional responsibility for its forensic science laboratories, including asking forensic examiners and prosecutors to no longer use the phrase "reasonable scientific certainty" in their reports or testimony.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

After serving as the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's provost and executive vice chancellor for almost four years, Zulma Toro has been named president of Central Connecticut State University.

She begins her new position Jan. 3.  

Toro arrived at UALR in January 2013 and led efforts to enhance academic programs and student services to make the university a more student-centric institution. She also worked to enhance the student experience and bring the institution closer to the community, UALR said. 

The university also said its next step will be announced soon.

Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff on Wednesday reported third-quarter net income of $23.4 million, up 8 percent from the same quarter last year.

The company also reported diluted earnings per share of 76 cents, up from 72 cents in the same quarter last year.

The company noted that third-quarter 2016 results included $953,000 of after-tax expenses related to noncore items. Excluding those expenses, "core earnings" were $24.4 million and diluted core earnings per share were 79 cents.

In a news release, CEO George Makris Jr. said the company completed its latest bank acquisition — Citizens National Bank of Athens, Tennessee — during the quarter. A systems conversion tied to the deal takes place Thursday.

"We welcome our newest associates from Citizens National Bank into the Simmons family," Makris said in a news release. "We look forward to continued growth in our east Tennessee markets." 

Makris pointed out the company's quarterly efficiency ratio of 53.8 percent, return on assets of 1.21 percent, return on equity of 8.4 percent, and return on tangible common equity of 13.3 percent.

Total loans stood at were $5.4 billion as of Sept. 30, up 11 percent from the same time last year. Total deposits were $6.6 billion, up about 9 percent from the same time last year.

Quarterly net interest income was $68.1 million, down 13 percent from the same time last year. Non-interest income was $36.9 million, up about $14 million from the same time last year.

In northwest Arkansas, building permits have increased, the supply of remaining lots continued to fall and the number of complete but unoccupied houses remains low, according to Arvest Bank's residential real estate market Skyline Report for the first half of 2016.

Kathy Deck of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, is the lead researcher of the report, which is sponsored by Arvest. She called demand for new housing in the region "robust." 

"In a fast-growing economy like the one we are experiencing, it is not unusual to see supply outstrip demand slightly," she said. "At this point, inventories remain low, so there is some room for an increase. Prices have been increasing over the past few years, so the increased pace of building may help keep home prices affordable as the selection of available properties increases."

More: Click here to see the complete report.

There were 1,561 building permits issued in Benton and Washington counties from Jan. 1 through June 30, a 15 percent increase from the same period of 2015 and a 30 percent increase compared to July to December 2015, the report said.

The average value of building permits in northwest Arkansas from January to June was $226,466, down 3 percent from the average value reported in the same time period of 2015 and down 5 percent from the average value reported from July to December 2015.

In total, 4,373 existing homes were sold in Benton and Washington counties during the first six months of 2016, an increase of 16 percent from the same time period of 2015.

The average sales price of Benton County homes during the first half of 2016 was $218,482, up nearly 6 percent from the second half of 2015. In Washington County, the average price of existing homes was up 7 percent from the average sales price in the second half of 2015.

"With economic growth and low unemployment in northwest Arkansas, families are needing homes," said Dax Moreton, senior vice president and loan manager for Arvest Bank in Prairie Grove.

Using the absorption rate from the past 12 months implies that there is a 46.1-month supply of remaining lots in active subdivisions in the region, the lowest level since 2007. But an additional 5,539 residential lots have received either preliminary or final approval in the two counties. Adding those proposed lots extends the supply to 75.1 months, the report said.


A labor union that has demonstrated against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. asked the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday to reverse a judge's decision barring it from entering the retail giant's property for anything other than shopping.

An attorney for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union argued that the National Labor Relations Board, not the Benton County judge, should have jurisdiction over the matter.

Wal-Mart had sought the order against the union and the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart in response to the group demonstrating and picketing at its stores over its pay and benefits.

George Wiszynski, the attorney for the union, said the Bentonville-based company's trespassing complaint was nearly identical to one it had also filed with the national board.

"At the end of the day, Wal-Mart relied on the same conduct for its unfair labor practice, its National Labor Relations Board charge as it does for its lawsuit," Wiszynski told justices.

Wal-Mart's attorney, however, said trespassing is a state issue and was properly before the judge.

"Trespass, repeated, defiant trespass absolutely is a significant state interest," Steven Wheeless told justices. "Second, there is no risk of interference between a state court hearing a trespass claim and a labor board hearing about a labor violation that arose during the trespass."

Wal-Mart sued the union over the demonstrations, which it said has included "flash mobs" where demonstrators have banged on pots and pans march and chant through its stores. Other activities have included rallies and picketing at its stores and offices, the company said. The retail giant has filed similar suits against the union in Florida and Texas in recent years.

The union has also argued that the judge's order was too broad since it bars entering Wal-Mart's property for "non-shopping" activities, rather than barring the demonstrations and other conduct that prompted the retail giant's complaint.

The justices did not indicate when they would rule in the case.


This story has been corrected to show the judge is from Benton County, not Washington County.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

A Chinese company that makes clothing for Adidas and other brands has agreed to put a garment plant in Little Rock, investing $20 million and employing 400 people, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday.

The governor made the announcement via FaceTime from China, where he's wrapping up a six-day trade mission to recruit business to the state and lobby for Arkansas agricultural exports

Among his stops: Suzhou, a city in China's Jiangsu Province, where he and Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston signed a memorandum of understanding with the Suzhou Industrial Park Tianyuan Garment Co.

The company makes casual and sportswear for brands including Reebok and Armani. It makes 10 million articles of clothing per year and supplies 90 percent of garments under the Adidas brand, according to the governor's office.

Per the MOU, Tianyuan agrees to put a plant at an unnamed site in Little Rock, hire 400 full-time employees at an average wage of $14 per hour within 4 years of the start of the operation, and invest $20 million to buy a building, equip the plant and make capital improvements.

"What's fascinating is, is these are higher paying jobs in terms of the garment industry; it is more highly technical, including robotics," Hutchinson said. "And so it will be interesting to us to watch how the garment industry unfolds in the coming years and how Arkansas can participate in that."

Preston said the investment marks the first by a Chinese-owned garment manufacturer in the United States.

"We're first," he said. "We're proud to be blazing that trail and to have them in our state."

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is offering the following incentives:

  • Five years of its Create Rebate program, a benefit of about $1.6 million.
  • Tax Back Program, a benefit of about $134,000.
  • A $1 million Infrastructure Assistance Grant for building improvements and equipment at the site.
  • $500,000 for worker training.
  • A letter of support for Tianyuan's applications for 20 work visas for its employees.
  • Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreement with Little Rock and Pulaski County to abate up to 65 percent of property taxes.

Preston said the AEDC and the governor's office have been working with Tianyuan since earlier this year, when company representatives visited the state and toured prospective sites for the plant. He said AEDC will continue to work with Tianyuan as it settles on a specific site in Little Rock.

Hutchinson and Preston indicated other Chinese garment firms might consider Arkansas as a prospect for expansion. Speaking broadly, Hutchinson said one of the Chinese government's priorities is overseas investment, a "significant change" from even six years ago. That gives the state an opportunity to attract more business from the country, he said.

"One significant fact that we see here, is that while in previous decades we have lost manufacturing — certainly to Mexico, we've lost manufacturing to China in previous decades — but now we see that same manufacturing wanting to return to the United States of America," he said. "And nothing can illustrate that more than the garment industry …"

Preston said Chinese firms are seeking access to the North American market, and Arkansas is a good fit for companies for several reasons.

"It makes sense for Arkansas as we're strategically located between Canada and Mexico and within one day's drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population," he said. "Our access to the Mississippi River, great rail infrastructure and highway infrastructure make Arkansas a desired destination for companies in China."

Video of the Governor's Announcement

While in China, Hutchinson and Preston also met with the chairman of Shandong Sun Paper Industry JSC Ltd., which earlier this year announced plans to build a $1.3 billion paper mill that will employ 250 people in Clark County.

Hutchinson said the company is continuing to move ahead with its plans. He said the company hopes to have an air permit application to Arkansas regulators by the end of the year.

"We're not in crisis; we're getting back on our feet," economist Jim Glassman told a small gathering of business professionals Wednesday at an economic outlook luncheon sponsored by Chase, the Little Rock Regional Chamber and Arkansas Business.

Glassman is managing director and head economist for Chase Commercial Banking.

He spoke at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock about how layoff levels and the unemployment rate are low, and said job growth is strong. GDP growth is also on pace with layoff levels, Glassman said.

He also lamented the lack of policy discussions in this year's election cycle.

Glassman said that while the U.S. House of Representatives is likely to remain in Republican control, there's a possibility that the Senate will go to the Democrats. But whoever is elected president will not have data to support another stimulus package like what the nation saw during the Great Recession, he said.

Glassman said that while many people blame manufacturing job loss on globalization — a feeling Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump taps into — innovation has been more disruptive. 

For example, planes now have the technology to practically fly themselves, he said, and although there are still pilots, the value of those pilots is lessened. Glassman added that innovation also creates jobs that require workers with more skills.

But the economy is not as bad as it might seem to the general public, Glassman said.

He called the nation's recovery from the Great Recession "beyond normal," although he said history books would likely label it as a normal recovery. Glassman said the Federal Reserve should raise interest rates to avoid dislocations and back off from stimulus to avoid long-term dislocations and to balance the economy.

When the housing bubble burst in 2007, economists said recovery would take decades, and Glassman said his 10-year estimate was the among the most optimistic.

But he noted that, after only nine years, housing prices are back to what they were in the spring of 2007; unemployment has dropped from about 10 percent to around 5 percent; 2 million people in their 20s and 30s are returning to the job market after going to school when opportunities were scarce; and a record number of people, about 15 million, are employed.

The automobile industry is also back to normal, Glassman said, to the surprise of those in the industry. And although the country is in debt, its debt is not growing faster than the economy.

But one concern the next president must address is the rising cost of health care and the imbalance in entitlement programs like Social Security, he said.

Glassman said that for every $1 paid into Medicaid and Medicare, $3 is taken out — a reality that's difficult to talk about politically.

The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas this week announced four new inductees to its Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

The honorees are:

  • Charles E. Scharlau, retired chairman, president and CEO of Southwestern Energy Co.
  • Thomas B. Schueck, chairman of Lexicon Inc.
  • Sherman E. Tate, president and CEO of Tate & Associates Management.
  • Gus M. Vratsinas, chairman of Bailey Construction and Consulting LLC.

The inductees will join the 74 other members of the hall during an induction ceremony on Feb. 10 at at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

"I am proud and humbled to have the opportunity to celebrate the careers of these four outstanding business leaders," Walton College Dean Matthew A. Waller said in a news release. "They and those who have preceded them as members of the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame represent the best in business in our state. Their lives and epic achievements in business and in their communities have helped keep Arkansas moving forward."

The Arkansas Business Hall of Fame is housed in the atrium of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development at the Walton College on the UA campus in Fayetteville.

Ann Bordelon, Walton College alumna and CFO and chief administrative officer of NOWDiagnostics Inc., chaired the selection committee of nine business and community leaders who reviewed nominations from throughout the state and chose the inductees. 

Criteria for selection included: the significance of the impact made as a business leader, the concern demonstrated for improving the community and the display of ethics in all business dealings. In addition, living inductees must be over the age of 60.

Tickets to the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony are $150 per person and available here.

Home BancShares Inc. of Conway on Thursday reported record quarterly profit of $43.6 million, up 22 percent from $35.7 million in the same quarter last year.

It was the 22nd straight quarter of record quarterly performance for the parent company of Centennial Bank. Third-quarter diluted earnings per share reached 31 cents, up from 26 cents diluted earnings per share (split adjusted) in the same quarter last year.

"We are pleased with the earnings performance this quarter, excluding expenses incurred to buy-out the FDIC loss share portfolio," John Allison, chairman, said in a news release. "For the quarter, the company reported outstanding results for diluted earnings per share excluding the FDIC loss share buy-out of 33 cents per share. We continue to see growth in loans and earnings and are committed to finding more efficient ways to provide exceptional service to our customers."

During the quarter, the company reported $90.1 million in organic loan growth, a core efficiency ratio of 36.51 percent and a quarterly return on assets, excluding FDIC loss share buy-out, of 1.90 percent.

Total loans receivable were $7.11 billion at Sept. 30, compared to $6.64 billion at Dec. 31. Total deposits were $6.84 billion, compared to $6.44 billion, and total assets were $9.76 billion, compared to $9.29 billion. 

During the quarter, the company added deposit operations to its loan production office in New York City and opened one branch location in Davie, Florida. During the fourth quarter of 2016, the company plans to close one Arkansas location. 

The company has 77 branches in Arkansas, 59 branches in Florida, 6 branches in Alabama and one branch in New York City. 

LITTLE ROCK - A former Arkansas judge accused of giving lighter sentences to defendants in exchange for nude photos and sexual acts will remain in jail for now.

A federal magistrate judge sided with prosecutors during a detention hearing Wednesday, denying bond for former Cross County District Judge Joseph Boeckmann.

U.S. Judge Joe Volpe says he will allow defense attorneys to propose in filings, and that he would consider, secure detention with a family member who lives far from Wynne, where the allegations are centered.

Prosecutors had asked that Boeckmann, 70, be held after two witnesses told investigators he had used a third party to threaten them or offer bribes for them to lie.

Boeckmann, who resigned earlier this year, has pleaded not guilty to fraud, bribery, witness tampering and other charges.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

LITTLE ROCK - Opponents of medical marijuana initiatives in Arkansas launched a TV ad Wednesday claiming competing proposals on the November ballot would lead to drug abuse, while two state law enforcement agencies said they'd need funding increases if the drug is legalized.

Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana, a coalition of groups opposed to the medical pot proposals, said it's spending about $50,000 to air the 30-second spot statewide over the next week. In the ad, state Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe says there are some compounds in marijuana that could potentially help patients with seizures but contends the proposals go too far.

"But this is just drug abuse and it's not medicine," Bledsoe says in the ad, as the image of several young people smoking pot is shown. "Get the law right and many of us will support it. Until then, don't buy the big lie."

Both ballot measures would allow patients with certain medical conditions to buy marijuana from dispensaries, but differ in their restrictions and regulations. For example, one proposal would allow patients to grow their own marijuana if they don't live near a dispensary. Arkansas voters narrowly rejected medical marijuana four years ago.

Medical pot supporters called the ad deceptive.

"It was very disappointing at the same time that while acknowledging there are medical benefits, they choose to show potheads smoking pot instead of actual patients," said David Couch, the sponsor of one of medical marijuana proposals. Couch said he hoped to begin airing ads for his proposal before early voting begins Monday.

The head of the Arkansas State Police and the state Crime Lab also spoke out against the proposals Wednesday, warning they'd need additional funding to hire more officers and equipment if medical cannabis becomes legal.

"We will be required to train more drug recognition experts, and in addition we will need to add criminal investigators to assist in this endeavor and also train our criminal investigators to dismantle and disrupt these marijuana grow operations," State Police Director Col. Bill Bryant said at a news conference with Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and other opponents. Bryant said he planned to offer more details on the additional funding needed at a legislative hearing Thursday with other agency directors.

The groups behind the measures accused opponents of trying to scare voters, saying they didn't expect medical marijuana to be a drain on law enforcement.

"I would think it would save them some money," said Melissa Fults, campaign director of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, sponsor of the other ballot measure. "They don't have to arrest as many people."

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Five years after development began, Ballet Arkansas is finally moving into its new office and rehearsal space on Main Street Little Rock's "Creative Corridor."

The nonprofit will host a grand opening of the new studio in the Arkansas Building at 520 Main St. on Tuesday.

The studio is on the same block as Cranford Co., the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's second, "black box" venue and the still-unfinished Arkansas Symphony Orchestra office and rehearsal studio.

Ballet Arkansas General Manager Erin Anson-Ellis said Wednesday that the nonprofit has already moved its offices to the new space and rehearsals will move into the studio next week. The company is moving from 1521 Merrill Drive, a space shared with Shuffles & Ballet II.

"Really this is big for us because it's a space dedicated specifically for Ballet Arkansas," Anson-Ellis said. "We're going to be on the same train as the Rep and the symphony, and we're moving over there to get a little more visibility in the community."

The new space features one large main studio, a reception area, office space and a storage area.

Construction of key Creative Corridor properties has been dogged by delays tied to developer Scott Reed. Cranford Co., and advertising agency, decided to finish its Arkansas Building space on its own and moved in last summer.

Ballet Arkansas took matters into its own hands as well. The city of Little Rock helped, providing about $50,000 in grants to fund finishing touches, Anson-Ellis said. That included AV equipment and flooring.

"We're just really excited to be there, I can't even believe it's really happening," Anson-Ellis said.

The organization is making the move without an executive director. Ganelle Blake assumed the role in January but left Ballet Arkansas in April. Anson-Ellis said the company has since restructured the organization's hierarchy and isn't seeking an executive director "right now."

Ballet Arkansas' ribbon cutting will take place at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday with rehearsals to follow. A grand opening welcome celebration is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. with dancers, staff and board members.

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