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PrivacyStar to add 121 jobs in Conway

<p>Roby Brock</p>

Roby Brock

First Orion — parent company of PrivacyStar, a smartphone services firm — says it will add 121 new jobs in Conway as it moves to a new location in the Central Arkansas city. PrivacyStar, which was started by former Acxiom executive Jeff Stalnaker and is chaired by former Acxiom CEO Charles Morgan, says the move in Conway entails relocating to a new corporate facility. The 121 new jobs will pay an average wage of $38 per hour, or $79,040 per year.

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Hawker Beechcraft has given notice that it will lay off 170 workers at its Little Rock manufacturing facility. Hawker, which finishes out high-end corporate and personal jets, has been going through a massive restructuring as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and potential sale to Chinese investors.

“This latest round will impact approximately 170 employees across multiple levels and functions, hourly and non-hourly, throughout our Little Rock facilities,” said a letter to employees from CEO Steve Miller.

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Northwest Arkansas has a new branding campaign: “Great for Business. Great for Life.” Mike Malone, CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said social media platforms will be employed for basic marketing but much of the work that was done for the rebranding campaign will be used by the five chambers of commerce who took part in the project — Fayetteville, Springdale, Siloam Springs, Rogers and Bentonville. Malone said the brand is important as the region looks to the future for new opportunities to recruit business, promote homegrown entrepreneurs and help others expand their operations in Northwest Arkansas.

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Natural gas driller Southwestern Energy recorded a $488.1 million second quarter loss, but company officials said it was largely due to a non-cash charge on properties whose value declined from lower natural gas prices. Also, the CEO of the largest driller in Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale play said triple-digit temperatures were negatively impacting production.

Excluding the non-cash impairment, Southwestern said its second quarter net income would have leveled at $90.8 million. One year ago, the Houston-based energy company posted net income of $167.5 million. Revenues for Southwestern Energy fell from $765.16 million a year ago to $599.7 million at the end of June 2012.

CEO Steve Mueller said that “extremely high” temperatures in central Arkansas have impacted production in the north-central Arkansas drilling region.

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Trucking giant Arkansas Best Corp. showed a $11.8 million second quarter profit in part thanks to an $8 million tax benefit that worked in the company’s favor. The Fort Smith-based less-than-truckload carrier increased revenues during the quarter to $511 million. One year ago, Arkansas Best recorded second quarter net income of $5.3 million on revenue of $499 million. The company had a first quarter 2012 loss of $18.2 million.

The second quarter 2012 results included a tax benefit of $8.0 million related to the reversal of previously established deferred tax asset valuation allowances. The results also included transaction costs of $2.1 million associated with its $180 million June acquisition of Panther Expedited Services, Inc., an Ohio-based logistics firm expected to help diversify Arkansas Best’s revenue base.

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Acxiom Corp. got its first quarter off to a solid start as the database and digital marketer posted net income of $13.33 million on revenue of $271.66 million. One year ago, the Little Rock-based firm recorded first-quarter earnings of $10.97 million on revenue of $276.04 million.

“We are making progress – but we still have much to do,” said Acxiom CEO Scott Howe. “While our margins have improved and we’ve strengthened our managerial capability and focus, this year will continue to be a period of investment and transition. Our objective is straightforward – get better every day we come to work.”

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Murphy Oil Corp. reported profits of $295.4 million on revenue of $7.19 billion. One year ago, Murphy Oil recorded profits of $311.6 million on revenue of $7.42 billion. In the second quarter of 2011, Murphy Oil had a $31.6 million gain from the sale of two refineries that boosted quarterly earnings.

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The state Department of Finance and Administration’s monthly revenue report for July showed net available general revenues eclipsed $403.9 million, up 7.1 percent from last July and 3.9 percent above forecast.

Individual income taxes led the way as the category showed $212.1 million, roughly 52 percent of net revenues. The amount was an increase of 9.6 percent from the previous year and was 6.4 percent above forecast. Sales and use tax collections, which reflect retail sales and consumer spending activity, decreased 0.6 percent from year-ago levels to $177.9 million. That amount was 4 percent below forecast.

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As the health care debate heats up in the state, the Arkansas Hospital Association (AHA) released an economic impact study that suggests the health care industry in Arkansas accounts for 75,000 jobs and generates up to $10.3 billion in annual economic activity.

Specifically, the report said Arkansas hospitals account for:

* 42,300 direct jobs

* Payrolls totaling $2.7 billion

* 32,700 indirect jobs

* $2.25 billion in indirect job earnings

* $2.67 billion in direct spending for supplies and services

* $249.76 million in capital spending

* $458.76 million to local economies

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Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes a column for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central Arkansas. E-mail him at roby@talkbusiness.net; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net.

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