Bad Boy Mowers to Expand in Arkansas, Add 300 Jobs Over 5 Years

Bad Boy Mowers announced Wednesday that it will expand its campus in Batesville and create 300 new jobs over the next five years.

In a news release, the company said it will build a new paint facility and shipping center while continuing to add manufacturing equipment. The company said it will also move its corporate office and truck shop to existing facilities and continue to expand its transportation fleet. Arkansas Business

Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce hires Brandom Gengelbach as president, CEO

Brandom Gengelbach, previously the president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce in Texas, has accepted the same role with the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce (GBACC).

Bentonville chamber officials announced the news Tuesday (Oct. 31) at the Rogers Convention Center, the site of this week’s Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit. The annual gathering is one of the Bentonville chamber’s flagship events. Gengelbach started the job Monday.

“The [GBACC] executive committee and board of directors are excited and confident that Brandom Gengelbach’s rich background in business and chamber leadership, economic development, and a commitment to fostering strategic economic growth makes Brandom the ideal President and CEO,” Martine Downs Pollard, chair of the chamber’s board of directors, said in a statement. Pollard is vice president of Northwest Arkansas for Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield. “Brandom brings a wealth of experience, along with a deep-rooted passion for the business community. Combining that with his down-to-earth and personable demeanor, we know he is poised to lead and steer the chamber to new heights during this time of dynamic growth.” Northwest Arkansas Business Journal

AG Tim Griffin Orders China-Owned Company to Divest Arkansas Farmland

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin on Tuesday announced that he’s ordering a company owned by the Chinese government to divest about 160 acres of land in Craighead County.

The land is owned by corn and soybean seed provider Northrup King Seed Co., a subsidiary of Syngenta Seeds LLC, which is owned by China National Chemical Company, or ChemChina, a state-owned enterprise. Reports indicate that Syngenta has owned Northrup King, also known as NK Seeds, since the 90s.

Griffin said he’s taking action under a new law passed during this year’s regular legislative session that bans prohibited foreign entities from owning Arkansas agricultural lands. Act 636 prohibits such entities from acquiring or holding public or private land in Arkansas either directly or through affiliated parties.

The law defines a “prohibited foreign party” as individuals or entities with a connection to a country subject to federal International Traffic in Arms Regulations. China is subject to the regulations, which restrict and control the export of defense and military related technologies. Arkansas Business

Big River Steel Launches New EV-Focused Production Line in Osceola, Ark.

U.S. Steel on Thursday officially launched a new, non-grain oriented electrical steel line at its Big River Steel mill in Osceola that will position the company as a key supplier in the electric vehicle market.

The main product that will be produced on the line is InduX, a very wide, ultra-thin and lightweight steel with all the magnetic properties necessary for electric vehicles, the company said in a news release. No electric vehicle, motor, or generator today is operational without the steel grades needed to transform electrical power into usable energy.

According to the release, the line is the final step in a steelmaking process that utilizes up to 90% scrap steel as raw material and reduces carbon emissions up to 70%-80% compared to traditional integrated steelmaking. Arkansas Business

$3.7B Gas to Liquid Plant Strides Forward

When Energy Security Partners announced plans to build a $3 billion-plus plant for turning natural gas into liquid fuels near Pine Bluff nearly eight years ago, the idea seemed remote at best.

Skeptics feared the plan for a massive project using a technology they’d never heard of might tantalize but eventually disappoint a county with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

They also wondered who would finance the undertaking.

But on Wednesday, GTL Americas announced contractors to engineer and eventually build the plant, whose revised projected capital investment of $3.7 billion would make it the largest single industrial endeavor in state history. The company also detailed its project finance approach to paying for it, using equity stakes for 30% of the cost and debt for the remainder, secured by the assets and cash flows of the plant itself. Arkansas Business

CEO Confidence Survey: Arkansas Execs Navigate Inflation and Labor Challenges With Cautious Optimism

In the face of ongoing challenges, Arkansas’ CEOs have voiced a cautiously optimistic economic outlook.

A July poll of 541 of the state’s chief executives revealed a mix of confidence and apprehension as they assessed the current business climate and looked ahead to future conditions.

The most pressing concerns among Arkansas’ business leaders continue to revolve around the labor challenges and rising costs. An overwhelming majority of survey respondents, 76%, cited those issues as their primary worries. Other concerns include government leadership, crime, artificial intelligence and the war in Ukraine. Arkansas Business

Arkansas Bank Deposit Growth Slows to 1.5%

Arkansas bank deposits inched up just 1.5% in the 12 months that ended June 30, according to an annual report released Sept. 22 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The FDIC’s new summary of deposits shows that total deposits in 1,287 Arkansas branches of 112 different bank charters barely topped $97 billion, up from $95.6 billion at the midpoint of 2022. That’s the slowest deposit growth in Arkansas since 2014, but the total is still almost 40% higher than the last summary of deposits before COVID stimulus money distributed by the federal government supercharged deposits nationwide in 2020. Arkansas Business

Arkansas Leaders See Utah’s High-Tech Success as Model for Economic Transformation

During speaking engagements and interviews in his first few months in office, Arkansas Commerce Secretary Hugh McDonald repeatedly mentioned one state he felt Arkansas should turn to as a model for economic development: Utah.

Specifically, what McDonald was referring to is how Utah, which has a population about equal to Arkansas’, has been able to become one of the top states in the country for entrepreneurs and for high-tech industries, ranging from internet startups and biotech firms to pharmaceuticals, defense contractors and fintech companies.

And in other areas, according to national survey after national survey, Utah ranks at or near the top. In its latest “Best States” rankings, U.S. News & World Report listed Utah as first for its economy and fiscal stability, fifth for education and fourth for infrastructure. Overall, U.S. News ranked Utah as first in the nation in its 2023 “Best States” survey. (Arkansas ranked 45th in the survey.) Arkansas Business

Commercial real estate loop threatens American Banks

Bank OZK had two branches in rural Arkansas when chief executive officer George Gleason bought it in 1979. The Little Rock lender today has billions of dollars in commercial real-estate loans, including for properties in Miami and Manhattan, where it is helping fund the construction of a 1,000-foot-tall office and luxury residential tower on Fifth Avenue.

Regional banks across the country followed a similar playbook, gorging on commercial real-estate loans and related investments in big cities over the past decade.

With the commercial real-estate market now in meltdown, those trillions of dollars in loans and investments are a looming threat for the banking industry—and potentially the broader economy. Banks’ exposure is even bigger than commonly reported. The banks are in danger of setting off a doom-loop scenario where losses on the loans trigger banks to cut lending, which leads to further drops in property prices and yet more losses. The Wall Street Journal

The department also plans to make $3.5 billion available for domestic battery manufacturing. Companies and the U.S. government have been shelling out billions of dollars to establish a North American supply chain for rechargeable battery materials as it races to catch up with China, which dominates the battery supply chain. The Wall Street Journal

Creating a Coaching Culture

Some Carroll County poultry farmers are wondering what is next for them after Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale announced it would not renew integrator contracts with them.

The publicly traded meat processor told farmers last month that it would end ties with those with two years or less on their existing contract. In Carroll County, that was 39 farmers. In southern Missouri, it was 20.

All the farmers raised broilers, the chickens raised for consumption, for Tyson Foods, which for a long time was the only integrator that did business with farmers in Carroll County. The affected farmers will still be paid through the end of their contracts, either in a lump sum or in installments. Arkansas Business