Fort Smith Makes Top Spot On Arkansas Tech Business Index

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A large jump in March propelled Fort Smith to the top of the Arkansas Tech Business Index for the first quarter of 2014, according to a news release from Arkansas Tech University on Monday (June 23).

Fort Smith had an index rating of 108.36 for March, which was an increase of 2.21 points from February. The increase gave Fort Smith an index rating of 106.32 for the first quarter of 2014, and that is the highest rating among the 16 municipalities measured on the index, according to the release.

The index was created and is maintained by the Arkansas Tech University College of Business. The Arkansas Tech Business Index (ATBI) is a comprehensive measure that provides a look of economic activity around The Natural State. The ATBI encompasses a labor index, housing market index, construction index and retail sales index, the release states.

The index itself is based around a score of 100. A city reading above 100 shows that it is currently doing better than the state average from 2009 to the present date. Among the 16 municipalities, seven have an index rating above 100 for March, and nine have an index rating above 100 for the first quarter of 2014, according to the release.

“Fort Smith came on strong in the first quarter ATBI,” said Dr. Marc Fusaro, associate professor of economics at Arkansas Tech and developer of the instrument for the Arkansas Tech Business Index.

He continued, “This strength is led by the retail sector, which is always strong for Fort Smith, having an ATBI retail sales index value of 116.7 in the first quarter.  Helping to drive the strong showing is a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.5 percent in March from an average of 7.5 percent in 2013. In construction, February and January were slow months for Fort Smith with index readings below 100, but March was a strong month at 104.3. This is due to two big projects being permitted in March, the $2.3 million Marcy Clinic and the $13.3 million Mill Creek Wastewater Pump Station.”

Fusaro also said that 12 of the 16 municipalities on the ATBI saw declines in their index rating during the first quarter of 2014, and the main advancers were Fort Smith, Texarkana, Hot Springs and Springdale, according to the release.