The guest speaker at the September General Membership Meeting of the Benton Bryant Realtors Association was UALR’s State Economic Forecaster, Dr. Michael Pakko.

Beginning by saying that while the U.S. had seen the end of the recession three years ago, it didn’t really feel like it at times.

“The problem,” Pakko said, “is that we have not seen the rapid growth. Aside from a couple of quarters of 4 percent growth, it has been pretty sluggish the past three years.”

In the summer of 2009 industrial production and real GDP hit bottom and resumed growth. Expansion in both indicators grew stronger towards the end of that year. 

“We have had very slow job growth,” Pakko said. “Part of the problem was such a sharp downturn to begin with. But really the past three recessions have been classified as jobless recoveries. Starting with 1990, ’91, this seems to be the pattern; that employment is the last thing to turn up.”

It used to be that in manufacturing you would lay people off and then bring them back. Today, Pakko said, we are seeing more job losses remain permanent. 

The recovery, post recession economy or whatever you want to label it has not produced those new jobs that are such an important factor to not only those who draw the paycheck, but the rest of Main Street America that is so dependent on the sale of their goods and services.

 If you look at total growth since the end of the recession it is 6.8 percent. Which, Pakko says, for three years isn’t great. Where it has been slowest are two areas of investment spending – residential construction and non-residential construction. “That is the area that is holding the economy back,” Pakko said. 

In an August 23 post to his blog, Arkansas Economist, Pakko said the 2012 2nd quarter housing data for the state was a “mixed bag of results.  The seasonally adjusted ‘Purchase-Only Index’ (which uses only sales price data) showed Arkansas house prices up 1.9 percent for the quarter and up 7.2 percent from a year earlier.  In comparison, data for the U.S. showed prices up 1.8 percent for the quarter and up 3.0 percent from the previous year.  On the other hand, the FHFA’s “All-Transactions Index” (which includes appraisal data from refinancing) showed prices declining.  House prices were down 1.5 percent in Arkansas, and down 0.7 percent nationwide.”

Always a major factor on Arkansas’ overall economy is the agricultural sector. There was the spring flooding back in 2011 and the summer drought of this year. Agricultural output (including forestry, fishing and hunting) declined by over 16 percent last year. 

In a state like Arkansas where agriculture comprises a large share of economic activity, weakness in that sector generates secondary, induced effects in other areas of the economy. However, statistics suggest that damage from this summer’s drought and from Hurricane Isaac are not as severe as many had feared – at least in Arkansas.  Nationwide, the drought has had a larger impact.   

Looking ahead to the future Pakko said that home prices have bottomed out. 

Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University agrees. “We may be seeing the beginning of the American family’s recovery from the Great Recession,” Cherlin said. He pointed in particular to the upswing in mobility and to young men moving out of their parents’ homes, both signs that more young adults were testing out job prospects.

“It could be the modest number of new jobs or simply the belief that the worst is over,” Cherlin said.

Of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price index, 16 are in the black for this year. But the housing market isn’t like the stock market. Bounce backs are typically slow.

Mortgage rates still at historic lows and the Fed’s recent action suggest they will remain so. Pakko also said that the recent rise in building permits is positive - “Builders are starting construction and have confidence there are buyers there.”

Read more from The Daily Record…

On campus or off, UALR students with a smartphone are just a tap away from classroom discussions and assignments, links to professors, the latest news, and real-time locations of the campus trolley - thanks to UALR Mobile.

The iPhone and iPad app - free from iTunes, the Apple app store - offers mobile links to the Blackboard online classroom platform, the academic calendar, an interactive map of campus, the UALR news feed, faculty contacts, and a GPS tracker for the Trojan Trolley. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors can all use the free app.

A similar app for Android devices is in development and is expected to be available soon.

"More and more people - particularly college-age people - are accessing information via their smartphones and tablets more than desktop computers," said Peter Stuckey, associate director of Information Technology Services. "UALR Mobile puts campus information and Blackboard classes in the palm of students’ hands."

Features of UALR Mobile include:

• A directory of faculty email listings that will save contacts in the user’s phone address book. 

• A campus map, with augmented reality features that give the phone user a picture of a building, identifies the building, and maps a route from one spot on campus to another with an estimate of how long it will take to walk there. 

• A direct link to the Trolley Tracker gives a phone user a GPS look at where the trolley is located in real time and when it will arrive at a designated stop. 

• A campus news feed from the Office of Communications. 

• Get instant access to all of your Blackboard Learn content on the go. Check for class announcements and more. 

• Scan the course catalog to view class times, locations, and more. 

• Keep track of the academic calendar. 

• Browse the entire UALR library catalog and check item availability. 

• ”Images” provides the ability to search, browse, download, and share images from the UALR collections. 

• Athletics provides news, schedules, and features on Trojan teams. 

• Video features the latest events from around campus, as well as special interviews and highlights. 

• A “Help” button provides access to important numbers.

Development of UALR Mobile was a collaboration among several UALR offices - Scholarly Technology and Resources, the Office of Communications, and Information Technology Services - partnering with Blackboard Mobile.

Read more from KTHV…

 UALR Biology and Environmental Health Sciences students are working with the City of Little Rock to trap and identify mosquitoes.

There are six traps around the city and for the last ten years, UALR students have worked alongside the Little Rock Solid Waste Department to identify which areas to spray for mosquitoes.

Each week, Will Anthony checks the six mosquito traps UALR students have placed around Little Rock.

"We take the box that is inside and see what kind are in there and find the species and genes of them," says Anthony.

It is research and field experience for Anthony but a type of West Nile prevention for the city.

"We follow up and tell the people that work for the city where exactly the citizens want sprayed," says Anthony.

"This mixture is really just a high intensity one of rabbit food is what we mix in to give kind of what we call an infusion," says Dr. Carl Stapleton, Director of UALR’s Environmental Health Sciences program.

Dr. Stapleton says mosquitoes have an extremely keen sense of smell and are attracted to exhaled CO2 gases. He says the odor from the liquid baits the female mosquitoes to lay their eggs.

"This trap is really for us to understand what density of mosquitoes we have and also what kind of mosquitoes we have because then we can go and look for sources," says Dr. Stapleton.

"We take those 311 calls and map them out and take the city truck and drive and look for the breeding grounds," says UALR graduate Kim Davenport. She says in dry conditions, citizens usually create their own mosquito problem.

"Tires, tires, especially tires. They are on every corner, they are full of water and most of them are breeding mosquitoes," says Davenport.

Breeding, Dr. Stapleton says, that can be prevented with a watchful eye.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I state that a lot but it is and that’s all facets of life but for mosquitoes and West Nile virus reduction, that is key," says Dr. Stapleton. 

While UALR and the city of Little Rock do not specifically test for West Nile, of the 55 mosquito species in Arkansas, 12 of them have the potential to carry it. 

He says it’s also important to remember, mosquitoes pose a threat to pets as well as humans.They are the source of heart-worm disease in dogs so be sure to get with your veterinarian about medications you can use to prevent the deadly disease.

So far, Arkansas has reported 25 cases of West Nile virus, 2 of them resulted in death.

Read more from KTHV…

For many students, this is the last weekend before the school bell rings. UALR kicks off its fall semester Thursday, but today many students are packing their bags and moving on campus.

It’s a busy day at UALR’s campus. A record number of students moved into the university’s residence halls. THV caught up with Natalie Swindle, a student who is getting ready to kick off the first year of their college career.

It’s a new beginning for many students at UALR. Its move in weekend; one of the students making a dorm her new home is Natalie Swindle. “We drove up yesterday and stayed in a hotel and it started to hit me that I am actually coming here.” Swindle is from Birmingham, Alabama and came to UALR to be a part of the swim team.

Her dad helped her move in, and has mixed emotions as she starts this new journey. “I’m kind of nervous, kind of sad because this is the end of an era but also the beginning of a new one.”

The dorms aren’t the only place filling up, Debbie Gentry, Executive director of housing says they also have apartments. “We bought another complex that has 420 beds and that’s just across Asher Avenue our students that have been here for a couple of years are so are eligible to move into the apartments.” Also new this year, the Trojan Grill. “It opened yesterday and it’s specifically for students that live in housing.”

Students like Swindle, who is looking forward to starting school and being on her own.   

"I’m ready for new experiences and having to make choices and decisions that I wouldn’t make if I was at my home." And the choices, her father says makes him proud. "I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, even though I know it was going to be difficult."

Natalie Swindle plans to major in nursing. Move in day will continue Sunday; they have about 1,100 students living on campus this year.

Read more from KTHV…

UALR student researchers and faculty members with an interest in sustainability* are encouraged to apply for 10 mini-grants being made available by Metroplan.

Dr. Nancy Landrum, former chair of the Sustainability Committee, said participants can learn more about the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant opportunity at an information session at 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, August 30, at the Donaghey Student Center in Room G.

The mini-grants will be awarded to faculty and student researchers for $3,000 to $5,000 for research projects locally or regionally focused on transportation, housing, economic development, energy and environment, and health relevant to the broader national conversation on sustainability.

The grants will be awarded through Metroplan, the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Conway metropolitan area.  

The grants can be used to disseminate best practices, encourage peer learning, publish data analysis and research, or help incubate and test new ideas.

For more information, contact Landrum, associate professor of management, by email at or by calling (501) 569-8850.

*The Environmental Protection Agency defines sustainability as being based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.

Read more from KARK…

Homicides are costing taxpayers a record setting amount nationwide and UALR professor of Criminology, Jeff Walker, suggests similar trends here in Arkansas.

The study tracks cost beyond the obvious categories of police, courts, and prisons. Quality of life factors into this data and long term affects of death on a communities’ economy.

"You’ve got a normal police response, crime scene response, a cleanup response," says UALR Criminal Justice Professor, Jeff Walker. 

Walker says after initial response, taxpayers get the bill for the police investigation, the work of paramedics and hospital staff and the work of a medical examiner after the victim dies. Then legal costs add in another significant drain on taxpayer dollars. 

"Depending on what the trial is can really change the cost. A capitol trial where they’re going after the death penalty is exponentially more costly than even a life in prison trial," says Walker. 

A study by RAND, a nonprofit research institute found the average cost of a homicide to substantially greater than other crimes with an average cost of a homicide at $8.7 million and the next highest was the cost of rape at $217,000. Walker says the indirect costs to families can be staggering. 

"The cost of burial, medical costs that may go along with a homicide if the person is not dead when the police find them," says Walker. 

Homicides can also impact an areas housing market. 

"People wanting to live there or not live there…increased police presence in those types of neighborhoods so there are a lot of cost that are associated with homicide," says Walker. 

The most shocking may be the legal cost of seeking the death penalty in a homicide case. 

"You can actually try somebody, put them in prison for life for less money, not that that’s the goal, than it would be for a death penalty case and even if the person was actually executed," says Walker. 

Walker says about the only remedy to drive cost down would be to reduce the number of homicides.

Read more from KTHV…

"It would be easy to forget that having benefited from the generosity of others obligated me to give back,” Thomas C. McMillan said. He is a professor and chairman in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). McMillan, whose grandfather was an Arkansan, joined Little Rock’s premier metropolitan university in 1999, and soon after Dean J.W. Wiggins asked him to serve on the Campus Campaign Steering Committee.

“I very soon realized that UALR is a special place, and my service on the committee allowed me to contribute more than [just] financially,” said McMillan, who, along with his wife Linda, created the Linda and Tom McMillan Mathematics Award, which is awarded to a full- or part-time student majoring in math. Preference for the award is given to students who demonstrate academic merit and financial need.

UALR’s tree-lined campus has 40 buildings on 150 acres and serves many types of students. About half are balancing families, careers and school.

Christopher New, 43, a husband and father, was a McMillan Scholar during the 2009-2010 academic year and called the experience “humbling.” New, a 1987 graduate of North Pulaski High School in Jacksonville, earned a two-year degree at Northwest Community College and worked as an aircraft mechanic, but he was “searching for something more satisfying.” After being laid off, like hundreds of others, from airplane manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft, he enrolled full-time at UALR and excelled at classes like Introduction to Proof and Topology.

“UALR is a great place to study math,” said New, who describes winning the McMillan Scholarship as “a big inspiration.” He expects to graduate next year. New gives back by tutoring students at the UALR Mathematics Assistance Center on the sixth floor of Dickinson Hall and is considering graduate studies in mathematics.

McMillan said he was proud New was awarded a McMillan Scholarship. “[Christopher New is] a good student. I know that scholarships provide students with that most valuable commodity — time.” 

The UALR Campus Campaign also helps students like Kimberly Gulley, a senior from Magnolia. The health sciences major said she enjoyed serving as a caller during last year’s phonathon and intends to dial up former students again.

“We talk to alumni about how they can help fund scholarships and study abroad programs,” said Gulley, whose sister Porchia is a recent UALR graduate. Gulley can speak from first-hand knowledge about how The Fund has affected her life. The Fund for UALR is the vehicle that’s used for unrestricted money for the area of greatest need. The Fund supports the Academic Success Center which purchases textbooks to help assist students. Gulley benefited from this program.

Belief in and support for the school’s mission by the UALR faculty and staff helped prime the pump for community and corporate giving. “From the physical plant to the chancellor’s office, we have a faculty and staff giving rate of 47 percent,” McMillan said. “We support the mission ourselves in terms of giving. Not too many [organizations] can say that.”

“Generous giving by our campus community set the stage for our comprehensive campaign,” said Bob Denman, vice chancellor for development. UALR brought its first comprehensive fundraising campaign to a close this April with a final tally of $103.6 million in gifts and pledges. Three percent of that total came from faculty and staff.

“Our success is due in part to their early campaign participation and leadership,” said Denman.

McMillan, like many of his colleagues at UALR, is investing in future generations and already counting the blessings of their generosity.

Read more from AY Magazine…

UALR College of Business Dean Jane Wayland will honor David Cone, a 1965 graduate of UALR’s predecessor institution, Little Rock University, with a Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award.

Also, Jay W. Wisener, executive vice president of Arkansas Capital Corp., will receive the Dean’s Award for Excellence at an upcoming luncheon event.

Cone’s first professional job was with Strauss Distributors Inc. By 1985, he was president of the firm, became a partner in 1989, and CEO in 1995.

His unique strategy for developing the fine wine business by partnering with charities was a major success in exposing his wines with patrons who attended such events, while at the same time helping hundreds of charities advance their missions.

In 2004, his business was sold to Dallas-based Glazer’s, the third-largest wine and spirits wholesaler in the country. Cone served as Glazer’s regional vice president for the state of Arkansas in charge of business development for the company’s wine business and on-premise business and still assists the business while serving as the director of wines.

Wisener was a member of the fifth class of UALR’s Executive MBA
program and holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from UALR. He is also a graduate of the inaugural class of the Leadership Arkansas program.

For more information on the event, contact the UALR College of Business at (501) 569-3208.

Read more from Talk Business…

UALR will welcome its first students this fall in two degree programs in the Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering. New programs will include a Bachelor of Science degree in architectural and construction engineering and a Master of Science degree in construction management.

The new degrees double the programs being offered in the construction management department in UALR’s Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT).

"UALR is the only public institution of higher education in Arkansas to offer any of these degree programs," said Dr. Eric Sandgren, dean of the EIT College.

Architectural engineering is the discipline concerned with the planning, design, construction, and operation of buildings intended for human occupancy or habitation. Examples include high-rise and low-rise office buildings, commercial buildings, schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, arenas, stadiums, and more.

The M.S. program in construction management has been designed to educate leaders for the construction industry. The degree will allow professionals in the construction industry to expand their knowledge and enhance their skills, but it will also make it possible for people from other backgrounds to enter the construction industry.

Architectural engineers work closely with architects who develop the overall vision for a building; civil engineers who plan and design building sites and foundations; and construction companies that convert the architectural concepts and designs into real buildings.

Civil engineering is a broad discipline that prepares students to plan, design, construct, and operate infrastructure, such as highways, bridges, tunnels, locks, dams, levees, airports, railroads, and water and wastewater treatment.

"Adding these new programs gives UALR students the chance to pursue degrees in high-demand fields and secure a bright future in the workplace," said Dr. Nickolas S. Jovanovic, program coordinator for the civil and construction engineering and the architectural and construction engineering programs. "This kind of work is done right here in Little Rock but also everywhere else in the world. Designing and constructing new buildings and infrastructure will be necessary, not only to replace existing buildings and infrastructure, but also to support an expanding population, both here and abroad."

Read more from KTHV…

50 Arkansas students have spent the last week in space. They are participating in a special summer school at UALR. A hands-on, critical thinking space camp.

It’s a two-week Math and Science Summer Camp sponsored by Exxon Mobile. Instead of notes and lectures these kids go on field trips, build spacesuits and blow things up.

Engineering Recruiting Director Vernard Henley says the purpose of the program is to get students interested in Science, Math, and Engineering.

"They’ll go to class, just like college students. They have labs, all the math classes, all the technology classes are hands on."

It’s a rigorous schedule the students stay busy from 7 in the morning until 9 at night. But they say it’s worth it.

Watch the video from KARK…