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News in brief

February 19, 2021 at 1:58 a.m.

LR's January barges fall by half since '20

The Port of Little Rock worked half as many barges in January than it did the same month in 2019, port officials reported.

A total of 23 barges were worked in the first month of 2020, a 44% drop from the 41 barges the port worked in January 2020.

Cargo tonnage similarly was down year over year. Cargo handled across the port's two docks fell by the same to 35,000 tons in January from 63,000 tons 12 months earlier.

Cargo handled on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, of the which the port is a part, totaled 861,831 tons last month, up 15% from the same month in 2019, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Slightly more than 28% of the cargo on the system in January -- 244,000 tons -- was fertilizer. Sand, rock and gravel accounted for a fourth of the cargo at 214,328 tons while another 23% of the cargo, or 198,000 tons, was soybeans.

-- Noel Oman

Mississippi pushes business incentives

JACKSON, Miss. -- The Mississippi Senate is pushing to revise tax credits and other incentives for business that move to the state or expand their existing operations.

Senators voted unanimously Thursday to pass Senate Bill 2822, the Mississippi Flexible Tax Incentive Act, also called MFLEX. The bill now moves to the House.

Republican Sen. David Parker of Olive Branch said the goal is to simplify state incentives, based on how many jobs a business creates and the types of wages and benefits they provide. The MFLEX proposal would require companies that receive incentives to provide health insurance for their employees. Those offering higher salaries would get more favorable treatment from the state.

Parker also said any business receiving tax credits would be required to file an annual report to the state, providing accountability to the public. He said incentives would be awarded based on the number of jobs created, not the number of jobs promised.

Democratic Sen. Derrick Simmons of Greenville said the proposal could provide transparency for the public.

"We've seen so many situations where we've given taxpayer dollars away, and there's just no accountability," Simmons said.

-- The Associated Press

Index swoops 8.49, wraps up at 534.49

The Arkansas Index, a price-weighted index that tracks the largest public companies based in the state, closed Thursday at 534.49, down 8.49.

"Equities continue to consolidate gains with the S&P 500 Index closing lower for a third consecutive day following a record closing high last Friday as energy and telecommunication stocks underperformed," said Leon Lants, managing partner at Stephens Inc.

The index was developed by Bloomberg News and the Democrat-Gazette with a base value of 100 as of Dec. 30, 1997.

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