LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- It's been another busy week in the Natural State. Lance Turner has your Arkansas Business Week in Review.
It was week in which publicly traded USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren found itself again the target of a takeover attempt. Knight Transportation of Phoenix announced Thursday that it had offered to buy USA Truck for $9 per share, a 39 percent premium on USA's share price on the day before the offer was made public.
In all, the deal would be worth at least $242 million once you factor in USA Truck debt and its actual equity value. Still, despite having struggled in the last couple of years and logging several quarterly losses, USA Truck rejected the offer. According to Knight, USA Truck said the company is not for sale.
Now, Knight is taking word of its takeover offer public, hoping to influence the company through its shareholders. In 2011, USA Truck rebuffed a takeover offer by Celadon Group of Indianapolis. But there's been management changes since then, including a new CEO. USA Truck's share price rocketed up 36 percent to $8.80 on the news. Neither company would comment on the offer.
Also this week: Arkansans on Tuesday got a first look at the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau's proposal for a $68 million renovation to the Robinson Center Music Hall in Little Rock. The project would update the state's largest theater using an existing 2 percent restaurant tax.
The renovations would reconfigure the downtown performance space, giving the stage a variable height, creating two tiers of balcony-level seats and new box seats that would wrap around toward the stage. The project would also add more convention space on the north side of the complex, including a grand ballroom overlooking the Arkansas River.
In all, the building's size would increase to 138-thousand square feet from 133-thousand. If all goes according to plan, the center would close for construction starting in July and reopen in September of 2016.
Robinson Center opened in 1939 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was last renovated in 1974.
Looking to retail now, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville and others now in full-on prep mode for the holiday shopping to season. Wal-Mart said Monday that it's hiring 55-thousand seasonal workers and is elevating 70-thousand more to part- or full-time positions. The shift means that Wal-Mart will be offering more of its workers benefits.
Meanwhile, rival Target Corp. said last week that it plans to hire 70-thousand seasonal workers, down 20 percent from a year ago.
And department-store operator Kohl's said it plans to hire about 53-thousand holiday workers, slightly more than last year.
Overall retailers are bracing for a tough holiday season, especially, after a slower-than-expected back-to-school season.
And speaking of back to school, we also got a look at those 11th day enrollment figures compiled by the state Department of Higher Education. The numbers show average enrollment at the state's 33 public colleges and universities down 2 percent from last fall, that's driven by a 6 percent drop in two-year college enrollment.
The numbers are based on a snapshot of enrollment the department takes on the 11th day of classes. Final enrollment numbers aren't available until after the semester ends. In all, the number of students enrolled in higher education in Arkansas was a little more than 170-thousand.
Four-year universities reported an average enrollment increase of 0.4 percent. Two-year colleges saw a 6 percent drop in enrollment.
And finally, a new report shows that the northwest Arkansas economy outgrew similar regions in 2011 and 2012.
The 2013 State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report from the University of Arkansas' Sam Walton College of Business noted that employment in northwest Arkansas grew by 3 percent from 2011 to 2012, a rate that outpaced its peer regions, the state and the nation.
The report also said the number of new businesses and the region's gross domestic product grew as well. In fact, when compared to competitor regions, northwest Arkansas was tied with the Tulsa region at 5.6 percent for the second lowest unemployment rate in 2012.
That report, released in partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Council, also said that nearly 28 percent of adults in northwest Arkansas had attained a bachelor's degree or higher by 2011, while just over 20 percent of the state's adult population had advanced degrees.