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Randy Dennis Quoted in “National Signs of Recovery Aside, Northwest Arkansas’ Future Flat”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Arkansas Business.com l December 26, 2011

By Northwest Arkansas Business Journal Staff


Throughout America’s recent recession, state economists, business
leaders and industry insiders repeated a refrain that’s offered only minimal
consolation during trying times.
Kathy Deck, the director of the University of Arkansas’ Center for
Business and Economic Research, touched on that same theme recently when asked
to talk about an economic forecast for the state – and more specifically,
Northwest Arkansas. Deck spoke first in terms of employment.

“Throughout the recession and the recovery, Arkansas has
outperformed the United States in terms of unemployment, in terms of
losses,” Deck said. “We lost less.”

Then came a thought that offered even less solace.

“But as the United States begins to recover, the gap between
us and the rest of the country is narrowing again,” Deck said. “When
I run my models and try to project what employment’s going to look like in 2012
and beyond, I see a flat trend from where we are now. I don’t see a whole lot
of recovery happening in the state.

“I don’t see further net losses, but it’s awfully flat. Flat
means tough times for people.”

Unfortunately, Deck isn’t the only one who envisions a
“flat” future. Those in the know in various other industries used the
same word, prompting a lukewarm overall forecast. Here’s a look at what they
said:

Banking

Randy Dennis , president of DD&F Consulting Group in Little Rock, sounded a hopeful note
when first asked to offer a 2012 forecast for Arkansas’ banking industry.

“We work all over the country, and it’s a delight to be in
Arkansas,” Dennis said. “Arkansas has done very well compared to a
lot of other states.”

Even so, he also acknowledged a challenging climate for financial
institutions. Many Arkansas banks, Dennis said, are “burdened with
liquidity.”

“They have tons of cash that’s earning nothing,” he
said. “It’s going to take economic growth to move the borrowing. Right
now, it’s a waiting game.”

Due to the conditions, Dennis said he believes banks should be
“cautiously opportunistic,” even as he recognized some have grown
irreparably weary.

“We’re seeing banks across the country raising their hands
and saying, ‘Take me out, Coach,'” Dennis said.

Deck agreed more mergers and acquisitions could be in the works in
Arkansas, especially for smaller banks hamstrung by burdensome legislation like
the Dodd-Frank Act.

Deck also said even relatively healthy banks will continue to feel
the adverse effects of the real estate crash and ensuing legislation.

“I think they have already taken huge hits and swallowed the
pain from the boom,” Deck said. “Now it’s a matter of surviving in a
climate where there just isn’t that much activity.”

 

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