The announcement that tech giant Hewlett-Packard will lay off 27,000 workers worldwide sent reverberations through Arkansas economic circles, particularly in Conway where the company opened a 1,000 employee, $28 million state-of-the-art service center in 2010. A spokesman for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company tells Talk Business that "just about every business and region" will be impacted by the downsizing.

The impact could be positive for H-P’s Conway facility, however. The tech center offers customer service support for home, business and enterprise clients. It also houses sales representatives serving large corporate accounts. All of those areas are growth departments for H-P.

Part of the attraction of Conway is the conglomeration of regional higher education institutions offering initial job opportunities to younger workers. With the emphasis of H-P’s cutbacks involving employees closer to retirement and business divisions in need of restructuring, the impact could be minimal or a net positive for Arkansas.

AcxiomCorp. announced two new board members that reflect the data marketer’s shifting company focus.

Acxiom said that Tim Cadogan, CEO of OpenX Technologies, will fill a vacancy on the board. In addition, the company announced that John Battelle, founder and executive chairman of Federated Media Publishing, has been nominated as a candidate for election to the board at the company’s August 16 annual stockholders meeting.

The two nominees reflect Acxiom’s growing emphasis on digital advertising and marketing.

Arkansas maintained its status as one of the top 10 largest marketers of natural gas in the U.S., but cheap wellhead prices and the industry’s switch to oil-rich shale plays could slow the state’s production in 2012, according to annual data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Still, preliminary EIA data from 2011 shows that Arkansas is poised to top 1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of marketed natural gas production, joining powerhouse energy producing states like Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Louisiana in the exclusive club.

Arkansas now stands as the 8th-largest marketed natural gas producing state in the U.S., down one spot from its position in 2010.

Home sales in Arkansas’s four largest metropolitan regions tumbled 9 percent during April versus the previous year. Compared to 2010, April home sales dropped a whopping 30 percent. Still, the one-month drop hasn’t wiped out year-long gains, although it shrunk them considerably.

There were 1,455 homes sold during April in the four largest urban markets: Fort Smith, Central, Northwest and northeastern Arkansas. The combined value of homes sold during the month totaled $234.69 million, up 1.7 percent compared to April 2011, and down 23.7 percent compared to April 2010.

Year-to-date, home sales in the four major markets, which constitute about 75 percent of statewide home sales, are down 0.92 percent.

America’s Car-Mart capped off an impressive year with a final quarter of strong sales and profits.

The Bentonville-based "buy here, pay here" used car chain posted fourth-quarter net income of $9.64 million on revenue of $113.48 million. One year ago, Car-Mart recorded profits of $8.37 million on revenue of $103.39 million.

For the full year, Car-Mart posted earnings of $32.99 million on income of $430.18 million. In the previous fiscal year, the company earned $28.21 million on revenue of $379.25 million.

Little Rock-based Dillard’s said it plans to close its Internet sales distribution center in Nashville this summer, leaving roughly 125 employees without jobs. The company will relocate those jobs to a new facility in Maumelle.

The Maumelle facility, which opened in February, is 850,000 sq. ft. and will employ roughly 300 workers when it is fully operational later this year. It is aimed at expanding Dillard’s online fulfillment capabilities.

A combined $1 million gift from Wal-Mart and the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation will fund the renovation and expansion of the current Sam M. Walton College of Business display, honoring Wal-Mart’s founder, Sam Walton.

Each organization donated $500,000 to update the display in the Business Administration Building on the University of Arkansas campus.

-------

Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His e-mail address is roby@talkbusiness.net; his Web site address is www.talkbusiness.net.