Arkansas Offers Low Costs, Good Technology Infrastructure, Available Labor

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Over 75,000 miles of fiber-optic cables and affordable labor and land costs are among the factors that have enticed companies from West Teleservices to Southwest Airlines to locate call centers in Arkansas.

The state boasts more advanced fiber-optic capabilities than surrounding states. There are more than 20 fiber-optic parks served by 100-percent digital switching and high capacity trunks available for businesses relying on high-speed communications.

Meanwhile, low costs for land and labor combined with tax incentives keep business costs down. Arkansas ranked 46th in the country in per capita personal income in 1998, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. Per capita income in Arkansas was $20,346 last year, trailing the U.S. per capita income of $26,412 by 23 percent.

Because the entire state has been designated an enterprise zone, eligible businesses can receive corporate income tax credits of up to $2,000 - depending on hourly wage - per new job created. This program also provides a rebate on state sales and on building materials and equipment associated with the project. The Arkansas Economic Development Corporation provides pre-employment and on-the-job training for new and expanded industries. Financing may be available from municipal and county industrial revenue bonds, general obligation bonds, state loan/guarantee programs and development finance corporations.

In addition, there is no tax on incoming calls and the state has the fourth lowest tax burden in the country according to literature provided by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Workers compensation rates for clerical occupations is $0.58 per $100 of payroll. Likewise, unemployment insurance rates are 3.3 percent for new employers and 2.2 percent on the average for all employers. Only the first $9,000 is assessed.

The largest market is greater Little Rock, which boasts a commuting population of 1 million. The work force in the Little Rock area includes 40,295 college students and 107, 370 retirees. Some area call centers have drawn applicants from a large pool of spouses of military personnel stationed at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville.

Class A and B real estate rates are below the national average and in strong supply.

The state has no restrictions on monitoring of calls. n

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