News in brief

Broadband upgrade on track in Morrilton

Ritter Communications is finalizing expansion of broadband service to businesses in Morrilton. The project, part of a $4 million effort to reach rural Arkansas communities, should be completed next month.

The Jonesboro-based communications provider will offer up to 10 gigabits per second to about 30 businesses in Morrilton. The company also offers voice, cloud-based, television and networking services to customers.

"We've seen dramatic changes in the last year in the way businesses utilize the internet, meaning true 100% fiber internet has become less of a luxury and more of an operational necessity," said Ritter chief executive officer Alan Morse. "We see the demand for high-quality broadband in Morrilton, with 30 businesses ready to connect, and we look forward to expanding our 100% fiber Internet services to more in the Morrilton business community."

The Morrilton initiative follows other recent rural expansions in Lonoke, Pine Bluff, Arkadelphia and Texarkana. Ritter serves 96 communities in Arkansas, northeast Texas, southeast Missouri and west Tennessee.

-- Andrew Moreau

Saks to join ranks of fur-free retailers

NEW YORK -- Saks Fifth Avenue is joining a list of retailers and brands including Macy's, Versace and Prada that will stop selling products made with animal fur.

Saks Fifth Avenue said Wednesday that it will phase out using fur by the end of fiscal 2022. That includes both brand partner and store-label merchandise sold online and in stores. Saks will eliminate the sale of products made from animals that were raised for their fur or those that were wild animals. Shearling, goatskin, cattle hide, down, feathers, leather and faux fur products will continue to be sold online and in stores, the New York-based retailer said.

Saks Fifth Avenue also plans to close all of its fur salons by the end of fiscal 2021.

"Across the Saks Fifth Avenue experience, we evaluate a number of factors when making decisions about our assortment, including customer preferences and societal shifts," said Tracy Margolies, chief merchandising officer at Saks, in a statement.

-- The Associated Press

Index slides 4.55 to 599.58 at close

The Arkansas Index, a price-weighted index that tracks the largest public companies based in the state, closed Wednesday at 599.58, down 4.55.

"Equity markets closed relatively unchanged on light trading volume following the afternoon release of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes from March which reflected their continued commitment to dovish policy," said Leon Lants, managing director 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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