News in brief: Arkadelphia-area meetings are set

Arkadelphia-area meetings are set

The Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance and Area Chamber of Commerce has a new small-business series: the Blueprint Initiative, with workshops, training sessions and consultations (with online options) for Clark County entrepreneurs.

The Arkansas Alliance held a kickoff event Thursday, with one-on-one consultations about marketing and branding strategies and business finance and administration.

"Small businesses are not only vital to our nation's economy, they are the lifeblood of our rural communities," said Jeff Standridge, managing director of Conway's The Conductor consulting firm, which is collaborating on the initiative. "We are so happy to launch our Blueprint series, and we are honored to be working with the Alliance to serve entrepreneurs and small-business owners in and around Clark County."

Meetings are scheduled every month: March 7, April 4, May 9, Sept. 5, Oct. 3 and Nov. 7. Consulting appointments are available on each date alongside a workshop. Those interested in a consultation should contact the Arkadelphia Alliance.

Initiative partners include the Arkansas Capital Corporation, the City of Arkadelphia, Clark County, Southern Bancorp, South Central Connect and the South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative.

-- Aaron Gettinger

Hershey cautions on profit growth

Rising cocoa costs that are leading to higher prices for chocolate led Hershey on Friday to caution shareholders on its 2024 profit growth.

Cocoa futures prices have doubled over the past year and hit an all-time high of $5,874 per ton on Friday. Bad weather in West Africa is being blamed for damaging crop yields, which is pushing cocoa prices higher.

"The magnitude and pace of recent price increases seem to be unprecedented," wrote Citi analyst Thomas Palmer.

With Valentine's Day looming, chocolate is on the minds of many consumers. But with inflation concerns still top of mind, many shoppers are pulling back on their spending and eyeing rising food prices cautiously.

Still, Hershey Chief Executive Officer Michele Buck is trying to ease consumers' minds.

"Given where cocoa prices are, we will be using every tool in our toolbox, including pricing, as a way to manage the business," Buck said during the company's quarterly earnings conference call.

Hershey Co. anticipates its full-year earnings per share being relatively flat. The shares fell more than 2% Friday.

-- The Associated Press

The Arkansas Index closes at 967.86

The Arkansas Index, a price-weighted index that tracks the largest public companies based in the state, closed Friday at 967.86, up 9.97 points.

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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