In Arkansas and elsewhere, economic pain not so great

•In central Arkansas' 11-county region that includes the capital city of Little Rock, jobs come from state government, higher education and medical centers. Now, the area is capturing a slice of the soaring wind energy industry by luring windmill blade manufacturers such as LM Glasfiber and Polymarin Composites, which together hope to hire more than 1,500 people in the Little Rock metropolitan area (population 665,000).

HP, one of the world's largest technology companies, is building a customer service and technical support center that will employ 1,200 in Conway, north of Little Rock. Caterpillar just announced that it will locate its new North American production facility in North Little Rock, creating 600 jobs. The Fayetteville Shale formation in central Arkansas holds the promise of bountiful natural gas production and more jobs. Indian company Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd., maker of steel pipes for the oil and gas industry, is building a facility in Little Rock.

The Clinton Presidential Center here has helped the River Market District along the Arkansas River expand from a single building to several blocks of shops, museums, bars and restaurants.

Without fast growth, home construction is slower — lessening the risk of new mortgages going bad, prices plunging and foreclosures spreading when the economy turns bad.

The number of homes sold here in Pulaski County dipped in 2008, but the median sales prices rose 1% to $142,500 and the average number of days on the market grew by only three. Foreclosure rates are up but remain very low compared with other parts of the country.

In northwestern Arkansas, where growth exploded in recent years from Bentonville to Fayetteville because of big employers such as Wal-Mart, Tyson Food and J.B. Hunt, the foreclosure rate is much higher than around Little Rock. Wal-Mart said this month it will cut 700 to 800 jobs at headquarters in the area.

•Wisconsin's economy is spread over 11 metropolitan areas — none as dominant as Detroit in Michigan or Chicago in Illinois — so trouble in one doesn't necessarily drag down the whole state. The state has many suppliers to the auto industry but not as many as Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. General Motors announced last year that it would close its plant in Janesville, Wis., by 2010, a loss of 2,400 jobs.

"It affects Janesville and the surrounding area greatly, but not so much the rest of the state," says Dennis Winters, chief of the Office of Economic Advisors in the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. "A lot of industries are doing really well — electric machinery, manufacturing equipment, export market." The state is home to companies that make motorcycles (Harley-Davidson), boats, giant cranes and medical devices.

•In Roanoke, Va., a city of 93,000, the largest employer is Carilion Clinic, a health care company of more than 10,000 workers. Mortgage delinquencies are below the national average.

"We're kind of a steady player," says Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. "We don't have dramatic ups and, consequently, don't have any dramatic lows."

A $60 million art museum just opened, and Carilion is building a medical school with Virginia Tech, whose main campus is in nearby Blacksburg. "The only sectors adding jobs are health care and education," Doughty says, "and we're strong in both."

Cutbacks still occurring

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