Business Briefs (Dec. 7, 2009)

● Health Management Associates Inc. of Naples, Fla., completed its acquisition of the 492-bed Sparks Health System at Fort Smith on Dec. 1. Through its subsidiaries, Health Management owns and operates 55 hospitals, with about 8,400 licensed beds, in non-urban communities in the United States.

● The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of Seattle has committed $3.4 million to improved Internet connections in libraries in five states. Libraries in Arkansas will receive $735,207. Nationally, libraries report that patron demand for high-speed Internet access is growing faster than their ability to provide increased bandwidth. Arkansas, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York and Virginia were selected to receive grants because they had a high number of libraries without high-speed Internet access that were struggling to increase their bandwidth for patrons.

● Martin Midstream Partners LP of Kilgore, Texas, has closed on its $45 million acquisition of specialty naphthenic lubricant processing assets from Cross Oil Refining & Marketing Inc. The acquired assets consist primarily of a 7,500 barrel per day naphthenic lubricant refinery at Smackover with more than 475,000 barrels of elated storage capacity. Cross Oil is already a wholly owned subsidiary of Martin Resource Management Corp., which owns Martin Midstream Partners' general partner.

● Bebida Beverage Co. of Mooresville, N.C., has made a deal with Grantt Eddinger Distribution of Marion to distribute Bebida products. Grantt Eddinger services locations from Memphis to Little Rock, including Piggly Wiggly, Nafiehs, Flash Markets and many other convenience stores and retail outlets.

● The online Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture has reached its initial goal of 5,000 unique entries and pieces of media a year early. The project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System collects and disseminates information on all aspects of the state's history and culture. In 2004, the project received a major grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation with a goal to reach 5,000 entries by the end of 2010. To date, www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net has received 84 million hits from across the globe.  

● Arkansas ranked 40th in the nation in overall health in this year's America's Health Rankings report, up from 50th in 1998. The report by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention says about 22.3 percent of Arkansas' 2.15 million adults smoke and 29.5 percent of the state's 2.86 million residents are considered obese. Nationwide, 18.3 percent of people smoke, and 26.6 percent of the population are obese.

● The W.M. Lloyd Co. Investments & Financial Services of Little Rock celebrated its 10th anniversary in November with a reception at the Arkansas Arts Center and a tour of the "World of the Pharaohs" exhibit.

● Windstream Corp. is expanding its Virtual Private Network service throughout the continental United States. Designed to connect multiple business locations with a secure, cost-effective data network, Windstream's VPN service allows customers to partner with a single data provider to receive consistent performance for business-critical applications. For more information, visit www.windstream.com/business.

● Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said she would post all amendments to the health insurance reform bill on her Senate Web site at http://lincoln.senate.gov/arkansas/healthcare.cfm. Lincoln said Arkansans would have the opportunity to view the text of each amendment being considered in the Senate and share their views with Lincoln and other elected representatives.

● Fitch Ratings has affirmed the senior student loan notes of the Arkansas Amended & Restated 2000 Indenture (ASLA 2000) student loan trust. The rating outlook is Stable. The trust has been producing excess spread, and the senior notes parity is at 107.41 percent as of June 2009. The collateral supporting ASLA 2000 notes consists entirely of federally guaranteed student loans originated under the Federal Family Education Loan Program.

● Avro Energy Inc. of Vivian, La., is starting a recompletion program on the Dildy No. 2 oil well in south Arkansas. The company said it plans to put additional wells in production in the coming weeks and will continue to update its shareholders as these wells are put into production in south Arkansas.

● The Urban & Regional Information Systems Association and the International Association of Assessing Officers have announced the 14th annual GIS/CAMA Technologies Conference, "Leveraging Technology to Do More With Less ... Big Value in Little Rock," to be held at The Peabody Little Rock March 8-11, 2010. Registration and program details are available at www.urisa.org/conferences/2010gis_cama.