Business Briefs for April 28, 2008

Beth Cartwright, executive director of Youth Home Inc. for the past 15 years, will retire effective Dec. 31. Cartwright began her career at Youth Home as a clinical social worker in 1980 and eventually became one of the longest standing executive directors in Youth Home's history. She was named among the "Top 100 Women in Arkansas" in 1995 and Arkansas Business' "Nonprofit Executive of the Year" in 2003.

Franchise taxes are due by midnight May 1. Every incorporated business must pay the franchise tax to conduct business in Arkansas. Last year, about $20.5 million was collected in franchise taxes from the state's 112,495 corporations. Franchise taxes go into the state's general fund, the Education Adequacy Fund for public schools, higher education, health and human services and other governmental services. The tax can be paid online at www.sos.arkansas.gov. Corporations can also pay in person in the Victory Building in Little Rock or by mailing their tax forms to P.O. Box 8014, Little Rock, 72203-8014. For more information, call (888) 233-0325.

The federal Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 will affect Arkansas businesses this year when it goes into effect on July 24. The minimum wage will rise to $6.55 an hour from the current $6.25 per hour under Arkansas law. The federal minimum wage will increase again in July 2009 to $7.25 per hour. The cash wage required under state law for tipped employees will remain $2.63 per hour. A U.S. Department of Labor minimum wage poster, which is required to be posted, can be downloaded from the department's Web site at www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm.

The Hathaway Group of Little Rock has joined the Coldwell Banker Commercial network and will now be known as Coldwell Banker Commercial Hathaway Group.

Hathaway is a long-standing commercial real estate firm. It currently has eight full-time commercial sales professionals, a full-service property management department and a total staff of 19. Jeff Hathaway is president.

Desha County leaders and officials have announced plans to develop an economic development strategic plan. County Judge Mark McElroy, all mayors, Chambers of Commerce and local leaders have partnered on the initiative. A Request for Proposal was recently released by the Dumas Chamber of Commerce and the McGehee Economic Development Strategic Planning Group on behalf of Desha County. County leaders will evaluate the proposals within the next month and hope to decide on a group to carry out the formation of the plan by the beginning of June.

Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corp. has named Jim Homan as its Hot Springs branch manager. He has more than 15 years of experience in the banking industry and was formerly a city president with Elk Horn Bank & Trust at Malvern. The new branch is in the Temperance Hill Shopping Center on Central Avenue.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been designated by the National Security Agency/Central Security Service as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. UALR is the first and only institution in Arkansas to have the designation. As a Center of Excellence, UALR information assurance students will be eligible for scholarship programs and research grants.

The Better Business Bureau of Arkansas and ShredSmart of Little Rock will host the state's first National Secure Your ID Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 3 at the BBB office, 12521 Kanis Road in Little Rock. Arkansans are encouraged to bring up to three boxes or bags of paper documents that contain personal identifiers. ShredSmart's document destruction truck will shred the documents, which will then be recycled by Goldman Recycling. Participants will also receive ID theft prevention educational materials from the BBB.

Alltel Corp. was recently ranked the highest in customer call quality across three regions of the United States - Southwest, West and Southeast - by J.D. Power & Associates. The Southwest region includes Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The study measured wireless call quality based on seven problem areas that affect overall carrier performance: dropped calls, static/interference, failed connection on the first try, voice distortion, echoes, no immediate voice mail notification and no immediate text message notification.

Potlatch Corp., in its SEC filing, said its total cost to permanently close its lumber mill at Prescott will be between $19 million and $21 million. The mill is being closed because of poor market conditions. About 182 employees will be affected.

SSi Inc. of Fort Smith, a local authorized Ceco Building Systems builder, recently was recognized for achieving $1 million in annual sales and received the Best Warehouse Building Award and a 25th Anniversary Award at the Ceco 2008 national sales meeting at Tucson, Ariz.

Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc. of Springdale has begun production of its latest composite decking product line, the Juniper Collection. The new product incorporates recycled plastics and heartwood cedar fibers, contains no toxic chemicals or polyvinyl chlorides, and has the look, feel and smell of real wood, AERT says.                   

The Independent Insurance Agency of Arkansas broke ground last week for its new 7,000-SF office in the NorthShore Business Park in North Little Rock. It is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2008. Hydco Inc. is the contractor for the project.

The state Highway & Transportation Department said its 2008 version of the official Arkansas state highway map is now available. It expects to distribute 1 million copies of the map, which are free at highway department offices and Arkansas welcome centers along major highways. Online, they can be requested at www.arkansashighways.com.

 The University of Arkansas has published its Spring 2008 issue of Research Frontiers that showcases the work of faculty. In addition to the articles in the magazine, Research Frontiers on the Web features new videos that show research being conducted around the world.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will stop selling baby bottles made with the controversial chemical bisphenol A in its U.S. stores beginning early next year. The move follows a draft report from the U.S. National Toxicology Program that expressed concern that BPA, which is used to make plastic, could cause behavioral changes in infants and children and trigger the early onset of puberty in females. The report also said more study should be done.