Business Briefs for Dec. 18, 2006

• W.E. Ayres, 76, the retired chief executive officer of Simmons First National Corp., died Dec. 8 at Pine Bluff. Ayres joined the staff of Simmons First National Bank in 1957. He was named president of the bank in 1985, and president and chief executive officer of both Simmons First National Bank and Simmons First National Corp. in 1986. He retired in 1995, but served as a director emeritus for Simmons until his death. He was active in the Arkansas Bankers Association, Kiwanis Club of Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce, Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra and Partners for a Better Pine Bluff.
• Clifton Bolin Peck III, 92, who during the 1980s was the largest automobile dealer in the state, died Dec. 7. He entered the auto business in sales after World War II when he saw the surging demand for cars, starting or buying numerous dealerships throughout the state. He was one of the founders of St. James United Methodist Church and served on the board of the Methodist Foundation for 22 years.
• Arkansas Heart Hospital ranks among the top 5 percent in the nation for cardiology services and coronary interventional procedures and in the top 10 percent nationally for overall cardiac services, according to a study released by HealthGrades, a health care ratings company. It ranked Arkansas Heart Hospital No. 1 in the state in each of those areas and also named it the recipient of the 2007 HealthGrades Cardiac Care Excellence Award.
• Arkansas ranks sixth in the nation in funding for a comprehensive tobacco prevention program. The Arkansas Department of Health & Human Services' current allocation for its tobacco prevention and cessation program is $15.1 million, which is 84.3 percent of the minimum amount of $17.9 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
• Debra Jean Price, 52, has been convicted of conspiracy to commit mortgage loan fraud by a federal court jury in Little Rock. Two other defendants, Debby Cossitt, 53, of Searcy and Shannon Hill, both pleaded guilty during the middle of the trial. Cossitt, owner, manager and operator of several manufactured home sales companies in Searcy, Batesville, Jonesboro and Harrison, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mortgage loan fraud and one count of filing a false income tax return for 1998. Hill pled guilty to once count of conspiracy to commit mortgage loan fraud. Price and Hill were both employed by Cossitt.
• Carol Rogers and Neil Denman, co-owners of Millennium Payroll & Financial Services LLC of Little Rock, have bought the shares of the company held by its founder, Mark Rogers, who left in November to pursue other business interests, and changed the name of the business to Millennium Payroll Solutions LLC. Millennium offers complete payroll processing, time and attendance software, Web-enabled HR software and tax credit services. For more information visit www.payrollandbenefits.com.
• The Simon family of Conway — Mike and Mary Jo Simon and their grown sons, Frederic, Matt and Jason, and their families — have been named the 2006 Farm Family of the Year in Arkansas. The family operates Simon Brothers Dairy, where they have 140 milk cows. They also grow corn, wheat, soybeans and hay on 950 acres. The program is sponsored by the Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Press Association and Entergy Arkansas.
• Fikes Truck Line of Hope, a flatbed carrier, has opened a new terminal facility at Birmingham, Ala., to better serve existing customers and further develop relationships in the area. Tim Wright has been hired as terminal manager, and Wendy Wright and Mark Baumann are fleet coordinators at the terminal.
• The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance will collect food and cash donations at 67 sites across the state during the second annual "Spirit of Giving" drive through Dec. 20. Donated food will stay in local communities for immediate distribution to the needy through six Alliance food bank and food rescue organizations across the state. A listing of food drop-off sites can be found at www.arhungeralliance.org.
• The travel industry has launched a new Web site, www.getapassportnow.com, to inform travelers about new passport requirements and to help them get passports. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, recently revised by Congress, requires all air travelers to the United States to have a passport or other secure document by January 23, including Americans returning from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. In addition, all travelers by land and sea must meet this requirement by an unspecified deadline not later than June 1, 2009.
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