Business Briefs for Sept. 11, 2006

• Pinnacle BioFuels Inc. plans to build a biodiesel plant at Crossett. Construc-tion could begin this month on the plant that is expected to employ 12 to 15 workers and produce up to 10 million gallons of biodiesel annually. Production could double and employment could increase to 25 to 30 people within two to three years. Steve Bolin is president of the six-month-old company; Larry Johnson is vice president and Greg Stanley is secretary. Expected startup date is April 2007.

• Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and ESPN have signed a programming agreement for ESPN's "Monday Night Football" throughout the 2006-07 season. Wal-Mart will sponsor "Sports-Center" features called "Pump Up the Volume" and "Soundtracks" on "NFL Countdown" and in return receive custom promotion on ESPN.com and ESPN Radio and in ESPN the Magazine to highlight Wal-Mart's high-definition TV offerings.

• FedEx Corp. of Memphis has completed its purchase of Watkins Motor Lines, the private Lakeland, Fla., less-than-truckload carrier, for $780 million in cash. Watkins has about $1 billion in annual revenue. FedEx's LTL division, FedEx Freight, most of which is based at Harrison (the former American Freightways), had revenue of about $3.6 billion last year.

• C. Sam Walls, CEO of Arkansas Capital Corp. Group, has been appointed to the board of directors of the Little Rock branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Walls will fill the unexpired portion of a three-year term that expires on Dec. 31.

• LaBarge Inc. of St. Louis has announced a $5.5 million contract from Northrop Grumman Corp. to build an electronic chassis used in the fire control radar system of the F-16 fighter jet at its Huntsville plant. Production will begin in November and continue through April 2008. LaBarge employs 190 at its Huntsville plant and 185 at its Berryville plant.

• The 11th annual Arkansas Gov-ernor's Conference on Waterborne Transportation will be held Oct. 11-13 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Little Rock. The conference is jointly sponsored by the Arkansas Waterways Commission, the Arkansas Waterways Association and the Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District. The cost is $210 for AWA members, $250 for nonmembers. To register, call (501) 682-1173.

• John and Karen Flake have donated $2 million toward developing a new branch of Arkansas Children's Hospital in northwest Arkansas and expanding the campus of Mount St. Mary Academy, an all-girls high school in Little Rock. Flake is a real estate developer and his wife is CEO of Marketing Insights.

• Judith Carney, an expert on the history of rice cultivation and a professor of geography at the University of Califor-nia at Los Angeles, will give a lecture at Arkansas State University at Jones-boro at 7 p.m. on Sept. 12 titled "Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas." The lecture is free and open to the public.

• David P. Lahaie resigned from ThermoEnergy Corp.'s board of directors on Aug. 29, according to documents filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission. The filing said "Lahaie did not indicate that his decision to resign was caused by a disagreement relating to our operations, policies or practices." He is the owner and CEO of Evergreen Recycling Inc. in Seattle.

• Site Selection magazine has named Entergy Arkansas among its top utilities for 2005. The designation recognizes performance in capital investment, job creation, capital investment per capita and jobs per 10,000 people. The entire top utilities article and the annual utilities directory appear in the September issue of Site Selection and at www.sitenet.com.

• A conference on how to take advantage of growth strategies and gain a competitive advantage called Manufacturing Matters 2006 will be held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. The cost is $95, which includes breakfast and lunch. To register, visit www.mfgsolutions.org or call (501) 944-8492.

• "Growing Your International Busi-ness: Successful Export Strategies for Manufacturing CEOs," will be held from 8-11 a.m. on Sept. 26 at the Hot Springs Civic & Convention Center. The cost is $25, which includes a buffet breakfast. Call Deb Mathis at (501) 372-2222 to register or e-mail dmathis@ascc-aia.org.

• Pat Lile, president and CEO of the Arkansas Community Foundation, says the new federal Pension Protection Act of 2006, which allows for tax-free charitable transfers from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) — without first counting them as income and paying income tax — could be a boon to local philanthropy. The law covers all gifts made in 2006 and 2007.

• Chris Turnage has been named city president of Regions Bank in Arka-delphia. He was with Regions Bank in Hot Springs as a commercial lender for three years. He has a bachelor's degree from Ouachita Baptist University and a master's in business administration from Henderson State University, both in Arkadelphia.