Business Briefs for July 10, 2006

• The U.S. Labor Department said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has paid $31,680 in civil money penalties for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's youth employment provisions. The violations of Hazardous Occupation Order No. 12 occurred at stores in Hanover, Pa., and Pewaukee, Wis.

• Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff has been included in the new Nasdaq Global Select Market. The Global Select Market has the highest initial listing standards of any exchange in the world based on financial and liquidity requirements. Simmons First had been listed on the Nasdaq National Market. The new tier includes about 1,200 of the about 3,200 companies listed by Nasdaq.

• Murphy Oil Corp., which has been struggling to get its Meraux, La., refinery back on line after it was flooded during Hurricane Katrina last August, said lightning hit a gasoline storage tank at the refinery on July 3, causing a fire along a seal of the 250-foot diameter tank that was brought under control in 30 minutes.

• Gov. Mike Huckabee and his family will be moving to North Little Rock after he leaves office at the end of the year. The Huckabees are buying a $525,000, five-bedroom, 7,000-SF house in the Shady Valley subdivision. The tri-level house, sitting on 1.1 acres, includes a swimming pool, a finished basement and 5.5 baths.

He recently sold his house on Lake Greeson.

• David Maxwell, 51, has been named the new director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management by Gov. Mike Huckabee. He has been deputy director since March 2002. He replaces John Brackin, who resigned unexpectedly after the department gave itself failing grades for preparedness in an assessment submitted to the Department of Homeland Security.

• FedEx Freight East at Harrison has been selected to receive the 2006 Corporate Humanitarian Award by the Arkansas Community Service Awards. The award is based on contributions to community, creating policies encouraging volunteerism among employees and number of employees involved in community services. FedEx Freight East was nominated by the Harrison Chamber of Commerce. The 29th annual Arkansas Community Service Awards takes place at Embassy Suites in Little Rock on July 7.

• First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas, holding company of First Federal Bank, has been recognized by U.S. Banker magazine as one of the top 200 publicly traded community banks in the United States. First Federal of Harrison ranks 114th, appearing in the July 2006 issue of the magazine. It's the only bank in the region to be recognized by the report with a three-year return on shareholders equity averaging 10.3 percent.

• The Army Corps of Engineers has banned kite tubing on its lakes in Arkansas.

A kite tube is an inflatable platform that is towed by a boat and then lifts into the air as speed increases. The corps says tubes often overturn or throw the rider, and at least two have drowned from the water sport. Affected lakes include Beaver, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Greers Ferry, Nimrod, Blue Mountain, Millwood, Dierks and De Queen, as well as the Arkansas River.

• Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc., the Springdale composite building materials maker that is listed on the Nasdaq exchange, said is stock trading symbol has been changed from AERTA to AERT. For more information, visit www.aertinc.com.

• Employers would like for staff to take vacation in August or July, according to a survey of 150 executives by Accountemps, a temporary financial staffing service. Thirty-six percent preferred for employees to take vacation time in August, followed by 21 percent of employers who preferred July.

• The Mid-America Business Conditions Index shows a slowing economy in the region. The index, put out by economics professor Ernie Goss of Creighton University at Omaha, Neb., says the interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and higher energy prices have caused the slowdown, and while he expects the region to continue to expand, it will be at a slower pace in the last half of the year. Goss said food processors in the state experienced slow to no growth in June, but truck transportation firms reported strong growth for the month, despite higher fuel costs. The state added 7,200 jobs through June, the survey said, but is expected to produce only 3,000 jobs in the second half of the year.

• Southwest Airlines is raising its fare prices for the fourth time this year because of high fuel prices. The Dallas-based carrier is raising fares for one-way trips by $3 on flights of 751 miles to 1,000 miles and by $10 on flights of more than 1,000 miles. Shorter flights aren't affected.

• Attorney General Mike Beebe and Asa Hutchinson, candidates for governor, will speak at the Arkansas Farm Bureau's 58th annual Officers' & Leaders' Conference on July 17-18 at Fayetteville.