Business Briefs for Jan. 30, 2006

• Murphy Oil Corp. has been granted an extension in the exploration term of a portion of Block K and an award of a new deepwater Block P in Malaysia. Block K covers about 2,554 square miles and lies in water about 3,000 feet deep, while Block P covers 2,638 square miles and reaches depths of 9,000 feet. Block P has a seven-year exploration term. Financial terms were not disclosed. The company has a 60 percent interest in both blocks; Petronas Carigali holds the remaining stake.

• Attorney General Mike Beebe has certified the ballot title of a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the state's minimum wage to $6.15 an hour from the current $5.15 an hour. The proposal also contains a provision for subsequent increases or decreases based on changes to the Consumer Price Index. Backers now need to collect 80,000 signatures to get it on the November ballot.

• Hot Springs will host the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita in 2007. It will be held July 24-28. The pro winner could earn up to $1 million in cash — the most lucrative bass fishing tournament in history.

• Bill Halter, 45, a North Little Rock businessman, has decided to run for governor in the Democratic primary. He is the former acting commissioner of Social Security under the Clinton administration. He will face Attorney General Mike Beebe in the primary.

• Ozark Mountain Poultry of Rogers has made a deal to sell about 4,630 tons of chicken to Cuba in a deal worth about $2.5 million. The chicken will be shipped through the port at Corpus Christi, Texas.

• Franklin Electric Co. of Siloam Springs, which makes submersible motors, will cut 80 of 575 jobs at its plant. The company will open a new plant in Mexico soon and move some of its work there. The cuts should be accomplished through attrition.

• Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s lawsuit against Tom Coughlin, the former longtime executive, has been dismissed by Benton County Circuit Judge Jay Finch, who said Wal-Mart was not specific as to "how, when and to whom" Coughlin made misleading or false statements. Wal-Mart plans to appeal.

• I-D magazine, a national magazine on design, has named Marlon Blackwell, a University of Arkansas at Fayetteville professor and architect, as one of its 40 people who deserve more professional recognition. The magazine describes Blackwell as an outsider architect who brings a global perspective to the Ozarks region and takes inspiration from nature and the region's local architecture.

• Forbes magazine has named J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. to its Platinum 400 List of America's Best Big Companies for the fifth consecutive year. Within the transportation category, J.B. Hunt ranked first in five-year earnings per share growth, second in five-year total return and fifth in return on capital over the past 12 months. The company was No. 25 on the list overall.

• Stephens Inc. said its airfreight and surface transportation team was named a Best Boutique or Regional Firm in the 2005 Institutional Investor survey. Stephens' top-ranked transportation team consists of Thomas S. Albrecht, Alexander V. Brand and Jack Waldo, who separately focus on truckload, less-than-truckload, specialty rail, airfreight, logistics and transportation suppliers.

• Diamond Bear Brewing Co. will be one of the two featured beers for February in Beer Across America, a national beer club. Diamond Bear Irish Red was selected because it recently claimed a Gold Medal at the 2005 Great American Beer Festival Competition, which recognizes the most outstanding beers produced in the United States. Diamond Bear sales have grown at a rate of 43 percent in 2004 and 45 percent in 2005.

• Weichert Real Estate Affiliates Inc., the franchise arm of Weichert, Realtors, has opened its first affiliated office in Arkansas. Pat Mote Properties at Benton — a husband and wife team of Jerry Mote, business manager, and Pat Mote, broker — owns Weichert's first Arkansas affiliate. The Weichert franchise organization has more than 190 signed offices in 20 states and some 4,000 sales associates.

• Henderson State University's Small Business Development Center will hold a seminar titled "Ideas to Assets: a Practical Guide to Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights," on Jan. 31 from 5:15-8:15 p.m. Registration is $25. For information or to register, call (870) 230-5004 or visit www.hsu.edu/sbdc.

• Fitz Hill, 41, a former assistant football coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks, has been named president of Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock. He co-founded and co-manages Life Champs Sports, a youth sports program in Little Rock. He has a doctorate in higher education leadership from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.