Business Briefs for July 25, 2005

• Lt. Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller announced last week that he is dropping out of the race for Arkansas governor. Rockefeller said he has been diagnosed with a blood condition that might develop into leukemia and would be undergoing intensive treatment. Rockefeller, a Republican, leaves two candidates in the 2006 race: Asa Huchinson, a Republican and a former U.S. congressman and Department of Homeland Security undersecretary, and Mike Beebe, a Democrat who is now the state's attorney general.

• The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission proposed last week at the Mississippi Flyway Council meeting in Tunica, Miss., a flyway-wide ban on all spinning and flapping wing decoys. The ban would apply to all motorized, wind-powered or mechanical spinning and flapping wing decoys. Since 2004, Arkansas has banned such "roboducks," which help hunters kill more young ducks attracted to the wing flashes.

• Cingular Wireless said last week that it will spend more than $71 million in Arkansas as it installs 99 new cell sites and increases capacity for its wireless network. The Atlanta company said it has already activated 31 of the new cell sites in Arkansas. Adding the new sites is part of a $6.2 billion project to expand the company's Allover network. Last year, Cingular spent more than $33 million and installed 60 new cell sites in Arkansas.

• Panhandle Royalty Co. of Oklahoma City has leased all of its roughly 9,000 acres of nonproducing minerals in Arkansas for just over $2 million. The acres, which represent about 85 percent of the company's mineral ownership in the state, are in 442 separate tracts and were leased to an unnamed "major independent oil and gas producer," the company said. The Panhandle minerals are mostly located in Van Buren, White, Yell, Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Johnson and Pope counties.

• Arkansas Federal Credit Union of Jacksonville opened on Monday a branch office in Cabot. Located on 100 S. Rockwood Drive, the new facility extends the state's largest financial cooperative to eight walk-in branches throughout Pulaski, Faulkner, Sebastian and now Lonoke counties.

• The Heart of Arkansas Travel Association of Little Rock will honor Barry Travis' more than 30 years of service to the Arkansas tourism industry during its annual banquet and awards ceremony on Thursday night. Travis recently retired as CEO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau and now serves the Little Rock CVB as chairman emeritus working on special projects. The association will also recognize North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays and the Little Rock Marathon during the evening with Top Tourister Awards.

• Business and community leaders will discuss the integration of the Hispanic community into the workplace at seminars on Sept. 29 in Rogers and Sept. 30 in Little Rock. Discussions will cover emigration perspectives from the Mexican government, an overview of the U.S. Government immigration policy, insight into market potential, and banking industry views on the challenges and opportunities facing businesses today. Among those already committed to give addresses at the event are Lt. Gov. Win Paul Rockefeller; James R. Jones, former ambassador to Mexico; Jack Fleischauer, regional president and CEO of Regions Bank; Frank Tugwell, president and CEO of Winrock International; and Carlos Garcia de Alba, consul general of Mexico. The Sept. 29 roundtable in Rogers will be held at Embassy Suites, and the Sept. 30 Little Rock event will be at The Peabody Little Rock.

• The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved a permit for a new Sam's Club store in Fayetteville to sell liquor. It will be Bentonville retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s first store in Arkansas to have a liquor permit. Some northwest Arkansas liquor store owners protested the permit, saying it is the first step in a plan for more Wal-Mart warehouse clubs to sell liquor. Construction has yet to begin on the 135,000-SF Sam's Club. It will sit at the southwest corner of Arkansas 112 and Interstate 540.

• The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded $1 million to Newport in Jackson County for construction of a new railroad spur. The Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration awarded the grant, which is earmarked for the construction of a railroad spur and industrial access roads to the Jackson County Industrial Complex. Congressional proponents of the project say it could create 240 jobs in the region and $25 million in private investment.