Grant Tennille, director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, says he’s already building on Gov. Mike Beebe’s trade trip to China. Tennille, permanently appointed to the AEDC post in late March, said follow-up to the Chinese trade mission will include diligent pursuit of discussions from the 12-day trip.

"The most important thing for us to continue to do is to build on the relationships that the Governor established when he was in China," Tennille said. "I’ll tell you that very quickly we’ve already had one provincial government call us just in the last few days and tell us that they want to bring an education delegation over here, maybe as soon as May."

Allegations of bribery, international corruption and a sloppy corporate cover-up at Walmart Stores Inc. have hammered the retail giant’s share price and reputation. Analysts are mixed about the potential fallout which could unfold in the coming days as more is known about the bribery scandal under the watch of Eduardo Castro Wright, who is credited for an amazing run in expanding the company’s Mexican business segment.

A New York Times article earlier in the week detailed allegations that top Walmart executives knew of a bribery scheme in Mexico that allowed for accelerated expansion in that country. The article states that Walmart officials did not disclose the potential violations of the Foreign Corruption Practices Act as required by law. Federal regulators in the U.S. and Mexico are investigating the allegations.

Highlighting "a number of unusual items," trucking giant Arkansas Best swung to an $18.2 million first-quarter loss despite a modest revenue gain. The Fort Smith trucking firm reported the loss on revenue of $440.87 million. One year ago, Arkansas Best lost $12.8 million on revenue of $434.93 million.

Officials said that a low corporate tax benefit rate and higher worker compensation costs impacted earnings by nearly 31 cents a share. Officials also said that despite sluggish business activity, the company was committed to making new investments in sales, customer service and IT for all subsidiaries in a "long-term" effort to position the company for success.

P.A.M. Transportation Services Inc. returned to the black after several disappointing quarters of net losses and the company reported its first positive first quarter of earnings in five years. The Tontitown-based trucking firm reported first-quarter net income of $674,193 for the quarter ended March 31. One year ago, P.A.M. posted a $1.98 million loss. Revenues climbed significantly higher in the quarter to $96.16 million. One year ago, quarterly revenues topped $85 million.

Invotek, a research and development company in Alma, Ark., has received a $550,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will fund the creation of a speech generation tool giving young children with disabilities a fun and interactive way to learn and practice communication skills. PlayTalk is a collaboration of InvoTek and researchers at Penn State University. PlayTalk uses developmentally appropriate pictures, organization, and navigational techniques so it is easy for young children to understand and use.

Capella Healthcare, parent of National Park Medical Center, and Mercy Health, which owns St. Joseph’s Mercy Health System, have signed an "agreement in principle" that could lead to a merger of two Hot Springs hospitals. According to a press release from Capella, the agreement in principle "contemplates transferring ownership" of St. Joseph’s Mercy to Capella and allows the two organizations "to engage in exclusive negotiations toward a definitive agreement."

Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau.

He can be reached at roby@talkbusiness.net; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net.