The year that was in business

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
The doors were opened for shoppers after the ribbon cutting of Kohl's grand opening in Cape Girardeau in April.

Many consumers will remember 2005 as the year of the $3 gallon of gas. But on the business scene, home prices also skyrocketed, the airlines faltered and problems facing the auto industry steadily worsened.

There was also new bankruptcy laws, the surprisingly resilient economy and scores of troubled companies defaulting on their pension promises. And while the stock market indexes barely budged, there was a scurry of business activity from January to December in the greater Cape Girardeau area.

"There were sectors that did extremely well and sectors that didn't," said John Mehner, president and CEO of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce.

Mehner pointed out the strengthening of the retail sector, with the opening of Sears Grand and Kohl's. He said industry got a boost with the arrival of airplane manufacturer Commander -- which took some of the sting out of the failed Renaissance attempt.

There were several business expansions and projects in downtown Cape Girardeau. He also pointed out that construction of Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus got underway.

"There were a lot of positives," he said.

He said the disappointment, for him, for 2005 was the U.S. Postal Service's decision to keep the main post office on Frederick Street instead of trying to find a "more centralized" location.

As for the brand new 2006, Mehner said he's terrible at predictions.

"But I think we will continue to have steady growth like we always do," Mehner said. "The wild card next year will be energy prices."

Here's the 2005 business year in review. It is not a complete list, but it does touch upon some of the bigger -- or simply more interesting -- business stories of the last year.

January

* 6: Bootheel farmers got the year off to a good start with the news that one of their own, Fred Ferrell, was stepping into the state's top agricultural seat as agriculture director. Farmers at the time said they hoped it meant better representation for cattlemen and crop producers across Southeast Missouri.

* In late January, Lone Star Industries, which produced almost 1.5 million tons of cement in 2004, purchased 27 acres of property near its Cape Girardeau plant, a move that increased the company's rock quarry by nearly a fourth and provided enough limestone for the next 15 years of operation.

February

* Two area banks got new names during February. Union Planters Bank, which had two banks in Cape Girardeau, three in Jackson and one in Scott City, became Regions Bank as the result of a $6 billion merger. Meanwhile, First National Bank, with locations in Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Chaffee, changed its signs to Montgomery Bank to create a more consistent brand across its market.

* 10: Kohta Fujiwara stepped down as president of BioKyowa Inc. in Cape Girardeau, after heading up the plant since 1998. BioKyowa, which produces eight different industrial-grade amino acids and employs 160 people on Nash Road, is now headed by former executive vice president Terumi Okada. Fujiwara said "it was just time" for him to step down.

March

* 7: Rhodes 101 Stop announced it was doing something it had already done before: Build a new larger store near an existing Rhodes, then close the old Rhodes down and allow it to be developed for something else. They did it on North Sprigg Street with the old Rhodes making way for a Dairy Queen/Fresco (and later, just Dairy Queen). They moved into a new Rhodes on North Kingshighway later in '05 and the old Rhodes is being taken down now. Watch in 2006 to see what happens there.

April

* 2: After providing service here for six decades, Greyhound pulled out of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport for the last time, a victim of poor ridership and the bus company's reorganizational plans to cut stops across the country.

* 4: The Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee voted unanimously in Jefferson City to approve a certificate of need for a new long-term health-care facility, Landmark Hospital of Cape Girardeau. It is a $5 million facility that is currently under construction at 3255 Independence St.

* 7: Kohl's new retail store in Cape Girardeau opens in Cape Girardeau, along with 16 other new stores nationwide. It employs 185 workers.

* 15: Anheuser-Busch Cos. dropped its threat to boycott Missouri's rice crop after a biotechnology firm agreed to grow its genetically engineered rice farther away from commercial rice farms in the Bootheel. The agreement ended a dispute between the beer giant, the state and California-based Ventria Biosciences, which wants to grow about 200 acres of genetically modified rice to produce human proteins used in drugs.

* 18: For more than 100 years, Oldsmobiles were the model mode of transportation for America's discerning middle class. The last Oldsmobile was sold in Cape Girardeau, following the decision by General Motors to discontinue the Oldsmobile brand.

May

* Gas prices continue to climb, until they reach more than $2 in May, a price no one can remember them ever reaching until then. More bad news later in the year as the prices climb above $3 and then begin to inch downward to today's roughly $2 a gallon price.

June

* John and Jerrianne Wyman announce that they had reached an agreement to sell the most historic restaurant in town. The Royal N'Orleans was sold to Ed Radetic, a local lawyer and restaurateur who also owns the Dairy Queens in Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

* 9: To the delight of eaters everywhere, three restaurants announced they were coming to Cape Girardeau: White Castle, a new free-standing Panera Bread and Olive Garden. White Castle opened later in 2005 and Panera opened recently over the winter holiday. Olive Garden, which local people have been clamoring for years, is set to make big news in 2006 on March 8, when it opens.

* 20: The new Holiday Inn Express opened.

July

* Cape Shoe Co. closed its doors after a five-year attempt by owner Eli Fishman. Fishman called it an experiment, saying he wanted to reverse the trend of sending U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas. He only used U.S.-made materials. Not enough people bought the shoes. So much for patriotism.

* July could also be called the month of the orange cones for Broadway. Several businesses along Cape Girardeau's busiest street said that the street work to add lanes and other amenities made it difficult for customers to get to their stores. Some reported losing as many as half of their customers during the several month project.

August

* 22: Waldenbooks confirms that it is leaving the mall because Barnes & Noble is moving from its existing location to Westfield, a rumor that is denied by all involved. But the rumor gained momentum and Barnes & Noble employees said they were told the same thing later in the year. Watch 2006 to see what happens.

September

* 13: Texas Roadhouse opens up its restaurant in west Cape Girardeau along I-55 near Doctor's Park. Willie Nelson is smiling somewhere.

October

* 1: The Southeast Missourian ended its yearlong celebrated its centennial with a city party -- with magic, music, a town crier, a parade, food, drinks. And we're not just saying this because it's us, but apparently a good time was had by all.

* 3: Two years of hard negotiations, as Mayor Jay Knudtson put it at the time, culminated with the opening of the new Sears Grand, a new 149,000-square-foot retailer, just the sixth of its kind in the country.

* 6: City and company officials announced that a new airplane manufacturing firm, Commander Premier Aircraft Corp., would be established in the wake of the bankruptcy of Renaissance Aircraft. Commander is in the process of relocating its airplane manufacturing firm from Bethany, Okla., to the regional airport. The firm is initially operating with about 10 people and hopes to build 15 planes in 2006.

* 14: Steve & Barry's, a clothing retail chain known for keeping its prices under $10, opened its doors at Westfield West Park, occupying an anchor spot that had sat vacant since Shopko closed its doors in 2001.

November

* 28: SBC Communications $16 billion acquisition of AT&T creates the largest telecommunications company in the United States. But Marsha Haskell, SBC's regional director of external affairs in Cape Girardeau, said it might be awhile until customers of the new AT&T Inc. see any changes, including a new name. Watch for those changes in 2006.

December

* 11: Early holiday sales were strong in the retail sector, with several area stores reporting the best Christmas shopping season in years. The post-holiday sales were boosted by the popularity of gift cards.

* 18: Bootheel farmers, who celebrated the beginning of the year with Ferrell's appointment, got more good news at the end. A survey conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia over the summer shows that Cape Girardeau County has some of the most expensive cropland per acre in the state. In fact, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, Cape Girardeau and Scott counties have the most valuable good cropland in the state, the survey shows.

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