Nash Road on the fast track

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Port gets new industry; aircraft facility added

The Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority, which transports dry bulk goods by barge, rail and trucks, received a $495,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation in December that will help accomodate a new corn-milling business. Unlike the grains, coal and corn that are among its chief shippers, there has never been a business there that deals with processed foods.

Executive director Dan Overbey sees corn-milling as a challenge, because a food-grade facility requires a different level of upkeep and attention, but one that the port is up to meeting.

Companies at the port have shipped more than a million tons of goods for the second consecutive year, a significant increase from the 1995 figure of 362,574 tons. Overbey said the growth comes from the companies that operate there. Seven companies located at the port include Girardeau Stevedores, Midwest Agri-Chemico, Consolidated Grain & Barge, Missouri Fibre Corp., First Missouri Terminals, Midwest Grain & Barge and Motive Rail Inc.

Two other grants include the Community Development Block grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development for $489,000 and a $200,000 community development grant from AmerenUE.

Overbey said the Missouri Department of Economic Development grant has been pending for three years and will help to pay for streets, railroad tracks and utilities related to the new mill. He said that between this and the MoDOT grant, a lot of progress will be made.

"We really need another $200,000 for other construction and to pave another 1,000 feet of street, but we'll have to use gravel instead," he said. So far 1,300 feet has been paved. This is an appealing asset to the corn-milling business as gravel roads are ordinarily frowned upon. Rocks that stick in tires could end up in the corn, possibly contaminate the food.

Other progress within the Port includes a $170,000 railroad scale made possible through cooperative efforts of Girardeau Stevedores, Motive Rail, SEMO Port and two grants. The scale is used for weighing railroad cars and can also be used for trucks so a company knows how much to charge customers.

The USDA, MoDOT, the Girardeau Stevedores, the port and Motive Rail all pitched in.

"Having so many players is what made it work," said Overbey.

The port finished up the year with a security grant from the Transportation Security Administration from Homeland Security for $181,000. Improvements in fencing, lighting and gates were among the areas covered.

BioKyowa

Since Terumi Okada took over the helm in March, the major producer of amino acids in Cape Girardeau, BioKyowa, continues to run the same way as when Kohta Fukwara was president from 1998 to 2005.

"Plans for 2006 include increased production, and we're still concentrating on employee safety," said plant manager Bill Hinckley. "Overall we're working toward reducing costs in production and there will be some small capital improvements."

Because the company uses a lot of energy in electric and gas, they are working on ways to recycle heat sources and recoup energy sources. Small capital improvements include changing old transformers for better energy efficiency and heat recovery.

Commander Premier Aircraft Corporation

After plans for building planes were finally scrapped by financially troubled Renaissance Aircraft, Commander Premier Aircraft Corp. moved into the Cape Giardeau Regional Airport hangar in November 2005.

Joel Hartstone, CPAC president and CEO, said the firm came to Cape Girardeau because they were impressed by the available work force. "We received about 100 resumes and are very, very pleased with the response from the work force."

Carl Gull, vice president of operations, was hired in October to establish operations, oversee the company's FAA production certification process and lead both new aircraft assembly operations and parts service operations.

CPAC's plans include the opening of a service center this month to accomodate servicing a worldwide Commander aircraft fleet of about 1,000 planes. Mark Standrich from Oklahoma City will be the director of CPAC's service center and also serving as lead mechanic.

"Over the next couple of weeks we will ship parts from our acquired inventory and over the course of the spring ramp up various parts of the assembly line, making parts needed by Commander owners," said Hartstone. The parts business is substantial, currently with 300 back-ordered parts.

The firm plans to build one plane by this summer, 15 by 2007 and 30 per year thereafter. To build a single $600,000 craft with four spaces, (meaning it comfortably accomodates four adults, baggage and a reasonable fuel allowance) takes 10,000 parts and 90 days.

The high-end airplane requires a custom assembly line which must produce identical parts and conform to stringent FAA standards.

Employment by the end of the year is projected at about 40 employees, hired locally on various levels for all aspects of operation. The average salary is about $35,000.

Another manager is expected to be brought in from Oklahoma to train the Cape Girardeau staff.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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