Business briefs

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Specialized Office Services celebrates 25 years

Specialized Office Services, Inc., at 229 N. Kingshighway is celebrating it's 25th anniversary this year. The company offers a full line of office equipment and supplies. The main focus of the business is the sale and service of copiers, printers, digital duplicators, graphic arts equipment and paper handling equipment.

Travel Center of America expands

Travel Center of America, at the intersection of Interstate 55 and Highway 80 at the Matthews exit, recently celebrated the grand opening of two new shop bays and a parts store. The addition enables the truck stop to provide all minor truck repair as well as keep on hand a variety of truck parts for customers. Currently there are 20 full-time employees affiliated with the shop and the parts store, which are open 24 hours, seven days a week.

Cape broker to handle Sikeston building sale

Tom Kelsey, commercial broker with Lorimont Place Ltd. in Cape Girardeau, has been assigned to find a new owner for the closed Patriot Homes manufacturing plant in Sikeston.

In August, Patriot, based in Elkhart, Ind., announced the consolidation of operations resulting in closure of their Sikeston plant affecting 76 jobs. The plant manufactured modular homes and related components. It opened in Sikeston in 1997 as Heritage American Homes. The owners ceased operations at the end of October.

The 112,000-square-foot manufacturing plant with more than 12 acres of property is located at 821 Wakefield. The industrial facility is one of the larger buildings in the Sikeston industrial park and has access to all city services. Kelsey said the highest and best use would be for manufacturing, but the building could also be adapted to a warehousing or distribution center. The listed price according to the Lorimont Web site is $1,350,000.

Bowling alley reopens in Cape

West Park Lanes, the Cape Girardeau bowling alley, has reopened after its renovation.

"Everything is completely redone," said co-manager Joe Seib. "It was a total renovation. Everybody seems to like it. Everything is the latest, state-of-the-art equipment."

The work means there are new lanes, seating and scoring equipment as well as "cosmic lanes," which glow in the dark.

The work was done because it was needed, Seib said, adding that a statewide bowling tournament will start in February and run over 10 weekends.

Employment agency doing business survey

For the 12th consecutive year, Workforce Employment Solutions, a recruiting and staffing firm serving Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois, will be offering its annual Wage and Benefit Survey to area businesses.

Workforce began conducting the Wage and Benefit Survey in 1995 as a tool for area companies to assess current company benefits and pay scales. The comprehensive report has since grown to include a much broader view of wages and benefits that range from entry level to top management personnel in both service and manufacturing industries.

In 2006, survey participation increased to include more than 100 regional companies from 13 Missouri counties and included information for more than 17,000 employees.

Survey questionnaires were mailed out to area businesses in mid-October and survey results are scheduled to be delivered to participants in mid-January.

In addition to five regional offices in Cape Girardeau, Perryville, Ste. Genevieve, Farmington and Arnold, Workforce also has Illinois offices in Chester and Carbondale.

Contract awarded for Dexter airport runway

The city of Dexter has let the contract to extend the runway of Dexter Municipal Airport by 500 feet, according to city administrator Mark Stidham and airport commission chair Cliff Manlove. The contract's been awarded to R.L. Persons of Kennett.

The cost of the project is $1.2 million. Manlove said the money would come mostly from seven $150,000 grants the airport has received from the Missouri Department of Transportation over the past seven years. The city would have to spend about $60,000 of its own money, and the airport itself has about $167,000 in assets.

Stidham said that whenever the construction begins, the airport would have an unusable runway for about four to six weeks.

"And, of course, that means no one can fly in or out while it's going on," he said.

Stidham said spring would be best for construction for exactly the same reason it would be worst for airport operations -- the weather.

"What we are looking at now is do we start now and get stopped (by the weather)," he said, "or do we award the contract and then hold off until spring when the weather breaks."

Manlove said the purpose in extending the runway -- as well as adding the above-ground jet fuel tank -- was to attract more light business jet traffic.

"This whole project started about five years ago," he said. "We knew the airport would have to modernize, and there are about six companies building these light business jets."

Barnes & Noble opens store at Cape mall

The new Barnes & Noble in Cape Girardeau that opened Oct. 18 largely garnered kudos from customers who showed up in droves to catch a glance.

Earlier this year, Barnes & Noble announced it would vacate its location on William Street to move a few hundred yards to the nearby West Park Mall. The new location is 9,000 square feet bigger and includes movies and music, something the old location lacked. The old store closed at 5 p.m., an hour before the new one opened.

Jill LeGrand, community relations manager for the store, touted that the new store held 200,000 books and an enormous selection of music and movies. Mall manager Paul Dobbins said the new Barnes & Noble adds another dimension to the mall, which recently has seen new stores like Old Navy, Steve & Barry's and Macy's. The mall has been without a bookstore since Waldenbooks closed last year, citing the fact that B&N was coming.

When Barnes & Noble announced it was moving into the mall, some worried the mall wasn't the best fit for the bookstore. But new store manager Daniel Seiler said he doesn't believe that will be a factor.

"Barnes & Noble is Barnes & Noble," he said. "It doesn't matter where the actual store is. It's where they want to be. We think it's something they'll like."

Call center going in Sears site

When Cape Girardeau native Chris Buehrle left Cape Girardeau years ago to start his own company, he never imagined his hometown would one day play such a prominent role in its expansion.

But it has.

On Nov. 2, Buehrle -- along with a slew of local economic development officials and government leaders -- announced that a new call center is coming to Cape Girardeau's Town Plaza that could create as many as 400 new jobs over the next few years.

"Growing up in Cape, you can only imagine how proud I am today," said Buehrle, president and founder of National Asset Recovery Service Inc.

St. Louis-based NARS is a business process outsource company founded in 1993 as a collection agency. Now the company describes itself as a call center outsourcing firm. NARS also has an 1,100-employee facility in Panama City, Panama, and more than 1,000 employees at a center in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

While the company will eventually set up shop in 40,000 square feet of the old Sears building on William Street, company demand has prompted NARS to set up temporarily in Auburn Park Place near West Park Mall with 150 employees, said Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Area Magnet.

The job total could grow as high as 300 jobs by this time next year and more will be added as more clients come on board, Buehrle said.

The announcement was the largest, in terms of new jobs by one company, in "at least" 15 years and probably closer to 20 years, Robinson said.

Buehrle said he intends to be operating at Auburn Park Place by the end of the year and in the remodeled Sears building by the second quarter of 2007. Buehrle said he didn't know yet what the remodeling cost would be, except that it would be in the millions of dollars.

NARS will occupy 40,000 square feet of the eastern portion of the old Sears building, while the building's owner, Greater Missouri Builders Inc., searches for a tenant for 25,000 square feet for the western side of the building, said property manager Karina Hibbeler.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said the deal -- a collaboration between NARS, the city of Cape Girardeau and the local chamber of commerce -- took several months to work out. NARS executives were initially worried the area couldn't provide enough quality labor.

The company wanted to wait to see how much interest there was at the Southeast Missourian-sponsored Career Fair. More than 850 applicants turned out, allaying the company's worries, Knudtson said.

Another key factor: The Missouri Department of Economic Development offered the company $466,173 in New Job Training Bonds to provide money for training and $500,000 in development tax credits to help buy equipment for the new facility.

The Sears site will be remodeled with 400 work stations and the potential for 500 jobs, Buehrle said. The company is also considering adding a day care, a fitness area and a deli, he said.

K's Merchandise closing in Cape

K's Merchandise hasn't even closed yet, but the real-estate company charged with selling the building at 371 S. Broadview St. in Cape Girardeau is already sending out feelers.

After 10 years here, K's Merchandise will close soon, probably after the beginning of the year when the bulk of the merchandise is sold. But speculation has already started on what could go into the 87,000-square-foot building and what it will sell for.

"I think there will be interest in that building," said John Mehner, president and CEO of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce. "It's in a good spot, it's good-sized and you'd think somebody would want it."

K's Merchandise properties in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri will all be available for purchase after the merchandise liquidates. Property listing and sales are being conducted by New York-based DJM Realty, a division of Boston-based Gordon Brothers Group.

Gordon Brothers Group is trying to recoup some of its investment. The company made a cash infusion to try to resuscitate the financially strapped business.

"The K's properties offer the size and flexibility to meet the needs of a variety of potential buyers," said Emilio Amendola, co-president of DJM Realty. "We're already receiving interest from big-box stores and developers looking to serve the interest of multiple tenants within and outside of the retail industry."

Tom Kelsey, a commercial broker with Lorimont Place, said there has been interest from commercial brokers wanting to sell the property.

"When there's a commercial piece of property that size, we all scramble to see what the deal is," Kelsey said.

Kelsey, who has contacted DJM about possibly brokering the deal, said his the company plans to field some inquiries on its own. If the property sits on the market for long, the company will use a commercial broker.

Kelsey said the property is versatile.

"It's not in what we call the retail Mecca of Siemers Drive," he said. "But it would take another big-box user. But it could be made into a multitenant building, too."

The company hasn't quoted a price, but Kelsey said he understands the price to be around $2 million.

Regional Planning Commission has new contract

A new contract was announced at the October meeting of the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission, which was held in Perryville.

The contract was with the city of Fredericktown to provide staff services to fulfill the functions of the position of city administrator and to administer a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to construct a road in the business park.

The commission also authorized the executive director to contract with the city of Jackson, if selected, to provide administrative services in conjunction with a CDBG for a road improvement construction project, including curb and gutter to serve a new business.

An executive session was called to discuss matters of real estate, and the membership authorized the commission's director to secure a loan in partnership with the St. Francois County Industrial Development Authority for purchase of an incubator building in Bonne Terre.

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