New center offers business atmosphere

Monday, July 9, 2007

The digital age has overturned normal working relationships, allowing people engaged in sales, information technology and investing to often work from home. But sometimes bringing clients into a residence where they step on Elmo dolls and hear the dishwasher running doesn't leave a professional impression.

And meeting at a restaurant or other public place isn't conducive to discussions of sensitive business details.

With those problems in mind, Robin Cole, owner of The Rite Group, is opening the Executive Business Center on Old Cape Road near Center Junction, making it a place where someone needing a professional office can find essential services and an atmosphere conducive to serious work. A formal unveiling is likely later this week, Cole said.

A client, Cole said, can lease an office for a few hours, a few weeks, a few months or on a long-term basis. Services offered include a receptionist, a mail drop, a conference room, computer connections and copying, among others.

Cole has transformed the company his father built, Copi-Rite, into the Rite Group, which sells computer networking, wireless and voice-over-Internet telephone service and surveillance systems through Connect Rite, office furniture through Furnish Rite, and copiers through Copi-Rite. And he's moved it from the Independence Street location to the old Grace Bible Chapel building on Old Cape Road.

The old location had 2,800 square feet, Cole said. The bottom floor of the new location has 5,800 square feet. "The truth is, that was enough space," Cole said. "The question was, what to do upstairs."

That's when the idea began developing to turn the main floor into rentable offices. The area has been converted, with seven offices completed and room for the construction of 12 more. Each has 115 square feet, room for a desk and two chairs for private meetings. The floors and walls have thick insulation, and Cole promises soundproofed privacy.

* Senior housing project: The West Court Manor apartments for low-income people older than 65 are going up quickly on South West End Boulevard. Construction started this past winter, said Don Sanders, a consultant for MACO Development Co. of Clarkton, Mo.

The project, financed in part by $494,200 a year in state tax credits over the coming 10 years from the Missouri Housing Development Commission, will provide 48 two-bedroom apartments, Sanders said. By late September or early October, he said, the apartments will be ready for tenants.

Rent will be $390 per month. Every tenant seeking an apartment must pass screening tests, which will include an income review. Single people applying for the apartments can have a maximum income of $23,700 annually, while a couple can qualify with an income of $27,060 a year.

* Restaurant and lodging tax receipts: Anyone needing proof that Cape Girardeau is a growing center for tourism should look no further than the most recent report of tax collections under the city's lodging and restaurant taxes, said Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Through the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the city collected $1.46 million from the two levies, an increase of 8.89 percent over same period in the previous year. And collections for the 2006 fiscal year grew by 10.44 percent.

"Last year, a lot of it was rate driven as hotels were increasing rates," Martin said. "I attribute a fair amount of it to that. But in a lot of growth this year and some last year you can see a healthy economic climate in Cape Girardeau."

* New restaurant: If the data on restaurant taxes rubs you dry, how about trying a new spot for a dry rub? Tomboys Barbecue opened about two weeks ago in Scott City's Old Illmo District at the corner of Second Street East and Hickory Street.

* Nikki Neel and her father-in-law business partner, Tom Pogue, are bringing the taste of their Fredericktown restaurant to the area, promising fare that is tasty and inexpensive.

The lunch menu includes a pulled meat -- beef or pork -- sandwich for $5.99, or a one-pound hamburger with fries for the same price. Dinner entrees range from $6.19 to $14.99 for a full rack of ribs, Neel said. "We want to make sure everyone at every income level can sit down and eat."

The specialty is smoked meats, slow-cooked for 14 hours, served dry along with homemade sauces. The item that will bring me in for a taste, however, is the 22-ounce pork steak dinner for about $10.

Rudi Keller is the business editor of the Southeast Missourian. You can contact him at 335-6611, extension 126

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