Business briefs

Friday, July 20, 2007

Habitat for Humanity opens store

Habitat for Humanity--Cape Area has secured a location for a ReStore, a Habitat component across the nation for the resale of recycled building materials, at 117 N. Middle St.

It's been a year in the making, and new board members of the Habitat subcommittee, Nancy Grand and Melissa Haberkorn, took the lead in the ReStore effort.

Local real estate agent Tom Meyer, who is vice president of the board, was instrumental in finding a central location.

Robert Cotner, property owner of the old Mid-America Teen Challenge Thrift Shop warehouse at the location, wanted to support Habitat in its effort to collect donations to improve houses, so he offered a discounted five-year lease.

The 9,000 square-foot facility, with high ceilings and a loading dock, is ideal for this type of operation, Meyer said.

Some of the materials that will be accepted at the ReStore include cabinets, fans, flooring, hardware, insulation, lighting, lumber, paint, plumbing fixtures, gutters, shutters, tools, windows and doors.

Proceeds will help Habitat build houses.

Donors must drop off their used material during store hours, but Cole said Habitat is looking for a covered truck or van for pickup service.

Goodwill holds job expo

The first Health Career and Job Expo, put on by MERS-Goodwill, drew 137 people, which was more than expected.

The job fair featured both education providers and employers alike, including representatives from Southeast Missouri Hospital, Saint Francis Medical Center, Chateau Girardeau, Sikeston Career and Technology Center, Three Rivers Community College and Metro Business College.

"A lot of graduates came out this time. We had several people from the Dana plant. Some folks came by who are ready to retire but would like to stay active," said Beth Keller, employee recruiter at Saint Francis Medical Center.

Hyundai dealership changes hands

Roger Elledge, owner of Sikeston Motor Company, purchased Wieser Hyundai from Jerry Wieser and renamed it Cape Hyundai.

Elledge's son, Roger II, is managing the car dealership at 386 Siemers Drive. He said he looks forward to providing the people in the Cape Girardeau area the best possible deals on their new and pre-owned vehicles.

The Elledges bring 42 years and three generations of experience to Cape Hyundai, and the Cape Hyundai service department can work on many different makes and models of vehicles, not just Hyundai, according to Roger II.

NARS in place at old Sears building

National Asset Recovery Services Inc. has finished moving from the company's temporary facility at Auburn Park Place to its permanent location in the Town Plaza shopping center in Cape Girardeau.

"This is officially the last time we'll call it the old Sears building. It's the new NARS campus," said president and CEO Chris Buehrle. "I want this to be a landmark. I want people to say, 'Go to the NARS building and take a left.'"

NARS in Cape Girardeau has 250 employees at the new facility on William Street. According to Buehrle, the work force will double by Christmas. The business process outsource company is accepting applications, and Buehrle said he's looking to hire 100 more people within the next 90 days.

Since the company first began hiring in December, 50 employees that started out as agents have been promoted, according to NARS facilities manager Barb Cagle.

NARS will have a weight room, a cafe and a day-care center added to the 40,000-square-foot facility in the next six months. Construction is underway.

This is the first time a NARS site has had these features, Buehrle said, adding that he wants to attract good workers and give them reasons to stay. The break room will also have two flat-screen TVs.

A fenced-in playground for the day-care will be built behind the 40-year-old building. Buehrle said trees will be planted to screen other buildings.

The day care will be primarily for children of employees, but Buehrle said it may be opened to the public, too.

He's looking for someone to create a preschool program in the building following a failed effort to create a partnership with the Cape Girardea Public Schools.

The building renovation includes a call center with 417 work stations on the main floor plus a command center, three training rooms, a video technology room, an executive lounge and a conference room. The computers' software system allows NARS to maintain its system remotely from the company's St. Louis headquarters.

SEMO students earn Noranda scholarships

Seven undergraduate students from the Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology at Southeast Missouri State University have received the Noranda Aluminum Scholarship, allowing them the opportunity to receive real-world experience in their future profession.

The recipients are Jason Dunker and Stephen Zschille, both of Jackson, Drew Ivie of East Prairie, Brooks Kelley of Essex, Bryan Lowell of Cape Girardeau, Westley Steele of St. Louis and Aaron Weibrecht of Perryville.

Noranda Aluminum annually provides four to six scholarships, renewable annually, for students attending Southeast Missouri State University in pursuit of a degree related to the fields of electronic and mechanical maintenance. The scholarship covers incidental fees, general fees, special course fees and books and can exceed $6,000 annually.

Dr. Ragu Athinarayanan, chair of the department, said the students will intern with Noranda Aluminum every summer until they graduate from Southeast.

In return for the scholarship, the students agree to work a minimum of four years at Noranda Aluminum upon graduation.

Blunt approves manufacturing tax break

A sales tax exemption that caused heartburn for Cape Girardeau County officials was signed into law by Gov. Matt Blunt, but the distress may not be over.

Missouri lawmakers passed two versions of a business tax break that exempts utility purchases, chemicals used in manufacturing, and machinery, equipment and materials used for research and development related to manufacturing.

The version signed limits the exemption to state sales taxes, while another version, vetoed by Blunt's desk, would have taken away local revenue from those purchases.

The vetoed version was included in a major revision of state economic development incentives that Blunt said contained far too many tax breaks that the state could not afford.

If Blunt had signed the economic development bill, it would have been up to the courts to decide which exemption would take effect and which is void, Robinson said.

The sales tax exemption would have cost Cape Girardeau County $365,000 annually on the utility purchases by Procter & Gamble's plant on Highway 177.

The cost would have been higher because other manufacturers would also receive the exemption, and city officials in Cape Girardeau estimated that the city's loss could be about $100,000 a year.

While the bill contained many good provisions, overall it was a bad deal for the taxpayer, Blunt said.

"Ultimately, however, it became loaded with excessive spending that simply does not benefit the average Missouri taxpayer," he said in a prepared statement. "There is no difference between spending taxpayer dollars by appropriations and spending them by tax credits. Each should meet the same test of fiscal responsibility."

The measure signed by Blunt also includes authority for Perry County to seek voter approval of a sales tax to support youth and senior citizen programs.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry wanted the exemption applied to state and local taxes but is pleased that the state exemption became law, said Dan Mehan, president of the chamber.

The exemption is an important economic development tool to keep Missouri on even footing with neighboring states, Mehan said. In the long run, he said, it will help Missouri businesses keep jobs and expand operations that will result in increased state revenue.

"It is sound, and it will pay back in revenue generated when a plant decides to put a new shift in Missouri instead of another state," he said. "We take a jump in their eyes as the place to be, and the manufacturing sector generally creates higher paying jobs than the average in Missouri."

The chamber, in a news release announcing Blunt's action, said the tax change should help stem the flow of manufacturing jobs out of the state. The state has lost about 65,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, the chamber said.

Wheat yields are below average, could be worse

SIKESTON -- The wheat harvest is coming in lower than average but not so bad considering the circumstances.

Area farmers have begun harvesting wheat, according to David Reinbott, agriculture business specialist for University of Missouri Extension in Scott County.

"Last week they really got going, and this week," Reinbott said. "We're well over half done -- some guys are probably finished."

"It's actually going pretty decent," said Jeff House, agronomy specialist for the University of Missouri Extension in New Madrid County. "We're lucky we're cutting anything at all with that freeze that hit. That really hurt us."

Reinbott and House both reported yields well below average due to the four-day period around Easter when temperatures dropped into the 20s. "That really had an impact and dropped the yield," Reinbott said.

Some farmers in Scott County are reporting yields less than 20 bushels per acre, according to Reinbott, although a few have been well over 70 bushels per acre. "Most of it's in the 30-40 bushel range," he said.

Reinbott said the average yield for wheat harvests this time of the year is probably in the upper 50s.

House said harvests are off around 20-30 bushels per acre in New Madrid County.

He said he has verified yields as low as 18 bushels per acre and as high as 60 with "a lot of 40s to 50s" in places where the farmer "would normally cut 90 to 100 bushels of wheat in a normal year."

Hiring begins at Holcim

STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. -- Holcim (US) Inc. officials announced the award of a contract to Workforce Employment Solutions to work with the firm as it prepares to begin the hiring phase. At the peak of the construction phase, the $905 million project will employ approximately 1,200 skilled construction workers. When the plant begins operations, it will have approximately 200 full-time employees and an approximate $10 million annual payroll.

"With construction well underway, it is time to move forward with the next steps and prepare for operation of our plant." Plant Manager Jeff Ouhl. "It is very important to build the best workforce for this world class facility right from the start and we feel Workforce Employment Solutions will be a good partner to help us reach our goals."

The formal application process began in July; the majority of hiring will be in 2008. The construction phase of this project is expected to take close to 30 months and hiring will be phased throughout the length of the project.

"This is not a first-come, first-hire process," said Joe Rozier, vice president of Workforce Employment Solutions. "People need to know that the application, testing, and hiring process will be thorough and will take place throughout the entire construction phase."

For more information, prospective applicants can visit the Work-force Employment Solution website at Rozier said the website will be updated with pertinent information about what jobs are available and how to proceed with applications.

Holcim (US) Inc. is one of the nation's leading manufacturers and suppliers of cement and mineral components. The company operates 14 manufacturing plants and over 70 distribution facilities in the United States. Holcim (US) Inc. is a subsidiary of Holcim Ltd. of Switzerland. With majority and minority interests in over 70 countries on all continents, Holcim Ltd. is one of the world's leading suppliers of cement, as well as aggregates (gravel and sand), concrete, and construction-related services.

SEMO holds grand opening for business incubator

Southeast Missouri State University's new business incubator will help launch new businesses and create jobs, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said at the opening of the facility.

"Supporting Missouri entrepreneurs and encouraging new business opportunities is central to fostering a good economic environment," the governor said.

About 80 civic leaders, students, lawmakers, economic development officials and Southeast administrators attended the outdoor ceremony marking the grand opening.

The incubator is on the remodeled third floor of the Southeast Innovation Center at 920 Broadway in the former First Baptist Church education building. The center has been open for about two years. But the incubator facility on the third floor was only recently completed. The incubator has 11 office spaces totaling 4,200 square feet in which to house startup businesses.

Several businesses already are operating out of the low-rent space.

While the incubator is new, the Innovation Center and its business and economic development staff have already helped more than 130 entrepreneurs start new businesses over the past few years, said Dennis Roedemeier, chief executive officer of the Missouri Research Corp. Missouri Research is the economic development arm of the university.

The Innovation Center was developed with nearly $1 million in state funding, nearly $300,000 in federal funding from the Delta Regional Authority and $200,000 from the Ameren Community Development Corp.

ABS joins CTS

David Heuman, CEO of CTS Technology Solutions Inc. of Sparta, Ill., has acquired the telecommunications portion of Advanced Business Systems, a long-standing Cape Girardeau business owned by Jack Mehner.

CTS Technology Solutions is a telecommunication and computer networking corporation that consults and works with businesses in Southern Illinois, western Kentucky and Southeast Missouri.

While the Verizon Wireless office in Cape Girardeau will continue under the name of Advanced Business Systems, the communication system part of the business will now be known as CTS Technology Solutions Inc.

Tourney keeps Cape businesses busy

The recent tournament at Dalhousie Golf Club has Cape Girardeau looking forward to similar events in the future.

The American Junior Golf Association tournament had 144 participants from 29 states and three countries who also brought family members and friends. Dalhousie marketing director Charlie Wiles estimated that, based on a national attendance average at AJGA events, 360 people were in Cape Girardeau for the tournament, plus another 187 people on Sunday for the qualifying round.

Calculating the economic effect of the influx of people is difficult, said Chuck Martin, executive director of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau, because people in the group didn't act as a whole in where they spent their money.

Still, city officials were pleased.

"It was an unbelievable week here in Cape Girardeau," Mayor Jay Knudtson said. "The city was abuzz between our restaurants, stores, hotels and the golf course."

Dalhousie project manager Aaron Dombrowski said the players and their parents loved being in Cape Girardeau. While the course was in premier condition and the weather was perfect, he said he attributes the success of the tournament to the community effort.

Martin's staff alerted all the area hotels of the tournament. The Victorian Inn & Suites jumped on the opportunity, offering the group a 20 percent discount off the nightly rate.

It was a small price for a high reward. The hotel booked more than 250 room nights during the week, which is typically a slow time for business compared to summer weekends, according to director of sales and marketing John Echimovich.

Hotels weren't the only businesses that had the chance to show off during the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship.

Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston donated about 15 dozen rolls for a roll-throwing competition, plus another 12 dozen for the visitors to eat, according to manager Jerry Johnson. Johnson said the rolls don't cost much to make, and he wanted the guests to get a taste of Southeast Missouri.

The Wal-Mart in Cape Girardeau donated $500 to the group to purchase lunch on the final day of the tournament.

Schnucks donated snacks to the young golfers and their families to help make the event a success, according to store manager Dennis Marchi.

The city can expect further bursts of economic activity. The American Junior Golf Association will return to Dalhousie Golf Club next year and again in 2009.

Kennett merchants, businesspeople meet with marketing rep to discuss strategy

KENNETT, Mo. -- Area merchants, along with numerous city and county officials met with Laura Pendino, who represented Five-Star Public Relations and Marketing, to discuss and develop a marketing strategy for Kennett's downtown area, as well as for the city in general.

The Christian Life Center at the Presbyterian Church filled with local business owners and retailers who wanted to speak out on ideas for bettering the downtown area, as well as voice concerns on what may be keeping the downtown area from flourishing.

Pendino's motive is to get all the information possible on what could be done to bring business back to the courthouse square.

Among the various issues discussed, the success of events such as the Cypress Fest, Jaycee BBQ Cook-off, the farm auction, and the thriving farmer's market were talked about to determine what events should be continued in an effort to attract more people to the area.

In addition to the festivals, the success of attractions like the Sheryl Crow Aquatic Center, which is also centered near the downtown area, have brought tourist to the area, not to mention the crowd it attracts during the Kennett Swim Team's swim meets.

As well as discussing the highlight of the area, the group discussed the area's downfalls. Parking was a hot topic among retailers and city officials as they discussed what can be done to make visitors comfortable, as well as what should be done to keep them coming back.

The information collected will be used in a plan to better the marketing for the downtown Kennett area.

Auto dealership moved

Johnny Gaines has moved his used auto dealership, J.W. Gaines & Son Auto, from Chaffee to Independence Street in Cape Girardeau.

Longtime Cape meat shop will close doors in September

In September, Cape Girardeau will lose a business institution that has left a lasting impression on taste buds across the nation and around the world.

Esicar's Old Hickory Smokehouse, 1157 N. Kingshighway, will close sometime after Labor Day, Blake Esicar said. But until then, the traditional style hams, bacon and sausages will be available for those seeking a last taste.

The decision is a painful one, Esicar said. Esicar's has been in business in Cape Girardeau since 1934 and has been housed at its current location since 1951.

Blake Esicar is the third generation of his family to run the business. At 56, he said, he'd rather not go through the difficulties of preparing 2,000 hams and 4,000 slabs of bacon for shipping at Christmas.

Esicar's began as a grocery and meat market founded at 411 Broadway by Edgar A. Esicar. He moved to Cape Girardeau in 1931 as an employee of the A&P Co. He bought the old William L. Meyer meat market three years later and began developing the specialty meat business. The building on North Kingshighway was designed with a smokehouse that is still in use.

Cape salon hires stylists, massage therapist

Just Teasin' Hair and Nail Salon at 2532 William St. in Cape Girardeau recently hired two new hair stylists, Amanda Brinkmeyer and Cara Menz, plus a licensed massage therapist, Laura Pridemore.

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