Business Briefs

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Senior housing project

going up

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.

Every tenant seeking an apartment must pass screening tests, which will include an income review.

Perryville commission wins innovation award

The Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission in Perryville, Mo., was the recipient of a 2007 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations. The award was presented for the commission's development of a county graphic information system for Southeast Missouri. The GIS system will help sustain and preserve the environmental, economic and cultural heritage of the region, NADO president Dan Bollinger said. The awards program recognizes regional development organizations for improving the economic and community competitiveness. The awards will be presented during the organizations 2007 training conference in August in Austin, Texas.

New building, same goals for recently relocated United Way

The United Way of Southeast Missouri recently moved into its new location at 430 Broadway after outgrowing the old facility down the street.

A number of available commercial properties were reviewed by the local board of directors but the old Concord Publishing building offered by Jon Rust, publisher of the Southeast Missourian, was the most feasible option for the not-for-profit organization, according to Nancy Jernigan, executive director of United Way of Southeast Missouri.

United Way will remain in its leased location for up to five years. A capital campaign may eventually be started to raise money for a more centrally located building, Jernigan said.

United Way of Southeast Missouri serves the Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Scott City area. United Way has had a presence in Cape Girardeau since 1954.

Cape firm wins insurance distinction

The Daniel & Henry Co. in Cape Girardeau won the 2006 Chairman's Award from Hawkeye-Security Insurance for meeting sales, growth and loss ratio goals. Led by Rob Johnson, the Daniel & Henry Co. provides comprehensive risk management services for businesses in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.

Scott County communities seeking an economic boost

CHAFFEE, Mo. -- The state of business in Chaffee and other towns and rural areas in Scott County has prompted the Scott County Commission to look for ways to attract economic enterprise. The county commission is in the process of establishing an Enhanced Enterprise Zone -- a geographical area in which new or expanding business, with some exceptions like retail business, is eligible for state and local tax incentives.

Chaffee's downtown is like that found in many other small towns: A place that bustled with commerce during the early part of the 20th century when the Frisco line brought passengers to and took them from the depot there.

Today the picture is much different, a place where the small businesses that remain are interspersed with shops of many kinds that closed their doors long ago.

The problem is widely identified among business and government leaders in Chaffee -- almost every candidate in the April election campaign used attracting business as a major platform plank.

An area has already been identified that will meet the criteria of an EEZ -- at least 60 percent of residents have incomes below 90 percent of the median income of all residents and the area's unemployment rate is equal to or exceeds the average rate of unemployment for the state or county.

The area covers Scott City, Chaffee, Miner, Diehlstadt, Blodgett, Morley and Vanduser, as well as areas adjacent to the county's transportation infrastructures, a key priority identified by commissioners.

New and expanding businesses locating in the zone are eligible for property tax abatement of up to 50 percent for 10 years, but the level is determined by the seven-member board made up of five appointees of the county government, one appointed by local school boards and one appointed by other taxing entities in the zone area. The board also determines what type of industries to target with the tax incentives.

No studies have been conducted to see how well the programs actually work because the program is so new, said Aaron Rackers, an incentive specialist with the Missouri Department of Economic Development. However, Rackers said the department is tracking the effectiveness of the programs, which will be measured by the amount and quality of jobs created.

Not everyone is confident the incentive system can really make a difference. "All it is is a tax break," said a Chaffee businessman who wished to remain anonymous who said he's skeptical of whether instituting an EEZ would even help the local economy.

And property tax abatements have the potential of opposition from school districts who won't see the full tax benefits for 10 years.

The establishment of an EEZ might not bring industry directly into Chaffee's downtown, where buildings once housed mainly retail operations that aren't eligible for EEZ credits. But the indirect benefits could help; with more people in town making more money, other businesses could spring up to serve their needs.

Housing partners honored

SIKESTON, Mo. -- First Midwest Bank was recently presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program.

The recognition was for the partnership the bank developed with Rural Development's Guaranteed Rural Housing program. The presentation was in conjunction with the proclamation that June is home ownership month.

First Midwest Bank utilizes the Guaranteed Rural Housing program to assist individuals and families who may be eligible to become homeowners.

With this program, a conventional lender such as a bank, savings and loan or mortgage company makes the loan and Rural Development guarantees repayment. The program allows for purchase of a new home or an existing home. For households that qualify for financing, no money down is required since 100 percent loans are available. Some or all the closing costs may also be included in the loan if they are within the appraised value of the home. Loan payments are based on market interest rates with a 30-year fixed term. Both real estate taxes and insurance are typically escrowed and included as part of the monthly payment.

Business moved

FARMINGTON, Mo. -- Toni's Medical Aesthetics has moved to a new location at 1284 Doctors Drive.

New businesses in Dexter

DEXTER, Mo. -- Two new businesses recently opened in Dexter: JC's a new downtown restaurant featuring casual dining and Bella, a unique jewelry and accessory gift shop.

Ice business opens

KENNETT, Mo. -- Phil Dee and Connie Gurley of Kennett have opened Twice the Ice at 214 South By-Pass in Kennett. The store is a one-stop, self-service location where customers can pull up, deposit money and buy either a 16-pound bag of ice or a 20-pound block. Twice the Ice is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

50 million motors

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Briggs & Stratton of Poplar Bluff recently celebrated the production of the plant's 50 millionth engine. Briggs & Stratton has been in business in Poplar Bluff since October of 1989.

BiltBest Announces New Union Contract

STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. -- BiltBest Products, Inc., dba BiltBest Windows & Patio Doors, has announced that the company signed a new, long-term labor agreement with its manufacturing employees.

Headquartered in Ste. Genevieve, BiltBest designs and manufactures premium, custom wood windows and patio doors. BiltBest has a network of 300 dealers across the country, and has been making windows and doors for 52 years.

The five-year labor contract was achieved between BiltBest and the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC, Local 400G.

A press release said the agreement was ratified by "a substantial margin" among the union membership. The contract calls for wage and benefit enhancements, as well as a gain sharing provision for manufacturing employees that also will be provided to all regular, non-union, hourly employees.

Jay Hoffer, president of BiltBest Products, Inc., said, "We are extremely pleased with the new union agreement. The negotiations were conducted in an environment of mutual respect, openness, and a desire on both sides to achieve an agreement that is a win for our company, our employees and our customers.

Companies receive grants for training

Two area companies received grants from the state to support training and upgrading the skills of their workers. Commander Premier Aircraft of Cape Girardeau received $25,000 to reimburse training 35 employees, state Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, announced. And Rubbermaid in Jackson won a $20,000 grant to support training for 100 employees, Crowell announced. The grants, part of the state's Customized Training Program, provide help to new or expanding businesses in their efforts to train employees for new jobs or upgrade their skills. Commander Premier Aircraft is a new aircraft manufacturing company that expects to hire 50 to 75 new employees in the next 12 months. Rubbermaid is one of Jackson's largest industrial employers.

Wi-Fi expansion at Southeast Hospital

Southeast Missouri Hospital has expanded the availability of its wireless Internet services, spokeswoman Sally Owen announced recently. Service is now available throughout the hospital, as well as the Southeast Medical Plaza office building, the Regional Cancer Center and HealthPoint Plaza fitness center. The hospital began providing limited wireless access nearly a year ago in just a few areas of the hospital.

MU scholarship named for former Cape resident

The Leucadia National Corporation honored former top executive Robert P. Brock by making a gift of $100,000 to the University of Missouri-Columbia. Brock, who died in March, was a 1949 graduate of MU who worked for Commercial Credit in Cape Girardeau before moving to Memphis, Tenn., where he rose to be CEO of City Finance Co. The Robert P. Brock Fund in Financial Excellence will provide scholarships to students studying finance.

RV Retailers win sales award

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- LEE and KAREN KEARBEY of Kearbey RV Center recently won the "Platinum Award from the NTP Distribution Parts convention in Phoenix, Ariz. for record-setting sales in 2006.

Demands leads to increase in corn crop, prices

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Milus Wallace of Dorena planted four-times as much corn this year as he usually does.

And that's the trend across Southeast Missouri, where Jeff House, agronomy specialist for the University of Missouri in New Madrid County, said this is the most corn he knows of that has been planted in the last 40 years. Grain barges are preparing to store the large amounts.

The culprit? Rising prices.

Wallace said he contracted all of his acreage for $3.70 a bushel. While his prices were locked in about six months ago, those prices have fallen to below $3 a bushel for September corn.

To make way for the extra corn, Cargill's New Madrid, Mo., location has been making more space. Over the past years it has taken several steps to get farmers back to the fields sooner. The plant is installing a larger conveyer.

Although high prices are credited for a larger corn harvest, other conditions also play a role. Some corn was replanted after the April freeze, but due to a shortage in seed, there are actually less corn acres than there would have been. There have also been timely rains.

Manager returns to BioKyowa

A manufacturing company using corn syrup as a key raw material lately would find itself with rapidly escalating costs as the construction of new ethanol plants drives up corn prices.

But at BioKyowa, the amino acid producer that employs 110 people at its Nash Road plant in Cape Girardeau, technology is helping beat the cost run-ups, and new company president Toshihiko Hirao said it's his job to keep things humming along.

BioKyowa cut 25 jobs in 2006 as part of a major reorganization to cut costs in the face of global competition. Employment numbers are stable now as the company seeks to increase production by eliminating bottlenecks that restrict volume at the plant.

Hirao is taking over the plant as his parent company, Kyowa Hakko, is reporting strong earnings and enjoying an increase in shareholder value as its stock price has risen 46 percent in the past year. The stock price closed Friday at 1,155 yen, or about $9.53, a share.

The 54-year-old Hirao is only new to his job; he's an old hand at the plant that was one of the first significant Japanese investments in Missouri when it opened in 1984.

Hirao was part of the team that opened the plant in May of that year. He returned for a second, longer stint in 1989, staying for eight years and settling with his wife, son and daughter. His last five years were in the job of vice-president before returning to Japan, where he was most recently a plant manager in Ube, Japan.

"I am excited about being back," he said. "I am glad to work for BioKyowa again."

Hirao replaced Terumi Okada, who was president of the company for about two years.

The plant last went through a significant expansion in 1999. Part of Hirao's job is to increase production, but that doesn't mean any more expansions in the near future.

Poplar Bluff businesses again object to halfway house

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Local plant managers, city administrators and businessmen are again protesting the proposed site of a federal halfway house. Nancy and Tom Mosley of Poplar Bluff plan to enter into a five-year contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to operate the residential re-entry center for federal prison inmates in a facility to be built on the south side of Cravens Road adjacent to the Nordyne Plant, just outside the Poplar Bluff city limits and near the Poplar Bluff Industrial Park.

A previous proposed location within the Poplar Bluff Industrial Park drew criticism from the park's plant manager and individual business managers there. The city council initially approved the request, then backed off following the outcry from the industrial park. Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs later offered the third floor of the Butler County Justice Center for use as a halfway house, but the federal Bureau of Prisons would not approve the site.

Mayor Susan Williams said the city council sympathizes with concerns following this latest site selection, but said that since the site is outside the city limits the council has no authority. William said she was confused by the newest selection since Nancy Mosley had told her earlier that the site had to be in the city limits in order for the contract to be awarded.

If the Bureau of Prisons approves the proposed site said city manager Doug Bagby, the city will become involved because sewer service will have to be extended to the property which currently has a septic system. To provide sewer service, the city might have to annex the property.

At a meeting of the executive committee of the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce, the committee unanimously voted not only to oppose the current site proposal, but also stated it wold not support any location in the city.

Carl R. Anderson, of the Bureau of Prisons stated that the business leaders' fears are not justified. A similar facility has been operating in Poplar Bluff for the past five years, the Westwood Treatment center on Warrior Lane. He said the Bureau of Prisons did a pre-site inspection on the property near Nordyne.

Business leaders say they fear having federal inmates close to the parking lots of their workers. Anderson countered that the facility is there for federal offenders fro the Poplar Bluff area who are within 10 percent of their release date. The centers provide supervision, deployment counseling, job placement, financial management assistance along with drug abuse treatment to help inmates gradually rebuild their ties to the community. Inmates who have the support system of such a center, Anderson said, are less likely to reoffend.

Soybeans to power Lilbourn industry this fall

LILBOURN, Mo. -- The biodiesel plant in Lilbourn is on track to begin production by the end of the year.

The plant will use soybean oil to produce biodiesel fuel.

Construction on the plant began in November. The plant's production building, which is 100 feet by 120 feet, has room for two processing units but will start out with just one.

Upon starting production, the plant will employee 10 people -- eight shift workers and a secretary, who has already been hired, in addition to the plant manager. Management anticipates hiring eight more who have already been interviewed and identified.

Bank opens in Ste. Genevieve

SAINTE GENEVIEVE, Mo. --MRV Banks is now open for business at 871 Ste. Genevieve Dr. in Ste. Genevieve -- the first new charter bank to open in the city in more than 100 years. The new bank received its charter last month, after MRV Financial Corporation Inc. won approval from the FDIC and the State of Missouri's Division of Finance to open a new banking facility in the City of Ste. Genevieve. At that time, MRV officials announced that the bank had raised over $10.4 million in capital from over 270 local shareholders.

Southeast students earn mini-grants

Three Southeast Missouri State University received mini-grants and office space in the Southeast Business Incubator to help them launch new businesses. Tiffany Thomas of Gordonville won a $5,000 grant to build Kurios Photography, which will specialize in portrait photography, including senior class photos for students, and event photography.

The idea to take pictures as a business came up after she took some senior photos for students who needed an inexpensive photographer and was encouraged by several people to make it her livelihood. She returned to Southeast Missouri State University after a 10-year hiatus from school while she and her husband, Brian Thomas of El Shabbai Heating and Cooling, were starting a family.

The other winners of the grants were Stefanie Tooley of St. Peters, Mo., who received $5,000 to launch a graphic design company, and Matt Taylor of Cape Girardeau, who received $2,600 to develop his lawn care and maintenance business.

The awards were made following a yearlong competition known as the Student Entrepreneurship, Southeast Apprentice Program.

Hotel chain gains recognition

Home-grown hotel chain Drury Inn & Suites took the top ranking for customer satisfaction among Mid-Scale, Limited Service hotels in the annual J.D. Power and Associates North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study, winning 824 out of a possible 1,000 points. It is the second consecutive year Drury has won the top ranking. Only two hotel chains, both in the Luxury Segment, scored a higher total score.

The Drury company, which grew from a single Cape Girardeau Holiday Inn operated by the Lambert Drury family of Kelso, has 120 hotels in 19 states.

The company's hotels are all family-owned, noted CHUCK DRURY, president and CEO of the hotel chain, in a news release. "This puts our team in a position to provide a consistent level of quality, service and value every day for every guest," he said.

J.D. Power and Associates, a global marketing information company that is a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill Companies, ranked the hotels in eight categories ranging from overall customer satisfaction to the costs of extras such as telephone and Internet service. Drury, which advertises itself as the place where Extras Aren't Extra, provides a free hot breakfast, free evening beverages, an hour of long-distance calls per day and free high speed Internet service, which helps explain its top ranking.

In fact, Drury received an "Among the Best" rating in each of the eight categories, the only chain in its class to receive that distinction.

Winks reopens:

If you live in the Perryville Road/Lexington Avenue area and have missed stopping at Winks convenience store for a morning coffee, tank of gas or a six-pack on the way home, you won't have to wait any longer. Kevin Stanfield, who operates the store in partnership with his father, said the new building is ready.

Since the early 1980s, the Stanfields operated Winks at a location next door, but Kevin Stanfield said the building was "kind of worn out," was too small and needed more fuel pumps. The Stanfields, who are also partners in My Daddy's Cheesecake with Wes Kinsey, will be selling the restaurant's sandwiches, salads, coffee and yes, cheesecake, at the new store, Stanfield said.

Computer dealer adds lines

CPU Inc., a provider of computers, networking and software, added two new lines of products to its repertoire. Mike Unverferth, director of sales and marketing, said the company is now a Lenovo authorized business partner, adding the notebook and desktop computers from the company spun off by IBM.

In addition, CPU has received authorization from Apple Computer to be an Apple business agent, which will give them a presence on the Apple Store Web site and, when a customer makes a purchase online through CPU's portal, the company gets credit for the sale and will support the products with local service.

CPU began 30 years ago in the sales, service, networking and support of computers.

Hay shortage will leave buyers lacking in winter

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Last winter, Dan Beussink estimated he could have sold about five times more hay than what he had for sale in his barn.

"Most of it went to Oklahoma last year because of the drought situation," said Beussink, who bales hay for sale and his own horses consumption in Benton.

Those droughts in the west, combined with the late spring freeze which lowered hay production, will make it difficult to find hay again this year.

Hay is a supplemental feed used for animals, especially cattle and horses.

"Horses and cattle need roughage -- it's very important for horses especially," said Jim Gooch, owner of Feeders Supply in Sikeston. "It helps them digest."

Small animals, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters also use hay.

Gooch's store was also hit by the shortage. "It came to a point where you couldn't hardly find the hay," he said. When he did find a load, it would be sold out within just one or two days, Gooch said.

To help connect hay producers with those in need of the product, the Missouri Department of Agriculture has set up a "hay hot line." The number is 800-877-4HAY. There is also a joint effort between The University of Missouri-Columbia and the MDA to provide an online listing of available hay, found at www.agebb.missouri.edu/haylst/index.htm.

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