Business in 2008: Newcomers, expansions balanced cutbacks

Monday, January 5, 2009

Another year has come and gone. As I approach my 30th birthday Feb. 24 and my wife and I close in on the birth of our first child (I find out the gender Friday afternoon), it seems like each year passes more quickly than the last. 2008 wasn't a vanilla year for business news throughout the state. I've compiled the top five business stories of 2008. While many more could have been included, these were ones that stood out as the main newsmakers of last year.

The top story was area companies closing or laying off employees. The housing crisis and rising unemployment rate had a trickle-down effect in the economy, leading clothing factory Thorngate Ltd. to announce plans to shut down its operations in Cape Girardeau later this month, putting 310 people out of work. Other notable cutbacks were Havco Wood Products in Scott City with 71 staff cuts, Newell Rubbermaid in Jackson with 35 job reductions and Noranda Aluminum in New Madrid, Mo., with 228 layoffs.

But while some were cutting back, there was plenty of good economic news.

In mid-May, Cape Girardeau Regional Airport resumed passenger service with Great Lakes Airlines, the year's No. 2 story. The city's airport had been without a carrier since Big Sky Airlines pulled out in early January. Great Lakes Airlines offers two daily nonstop flights to St. Louis.

Two months later Saint Francis Medical Center broke ground on an $84 million, 180,000-square-foot Heart Hospital and Cancer Institute expected to be ready by fall 2011. A few weeks later, Southeast Missouri Hospital announced plans to build a $33 million, 49,200-square-foot cancer center that should be ready for use in December 2010. The new cancer centers rate as the year's No. 3 business story.

At No. 4, Orgill Inc., an independent distributor of home improvement products, announced in July it will build its new distribution center in Sikeston, Mo., bringing 350 jobs to the area. Completion of the 795,000-square-foot facility is expected sometime this year. Orgill provides retailers across the U.S. and more than 60 countries access to more than 65,000 products and retail services. Cape Girardeau remained a contender to host the new facility until late June.

And rounding out the top five stories was news that construction on the nation's largest cement plant in Ste. Genevieve County is on track for its scheduled completion this year. Holcim's $1 billion facility will employ 250 workers and produce about 4 million metric tons of cement each year. Company officials said that in addition to the creation of full-time jobs with an annual payroll of more than $10 million, taxes generated in Ste. Genevieve will total $25 million over 10 years.

Let's hope we hear more success stories in 2009 than we did in 2008. While analysts say this could be an even rougher year for the American worker, I hope the tide will turn sometime this year. The best we can do is be smart with our money and ride out the storm.

n Mexican restaurant opens across the river: Speaking of 2008, I hope you all had a fantastic New Year's Eve. My evening consisted of watching Southeast Missouri State University lose a heartbreaker in men's basketball, watching the movie "Walk The Line" and checking out East Cape Girardeau's newest restaurant, El Mexicano. Other restaurants in that location, 107 Iroquois St. off Highway 146, such as the Rose Garden, Witz's, Joey's, Courtney's and Marjorie's, have come and gone through the years, but let's hope this one will stay. The restaurant has daily specials and a salsa bar. You can reach El Mexicano by phone at 618-661-9330.

n Sign business opening soon: A new sign business will soon open in Cape Girardeau. Signs of Success, 401 S. West End Blvd., will offer vinyl lettering and sign installation. Owner Kelli Seabaugh and sales representative Steve Rector have been operating the business out of a home for a month but hope to move into the new facility sometime this week. They'll be open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. While they don't have a landline phone at the moment, customers can reach the business at either 450-7894 or 275-2043.

n Edward Jones earns top ranking: Registered Rep magazine has ranked Edward Jones No. 1 in the publication's annual survey of the nation's eight largest financial services firms. This is the 16th year the financial organization has earned the ranking. A quick search on found that Southeast Missouri is home to more than 20 Edward Jones locations.

While the average for all firms in the survey was a 7.4 out of a possible 10 points, Edward Jones scored a 9.4. Ninety-six percent of Edward Jones' financial advisors said they see themselves working for Edward Jones two years from now.

n Habitat happenings: Cape Area Habitat for Humanity, 117 N. Middle St., recently dedicated its 33rd home to be built in the area. Renetha Burton and her son hosted a house full of well wishers and supporters at 1115 Good Hope St. The home's completion was the result of the work by Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity. Farther south, Habitat for Humanity Sikeston held its groundbreaking for a home in the Sikeston, Mo., community.

In 2007, Cape Area Habitat for Humanity began the first project of its five-year-goal of building 25 homes in Cape Girardeau and other nearby communities. Local leaders are optimistic that goal will be met.

n Corn scholarships available for youth: If you're a high school or college student planning a career in agronomy or an agriculture-related field, you may have a chance at winning a scholarship. The Missouri Corn Growers Association and Missouri Corn Merchandising Council is awarding 10 scholarships worth $750 to high school seniors and college juniors planning to enter the field.

Scholarship applications are available to download at or by telephone at 800-827-4181. Students must submit an application form, an official high school or college transcript and at least one letter of recommendation to the Missouri Corn office by Feb. 13 to be eligible.

"Agriculture is an industry with rapidly changing technology that will require bright entrepreneurs to continue the innovation," said Paul Gross, Missouri Corn Scholarship Committee chairman and farmer from Corder, Mo.

Additional requirements for applicants are as follows:

High school senior applicants must be Missouri residents from a Missouri farm or rural area who plan to attend a two-year or four-year Missouri college or university. The scholarship funds will apply toward expenses during the freshman year.

College applicants must also be Missouri residents from a Missouri farm or rural area. Scholarship funds will apply toward the senior year of expenses for college winners.

Applications will be reviewed by the Missouri Corn Scholarship Committee and recipients will be notified by mail on or before April 15.

Southeast Missourian business reporter Brian Blackwell can be reached at 388-3628 or

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