Grant to help businesses affected by flooding

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast Missouri State University has received a $71,000 grant to help small businesses impacted by severe flooding earlier this year.

The funds, from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development will be used in a new initiative called Operation ReStart. Many businesses in Southeast Missouri suffered either directly from floodwaters or indirectly from decreased sales due to other businesses and residents that were flooded this spring.

Services the grant will help provide include

* Outreach counseling to flood-impacted businesses to reduce the number of business failures in the region;

* Outreach counseling to rural businesses to help them maximize the use of broadband to create economic opportunities and expand their markets hurt by flooding;

* Offering Operation JumpStart entrepreneurship training in Poplar Bluff, Mo., a city hit hard by flooding, beginning in July to assist those interested in starting new businesses to fill market gaps created by business failures;

* Expansion of online resources to help business owners navigate through business interruptions;

* Offering webinars on recovery tips after business interruptions, outdoor recreation-focused businesses and expanding broadband market opportunities. Webinars are scheduled for April 18, May 9 and June 13.

In addition, the Delta Regional Authority recently confirmed funding for a similar project titled JumpStarting Missouri Communities Post Flood. This project will use $145,556 to provide targeted entrepreneurial training to communities hit hardest by destructive flooding earlier this year. The center will offer its signature small business training model, Operation JumpStart, to 80 individuals interested in starting or expanding businesses in the region. A goal of the program is to assist at least 25 new small businesses and to create new jobs as these businesses grow.

* University of Missouri Extension will host its fifth annual Southeast Missouri Energy Conference from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, at the Clinton Building in Sikeston, Mo. This year's conference will have a special focus on biomass and biomass-to-energy projects. Speakers include Doug Bice and Joaquin Alarcon of Abengoa Bioenergy Company. Abengoa Bioenergy is presently building a biomass-to-ethanol facility in Hugoton, Kan. Southeast Missouri, with its biomass resources, could support a similar facility. Other speakers will include:

* Dr. Joe Parcell from the University of Missouri, who will discuss the Southeast Missouri Biomass Survey;

* Tim Woolridge of MFA who will present information on their miscanthus project, presently MFA is contracting with farmers to plant miscanthus in Arkansas and Missouri;

* Joe Horner of the University of Missouri who will discuss the feasibility of corn stover usage in Missouri; and

* Mike Marshall, alternative federal co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, who will be the lunch speaker.

There will be a panel discussion of energy projects in Southeast Missouri, featuring Missy Marshall of the Sikeston Chamber of Commerce, Julian Steiner of the Stoddard County Industrial Development Authority and Jerry Bagby of Global Fuels. Dr. Van Ayers and Brian Robertson will discuss energy funding and energy audits. After lunch there will be an informal discussion of biomass harvesting and storage. Conference registration is $10. To register, people should call Stoddard County Extension office at 573-568-3344 or email at stoddardco@missouri.edu.

* PAJCO Inc., operator of Rhodes 101 Stops, will be the first convenience store marketer to offer the new Coca-Cola Freestyle soda fountain technology in the Midwestern United States. The stylish new Freestyle fountains are touch screen operated, enabling people to select from more than 101 regular and low-calorie brands. These new fountains take up the same amount of space as a traditional eight-valve dispenser. Beverages available include many varieties of waters, sports drinks, lemonades and sparkling beverages that, before the arrival of Coca-Cola Freestyle, were not available in the U.S. PAJCO Inc. will also now offer Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper in the Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain. PAJCO plans to feature Coca-Cola Freestyle in 11 of its Rhodes 101 Stops and Mercato di Rodi locations. Additional units also will debut in other PAJCO locations in 2012. Coca-Cola Freestyle is now available in more than 1,700 outlets and more than 75 markets across 39 states, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

* Mercato di Rodi, operated by PAJCO Inc., is completing construction in Jackson along East Main Street and is scheduled to open today. The company will begin construction in early 2012 on a second Mercato di Rodi location in Cape West Crossings at the intersection of Bloomfield Road and Mount Auburn Road in Cape Girardeau. Mercato di Rodi will offer enhanced convenience options for guests including an express bistro, upscale corner market and new motor fuel site. Soupe Express will launch as a new division of Cafe Soupe highlighting the upscale deli. The menu will feature fresh soup along with an assortment of salads and sandwiches. The menu will include classics from the original Cafe Soupe menu and include some new breakfast additions, packaged carry out options and coffees. The market will contain cold package beverages including sodas, energy drinks and beer. A beer cave and a selection of quality wines and liquors will be offered from PrimoVino. The motor fuels component will feature quality gasoline products from Rhodes 101 and be uniquely positioned on the site of Mercato di Rodi. The site is designed with infrastructure that will allow for the addition of new and alternative fuels for vehicles such as electric and natural gas. Rhodes 101 credit cards will also be accepted at Mercato di Rodi.

* ACCION Delta, a partnership between microlender ACCION Texas Inc. and the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast Missouri State University is now open. ACCION is a multistate not-for-profit small business lender providing business loans to those who are unable to receive financing from traditional lenders. The company provides startup businesses with loans ranging from $500 to $50,000. Interest rates range from 10.5 to 18 percent, based on credit history and risk. Terms range from six months up to five years, depending on size and purpose. For more information, people may visit www.acciondelta.org.

Southeast Missourian business editor Melissa Miller may be contacted at 388-3646 or mmiller@semissourian.com

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