Good news, bad news on business front

Monday, December 17, 2001

With job cuts making headlines on almost a daily basis, Cape Girardeau has been relatively lucky.

Here, most of the job cuts have been by one or two, not in hundreds, such as the cuts announced the past week -- about 6,000 at Aetna Inc., 7,000 at Quest Communications and 1,500 at Boeing.

Still some local cutbacks and belt-tightenings have added up to about 1,000 jobs lost over the past year. In many cases, expansions have absorbed many of the cuts. The work force ranged from a low of 37,116 in October to as many as 38,093 in October 2000.

Meanwhile, some business expansion has continued in Southeast Missouri despite a weakening national economy.

One hundred and ninety-five new businesses opened through the first 11 months of the year.

On the other hand, 119 businesses closed.

That's a better average than some years over the past decade when more closings were reported than openings.

In 2000, 180 new businesses opened in the city. But with 150 closing, the net result was 30. In 1999, the net was even less, at 23.

Net gains came in 1996, when 168 new business licenses were issued, with 87 closings, for a net gain of 82; in 1997, with 219 new businesses and 199 closings, for a net gain of 20, and in 1998, when 291 new businesses opened with 190 closures.

But records from the Cape Girardeau merchants permit office showed a combined total of 474 new businesses opened during the years 1993, 1994 and 1995, not quite keeping pace with the 489 closings during the same three-year span.

A total of 62 new business starts were recorded in the first half of the year in a seven-county region tracked by the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development office. Ten closings were reported, resulting in a net gain of 52 new businesses.

Thirteen businesses reported expansions. Approximately 410 new jobs were created in the region, but more than 200 jobs were lost as a result of business closings.

No new manufacturing operations were reported. The business scene throughout the area has been a busy one, said Ron Steele, regional economic development planner for the commission.

New businesses, expansion of existing ones and business closings are common occurrences, said Steele, who keeps tabs on business openings and closings in the commission's seven counties of Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Iron, Madison, Perry, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve.

Southeast Missouri experienced good business growth and job creation during 2000, with a total of 354 new business starts in the seven-county area, creating an estimated 2,500 full- and part-time jobs for residents in that region.

One bit of good news comes from the government. New claims for unemployment benefits fell by 88,000 for the first week in December, the biggest decline in nine years, and a hopeful sign, analysts say, that the country may have seen the worst of the layoffs.

Some bad news was announced by the U.S. Commerce Department late last week in its report of November sales. Despite some big holiday sales, national retail sales plunged by a record 3.7 percent

Analysts say they still believe the current recession, the first in a decade, will be a mild one that will be over by late spring.

Chamber news

The Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce selected its new officials and added six members to its board of directors recently, but is awaiting Chamber survey results before issuing its priority report for the new year.

Chamber members have until Wednesday to turn in their survey, said John Mehner, president and CEO of the chamber.

"As soon as we tabulate the results, we'll look at future plans," said Mehner. "The survey will determine some of our priorities."

Bill Kiel of St. Francis Medical Center Foundation was selected as new chairman during the Chamber's retreat recently. Other officers include Steve Taylor, president of Bank of America, vice chairman; Janet Esicar, senior vice president at Capaha Bank, treasurer; and Larry Dillon, Dana Corp. plant manager, president-elect.

Steve Leus, manager of Lone Star Industries, is past chairman.

New board members include:

Jayne B. Ervin, who founded Jayson Jewelers in 1984, filling an unexpired term of the board and elected to a three-year term from the retail division. Ervin is treasurer for the Downtown Merchants Association and is on the promotions committee of Old Town Cape.

Jim Govro, general manager of Westfield Shoppingtown West Park, was named to board from the retail division. He is a member of the steering committee for the Student Leadership Academy for the chamber.

Dennis Marchi, manager of Schnucks in Cape Girardeau, is a former chamber board member and is the third new member from the retail division. He has been a chamber member since 1977. He received the Rush Limbaugh Award in 1999.

Three new board members from the service division include:

Bo Shantz, an agent for State Farm Insurance since 1992. Shantz is a member of the leadership development committee with the chamber.

Janet Esicar, a senior vice president with Capaha Bank, who has been active in chamber membership since 1987. She is the chairman of the community beautification and enhancement committee.

Patrick Ruopp, a dentist, is currently co-chairman of the chamber university relations committee for the chamber. He is also board president of the Historical Association of Greater Cape Girardeau.

Ray Owen is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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