A look back at 2019's biggest business headlines

It was announced in November 2019 that Missouri Dry Dock & Repair Co. is no longer in the dry dock business, having sold its dry docks and other “floating assets” to a larger dry dock operation headquartered in Ohio. Missouri Dry Dock & Repair will retain its name and continue to provide propeller, shaft, rudder and other repair services.

Thursday, December 26, 2019 ~ Updated 2:02 PM

As 2019 draws to a close, it's time to look back at the headlines that shaped the area's business and economic climate this year. The following is a review of some of the business news covered on the pages of the Southeast Missourian between January and early December, prior to the deadline for this issue of B Magazine.


Construction data released in early January shows an increase in the number of construction projects in Cape Girardeau in 2018 (229 building permits issued) compared to 2017 (205 permits issued), but the value of the 2018 permits is significantly lower than the permits issued in 2017 ($48.5 million in 2018 compared to $83.6 million the prior year). Two major projects in 2017 -- the Drury Plaza Hotel and Conference Center and the Legends apartment complex on North Sprigg Street -- accounted for nearly $52 million of the construction valuation that year.

In Jackson, city officials report total construction values for 2018 increased by more than $3 million in 2018 over 2017 levels -- from $40.5 million to $43.6 million.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) reports that toward the end of 2018, Cape Girardeau County's unemployment rate fell to 1.9%, and Perry County's was an even lower 1.7%. Area chamber of commerce officials note that low unemployment numbers can sometimes make it challenging for employers to find qualified workers for available jobs.

Missouri's minimum wage increases by 75 cents an hour on Jan. 1, from $7.85 to $8.60. The minimum wage hike is due to the passage of Proposition B by Missouri voters in November 2018. Subsequent wage increases are scheduled each year through 2023.

The Cape Chamber announces that its annual banquet, traditionally held in January or February each year, will be moved to November beginning this year, making it an "end-of-the-year" banquet instead of a "beginning-of-the-year" event.

United Express adds seven round-trip flights each week between Cape Girardeau and Chicago. The expanded schedule gives Cape Girardeau three round-trip flights to Chicago from Monday through Friday and two round-trip flights on both Saturday and Sunday.

A new Imo's Pizza restaurant at 1008 N. Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau opens in mid-January, replacing the Imo's Pizza location on Broadway.

At its Jan. 18 annual banquet, the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce presents the R.A. Fulenwider Award to Jackson attorney Tom Ludwig in recognition of his lifetime of service to the community. The chamber also recognizes Sarah Gerau as its Women's Impact Network Woman of the Year, Evan Theobald as Educator of the Year, SERVPRO of Cape Girardeau & Scott Counties as Business of the Year, Bug Zero as Small Business of the Year, and Arron Olivas as the chamber's Ambassador of the Year.

A small fire Jan. 25 causes no injuries and only minor damage in the fuel unloading area at Buzzi Unicem Alternative Fuels facility in south Cape Girardeau. The fire is confined to a semi truck and trailer, which contains waste oil.


Old Town Cape marks its 20th anniversary with a dinner Feb. 28 at the Isle Casino. The event offers an opportunity to celebrate Old Town Cape's accomplishments over the past two decades and to look ahead to the future of downtown Cape Girardeau. Old Town Cape was founded July 1, 1999, when organizers met in an upstairs room at First Presbyterian Church.

After 74 years in business, it is announced that Howard's will close its doors later this summer. B.I. Howard and Beryl Swan opened the sporting goods business in 1945 at 900 Broadway where it remained until 2005 when it moved across the street to 835 Broadway.

SoutheastHEALTH and Universal Health Services announced in February 2019 that they will build Southeast Behavioral Health Hospital

SoutheastHEALTH and Universal Health Services announce plans to build a 102-bed, $33 million behavioral health hospital adjacent to the Southeast Cancer Center along South Mt. Auburn Road in Cape Girardeau. The 68,000-square foot facility will employ more than 180 clinicians, support staff and technicians, according to SoutheastHEALTH officials.


Poplar Bluff Pediatrics becomes part of the Saint Francis Healthcare System, effective March 1. It is also announced that Black River Medical Center in Poplar Bluff is in discussions to affiliate with Saint Francis Healthcare System.

Shogun Japanese Hibachi & Sushi opens on March 1 at its new location in the former Denny's restaurant, 161 West Drive in Cape Girardeau. The restaurant was formerly located a few blocks away on South Broadview Street.

Buddy's Rolled Ice Cream opens March 1 just west of Capaha Park at the intersection of Broadway and Whitelaw Avenue in Cape Girardeau. The business is named after owner Mark Frazier's dog, Buddy.

Dexter Bar-B-Que opens a new restaurant at 2305 E. Jackson Boulevard in Jackson, replacing its previous location at 1903 E. Jackson Boulevard. In addition to its Jackson restaurant, Dexter Bar-B-Que has five other Missouri locations in Cape Girardeau, Dexter, Sikeston, Farmington and Poplar Bluff.

J.C. Penney Co. announces it plans to close its store in Sikeston, Missouri, on July 5. In announcing the closure, J.C. Penney says the store in Sikeston's South Point Center is one of 18 full-line stores the company will close in 2019.

The Missouri Department of Transportation proposes replacement of the aging ramp bridge over Interstate 55 at exit 93 on the south end of the I-55 Business Loop (Kingshighway) in Cape Girardeau. City officials and business leaders suggest MoDOT consider reconfiguring the entire interchange.

On March 25, the Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization announces Steve Turner will become the organization's first executive director. Turner will begin his duties April 1.

SoutheastHEALTH hosts an open house March 27 to show off the renovations at its College of Nursing and Health Sciences, 2001 William St. in Cape Girardeau. The first floor of the former bank building includes the addition of three classrooms, a student commons area/lounge and administrative offices. Additional upgrades have been added throughout the building.


It is announced April 1 that the Southeast Missourian is among a select group of newspapers in North America chosen to participate in a digital subscription project sponsored by the Google News Initiative, FTI Consulting Partners and Local Media Association. The goal of the project is to develop a sustainable and thriving digital business model for the newspaper industry.

After 38 years with Procter & Gamble, public affairs manager Linda Greaser leaves the company and is named vice president of human resources at Saint Francis Healthcare System.

Cape Girardeau insurance broker Nick Laiben announces plans to open Cape Dive & Travel, a scuba diving store and training center, at 623 S. Silver Springs Road in Cape Girardeau's Shawnee Center. The business, slated to open around the middle of 2019, will be a "sister" facility to Ozark Dive Shop in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

Arena Golf in Cape Girardeau is renamed "The TeeHouse Complex" and adds new, state-of-the-art technology designed to enhance the driving range experience. The facility at 2901 Hawthorne Road is the first driving range in Missouri, and one of only about 45 in the nation, to feature the Toptracer Range system, which traces range ball trajectory.

A groundbreaking ceremony is held for Liberty Apartments in the 1100 block of Walnut Street in Cape Girardeau. The eight-building, 40-unit apartment complex will offer housing for renters with low income and is scheduled for completion in April 2020.

Southeast Missouri State University announced in April 2019 plans to hire an architectural/engineering firm to develop conceptual plans for renovating Houck Stadium.

Southeast Missouri State University announces plans to hire an architectural/engineering firm to develop conceptual plans for renovating Houck Stadium. Southeast athletic director Brady Barke says the university is considering a capital campaign to raise an estimated $20 million to fund the renovations to the 89-year-old stadium.

Orscheln Farm & Home announces April 26 that it plans to relocate__ its Cape Girardeau store to 11 S. Kingshighway, the former location of the "Big K" Kmart store, which closed in late 2018. Orscheln says it hopes to be in the new location by the fall of 2019.

Fred's Super Dollar Store, 121 S. Sprigg St. in Cape Girardeau, will close by the end of May, according to published reports in mid-April. The Cape Girardeau retail outlet is one of nearly 160 Fred's stores the company plans to close in the spring of 2019.


With nearly 200 combined years of service, Ford & Sons of Cape Girardeau and Young & Sons of Perryville announce they have formalized a business relationship and have renamed the Perryville funeral facility "Ford & Young," effective May 1.

It is announced in early May that Ray's Plaza Banquet Center, 3257 William St., will close after June 1 when the last event, a wedding reception, is scheduled. Midamerica Hotels Corp., owner of the banquet center, plans to demolish the structure, thereby improving access to Hampton Inn, Cracker Barrel, Texas Roadhouse and other businesses in the vicinity.

St. Louis-based Bandana's Bar-B-Q announces plans to open a restaurant in the former Bob Evans Restaurant location, 156 Vantage Drive in Cape Girardeau, later this summer. It will be the first Bandana's in Southeast Missouri and 29th in the Bandana's chain.

Maryann "Miki" Gudermuth retires at the end of May as executive director of SADI, the SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence, headquartered in Cape Girardeau. Gudermuth founded the organization in the late 1980s with the goal of empowering people with disabilities to live independently.

Groundbreaking is held May 20 for a new Best Western Plus hotel on the southwest corner of South Old Orchard Road and U.S. 61 in Jackson. The four-story, 80-room hotel is projected to open by mid-2020.

It is announced that a pair of restaurants on Cape Girardeau's west side, Ruby Tuesday and O'Charley's, will close in late May and early June. Both restaurants, at the southeast corner of the intersection of William Street and Mt. Auburn Road, had lease agreements with Drury Southwest, which were not renewed. No immediate plans are announced for redevelopment of the property.

Representatives of NextEra Energy Resources, based in Juno Beach, Florida, met May 30 with Cape Girardeau County commissioners to outline plans for a 1,400-acre "solar farm" in southern Cape County near Delta. The $200 million project would produce up to 200 megawatts of electricity and could be in operation in the next two to four years, according to company representatives.

Numerous businesses supported the Cape Catfish Prospect League baseball team in its inaugural season, which opened May 30, 2019, with its home debut June 4 in Capaha Park.

The Cape Catfish Prospect League baseball team opens its inaugural season May 30 with road games against teams in Quincy, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana, before its home debut June 4 in Capaha Park. Numerous local businesses participate by sponsoring Catfish games as well as activities at Capaha Field.


Old Town Cape executive director Marla Mills announces she will leave the organization to pursue another opportunity by the end of the summer. Mills has been with Old Town Cape since September 2006.

Several area wineries express concern that the excessively wet spring weather could adversely affect the region's wine production this fall. If the area receives too much rainfall during the rest of the growing season, growers say their wine output may be reduced.

Mary Jane bourbon + smokehouse opens at 1107 Broadway in Cape Girardeau in the former location of Courtesy Cleaners.

After nearly 40 years in Cape Girardeau, Metro Business College says declining enrollments and rising costs will force it to close its three campuses in Cape Girardeau, Rolla and Jefferson City by the end of the year.

The Bar in downtown Cape Girardeau, which served as a set location for the 2014 movie "Gone Girl" starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry, will reopen June 27 after closing in the fall of 2018.

Cape Girardeau sports bars, sporting goods stores and tattoo shops sing "Gloria" after the St. Louis Blues capture the 2019 NHL championship. Hundreds of hockey fans pack sports bars to watch the Blues win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins. Meanwhile, local stores selling Blues apparel say they can't keep up with demand for Blues merchandise and tattoo shops say they're seeing an uptick in customers wanting tattoos of the Blues logo and the Stanley Cup.

Century Casinos of Colorado Springs, Colorado, announces it has agreed to purchase operating assets of Isle Casino in Cape Girardeau from Eldorado Resorts Inc. of Reno, Nevada. Meanwhile, VICI Properties Inc. of New York plans to acquire the casino property and lease it back to Century Casinos. The Missouri Gaming Commission is expected to consider the transactions by late 2019 or early 2020.

Flooding along the Mississippi River and rising floodwaters near East Cape Girardeau, Illinois, damage the transmitter of Cape Girardeau radio station KGIR, also known as SEMO ESPN 1220AM, knocking it off the air. Mississippi River Radio isn't sure when the station will resume over-the-air broadcasts.

The Safe House for Women in Cape Girardeau opens its new 18,000-square foot shelter, featuring 10 bedrooms -- with 40 beds -- as well as more bathrooms, a computer lab, library, quiet lounge and children's playroom. The new facility replaces a 5,000-square foot shelter that had only 17 beds.

Plans are announced for a 94-bed assisted living and memory care facility in Cape Girardeau. Newbridge Management LLC files a certificate of need application June 28 to build and operate Newbridge Retirement Community at 883 S. Kingshighway near the intersection with South Mt. Auburn Road.


Elected officials in Cape Girardeau and Jackson and business leaders in both communities are concerned about the Missouri Department of Transportation's plan to close U.S. 61 between Cape Girardeau and Jackson for up to seven months next year during reconstruction of the Interstate 55 interchange at Center Junction. The closure, they say, will be detrimental to business. MoDOT agrees to consider alternative plans that would keep the highway open during the road construction project.

Craftsman and Cape Girardeau native Steve Watkins announces plans to move his custom culinary cutlery business from North Carolina to a production facility he plans to build in the lower level of the former Cape Feed & Seed building in the 400 block of Good Hope Street. Watkins says his Ironman Knives forge should be operational by late summer or early fall.

At its annual banquet in July, Missouri Main Street Connections Inc. (MMSC) recognizes a Cape Girardeau landmark preservation project and two Cape businesses for their support of downtown revitalization efforts. The organization honors Old Town Cape's Historic Landmark Preservation Group for its work on the Marquette Tower and the H&H Building, as well as Zickfield's Jewelry & Gifts as MMSC's Business of the Year and Isle Casino Cape Girardeau as the 2019 recipient of MMSC's Premier Partner award.


Sears Holdings announces it will close the 150,000-square foot Sears Grand store on Siemers Drive in Cape Girardeau.

Sears Holdings announces it will close 26 "large format" Sears and Kmart outlets in the United States, including the 150,000-square foot Sears Grand store on Siemers Drive in Cape Girardeau, later this fall. Sears has had a presence in Cape Girardeau since 1941 when the company opened a catalog sales office on Main Street. Sears opened a retail store in Cape Girardeau's Town Plaza in 1963 and moved into its Siemers Drive location in 2005.

Top of the Marq opens on the top floor of the Marquette Tower in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Kathy Bertrand, the first female community bank president in Cape Girardeau, announces she will retire Aug. 16 from First Midwest Bank, capping a 35-year banking career at several local financial institutions. Kevin Greaser, community president of Alliance Bank in Cape Girardeau the past 11 years, is named to replace Bertrand at First Midwest Bank.

Waitr, an online food delivery service headquartered in Lake Charles, Louisiana, announces it will launch a restaurant food delivery program__ in Cape Girardeau in mid-August.

More than 250 jobs could be coming to Southeast Missouri thanks to a $15 million expansion announced in August at the Briggs & Stratton plant in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. According to company officials, approximately 130 additional employees will be hired at the Poplar Bluff plant in the next 12 months with another 140 to 150 additional jobs added the year after that.

Cape Girardeau native Liz Haynes is named to be the new executive director of Old Town Cape, replacing Marla Mills who announced earlier this summer she would be leaving the organization. Haynes' first day will be Sept. 3.

Procter & Gamble Company celebrates 50 years in Cape Girardeau. Since opening in August 1969, the plant north of Cape Girardeau has grown from nine acres under roof to more than 80 and from a handful of employees to more than 1,000, producing several billion dollars worth of diapers, paper towels and toilet paper annually.


Wade "Pee Wee" Bartles, president of Alliance Bank in Jackson, is named to serve as president of Alliance Bank's Cape Girardeau location. Bartles succeeds Kevin Greaser who became community bank president at First Midwest Bank in Cape Girardeau in August.

Hundreds of former clients, family members and others gathered at the Osage Centre Sept. 20 to celebrate the Gibson Center's 40th anniversary. In the four decades since it was founded, the addiction recovery program has served approximately 50,000 people throughout Southeast Missouri, helping them overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Saint Francis Healthcare System, working in collaboration with SoutheastHEALTH and more than a dozen other health care and social support organizations, is awarded a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enhance prenatal and maternity services in the Missouri Bootheel.

River Ridge Winery near Commerce, Missouri, observes its 25th anniversary in late September with a weekend celebration that includes food, live entertainment and, of course, wine.


The Humane Society of Southeast Missouri kicked off a capital campaign to raise $3.7 million for construction of a new 12,000-square foot adoption facility.

The Humane Society of Southeast Missouri kicks off a capital campaign to raise $3.7 million for construction of a new 12,000-square foot adoption facility that will be built adjacent to the organization's existing adoption center on Boutin Drive in Cape Girardeau.

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport manager Bruce Loy announces he will retire in January after 22 years directing operations at the Cape Girardeau airport.

Six months after breaking ground in April, developers of Liberty Apartments, a low-income housing development on Cape Girardeau's south side, say they're on track to open the 40-unit apartment complex in April 2020.

Hundreds of HAVCO Wood Products employees and their families celebrate the company's 40th anniversary Oct. 19 with food, fun and plant tours. The company, founded in the late 1970s by Charlie Harris and Jim Vangilder, is the nation's largest manufacturer of trailer flooring material.


A two-alarm fire at Midwest Grain and Barge in Scott City causes structural damage but no injuries the morning of Nov. 5. Scott City fire chief Trent August says the fire appears to have started in an electrical control room behind a set of silos. A second fire breaks out inside a grain bin at Missouri Grain and Barge two weeks later. There were no injuries and the fire was confined to the bin, which was mostly empty.

The Cape Girardeau Regional Airport surpassed the 10,000 boardings threshold in November 2019 to qualify for “Primary Airport” status, garnering an additional $850,000 in federal funding.

The Cape Girardeau Regional Airport surpasses the 10,000-boardings threshold for the first time in more than two decades. By reaching the 10,000-passenger plateau, the airport qualifies for an additional $850,000 in federal funding, increasing its annual federal assistance from $150,000 to $1 million. Airport manager Bruce Loy and other city officials credit the increased boardings to SkyWest Airlines, operating as United Express, which began offering round-trip flights on 50-seat jets between Cape Girardeau and Chicago in December 2017.

It is announced in November that Missouri Dry Dock & Repair Co. is no longer in the dry dock business, having sold its dry docks and other "floating assets" to a larger dry dock operation headquartered in Ohio. Missouri Dry Dock & Repair will retain its name and continue to provide propeller, shaft, rudder and other repair services.

The inaugural Drury Family Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award is presented to Rust Communications founder and chairman Gary Rust during the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet Nov. 21 at the Drury Plaza Hotel and Conference Center. In addition, the Rush H. Limbaugh Award is given to Benton Hill Investments chairman Earl Norman, Coalter Insurance Group is named the chamber's 2019 Small Business of the Year and Greg Vaughn is named the 2019 Ambassador of the Year.


Civic and business leaders throughout the area are shocked and saddened by the unexpected death Dec. 1 of Signature Packaging and Paper founder, president and CEO Dennis Vinson. He was 63 years old.

The Isle Casino became “Century Casino Cape Girardeau” in December 2019, after being bought by Century Casinos and VICI Properties in part of a three-casino sale by Eldorado Resorts.

The Missouri Gaming Commission approves ownership transfer of Isle Casino's gaming operations in Cape Girardeau from Eldorado Resorts of Reno, Nevada, to Century Casinos of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The commission also approves sale of the casino's property to VICI Properties Inc., a real estate investment firm in New York, which will lease the property back to Century Casinos.

Midwest Sterilization in Jackson is in "full compliance" with their operating permit with regard to emissions of ethylene oxide, a chemical used in the sterilization process, according to representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency appearing Dec. 2 before the Jackson Board of Aldermen.

Construction is underway at the site of a new behavioral health hospital along South Mt. Auburn Road south of Highway 74 in Cape Girardeau. The hospital, a joint venture of SoutheastHEALTH and Universal Health Services, is expected to open in December 2020.

The 75th annual edition of the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament in late December draws thousands of basketball fans to the Show Me Center, buying tournament tickets and spending money at local restaurants and other business establishments.

The gaming property in Cape Girardeau formerly known as "Isle Casino Cape Girardeau" is now "Century Casino Cape Girardeau." The sale is part of a three casino sale by Eldorado Resorts to Century Casinos and VICI Properties valued at $385 million. The other casinos are the Lady Luck Casino in Caruthersville, Missouri, and Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in New Cumberland, West Virginia. Under the terms of the real estate sale, VICI Properties will lease the Missouri and West Virginia properties back to Century Casinos for a total annual rent of $25 million over the next 15 years with four five-year tenant renewal options. Lyle Randolph, who was the Cape Girardeau casino's vice president and general manager when it was owned by Eldorado Resorts, will continue in that position under the new ownership.

Looking Ahead

With 2020 just around the corner, here are a few of the business developments we'll be watching in the new year:

The start of a project to redesign the Interstate 55/U.S. 61 interchange at Exit 99 between Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

The opening of the Best Western Plus hotel on South Old Orchard Road in Jackson.

Completion of SoutheastHEALTH's behavioral health hospital in Cape Girardeau.

Development of City Place Centre in Cape Girardeau near the intersection of Highway 74 and Siemers Drive.

The opening of Liberty Apartments on Cape Girardeau's south side.

And possible developments related to several vacant commercial buildings in Cape Girardeau, including the former Sears Grand building, the Esquire Theater and the Ruby Tuesday and O'Charley's restaurant buildings.

We look forward to watching these developments throughout 2020.