Business Beat

Wednesdays at 4:45 p.m.

A weekly look at business issues important to mid-Missouri.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media


Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The American agriculture industry has a problem though; there are not enough grads to fill them. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That’s left the USDA, land grant universities and private industry scrambling to try and bridge the gap.

Kamila Jambulatova/KBIA

This piece was produced in conjunction with Missouri Business Alert, a digital newsroom that provides business news from across the state of Missouri.

Charisa Slenker sold her first piece of jewelry when she was 15.

“I saw a little beading kit at Michaels and I decided I’d want to do that,” Slenker said. “So I bought that and I started making earrings and I would take them to school with me and sell them to my friends and teachers.”

Samantha Kummerer/KBIA

John Sam Williamson has been a farmer for more than 50 years. He knows his five grain bins stocked with corn and soybeans very well, but he also knows the risks.

“There’s a lot of danger to grain bins, but if you use them safely its like other things, gasoline is dangerous, sharp knives are dangerous but if you’re careful and do things safely you should be fine,” Williamson said.

One such danger is known as grain entrapment where a worker inside a grain bin is crushed, sometimes to death, by the grain.

Deana Hayes

This piece was produced in conjunction with Missouri Business Alert, a digital newsroom that provides business news from across the state of Missouri.  

After being diagnosed with HIV 18 years ago, Deana Hayes was so frustrated that she left Missouri. It took her three years to come back and confront the disease.

Jeremy Schmetterer / KBIA

Personal Energy Transportation International, or PET, built its first rough-terrain transportation device for people with leg disabilities 21 years ago. With 25 affiliate workshops around the country today, the international organization reached the milestone of 50,000 PETs this year.

Mel West is a 91-year-old pastor and an antipoverty activist. In 1994, he met Larry Hills, a Methodist missionary who told West about polio and land mine survivors he was helping aide in Zaire, Africa.

Katherine Hambrick / Missouri Business Alert

This piece was produced in conjunction with Missouri Business Alert, a digital newsroom that provides business news from across the state of Missouri.  

Billy Martin did not know what to expect before delivering his pitch on Friday, Sept. 18, to a group of judges and fellow entrepreneurs at the Techweek event in Kansas City.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

  Nilvio Aquino weaves through a tangled jungle of marijuana plants at an indoor grow facility in Denver.

“Throw your nose in there. It’s nice and pungent,” he said, pulling a seven-foot tall plant down to nose height at one of the company’s grow facilities.

Aquino, the lead grower for Sticky Buds, a chain of marijuana shops in Denver, is in his element among the plants. He’s like a proud gardener showing off blue ribbon varieties, bustling from plant to plant, picking out his favorites.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

In order to grow massive amounts of corn and soybeans, two crops at the center of the U.S. food system, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce, and consumers to consume, a lot of relatively cheap food.

But that fertilizer can leach through soil and wash off land, polluting our drinking water, destroying our fishing rivers, and turning a Connecticut-sized chunk of the Gulf of Mexico into an oxygen-depleted hypoxic zone, suffocating aquatic life.

Dipankan001/Wikimedia Commons

 Mold--it's an unsightly, unpleasant and often harmful nuisance that you probably don't want in your home. But for some Missouri renters with this unwelcome houseguest, they've found themselves having issues getting help from their landlords. Missouri Business Alert's Heidi Li reports on how the lack of standard mold regulations is affecting tenants. 

Simon Cunningham/Flickr

There's a problem few are talking about when it comes to student debt. While the topic of undergrads taking out steep loans to pay for tuition costs often grabs the most attention, grad students face interest rates that are more than one third higher. But a group of students at the University of Missouri is trying to change that. Missouri Business Alert's Tatiana Darie spoke with the students of Grads Have Debt 2 about their efforts to achieve reform. 

Jacob Steimer/Missouri Business Alert

At the end of 2014, many Missouri United Way chapters came up short on their fundraising goals. Local charities felt the effects of low fundraising and different funding initiatives at the Heart of Missouri United Way in Columbia. Missouri Business Alert's Jacob Steimer reports on the impact that funding and program changes have had on mid-Missouri charities.

Christa Corrigan/Missouri Business Alert


  Columbia's Parkade Center opened in 1965. It was built on a prime location off of Interstate 70 — a new freeway reshaping the American approach to commerce. Parkrade Center was once the premier shopping destination in mid-Missouri. However that changes after the Columbia Mall opened in 1985. After struggling to keep businesses and shoppers for years, the center has shifted its business model in the past decade, and its business appears to be improved and stabilized. Missouri Business Alert's Christa Corrigan reports on the comeback of the once lifeless shopping center.

Startup weekend in Columbia starts on Friday, kicking off a fifty-four-hour boot camp at the Museao Building in south Columbia. People will work in teams to pitch and develop their business ideas with the help of mentors during the boot camp. At the end of the weekend, they'll present their business plans to a panel of judges, who will them select the winners. Missouri Business Alert’s Elizabeth Tharakan explores how Columbia’s Startup Weekend has recently become a springboard for health care IT companies.

Department of Economic Development

Jim Spencer, CEO of Newsy, received the Governor’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award earlier this month. Missouri Business Alert’s Maggie Angst caught up with Spencer, to find out where Newsy is heading.

Newsy is a company that collects the day’s news stories from multiple news sources and produces videos that add analysis and context to the story. The videos are then delivered through the Internet to tablets, smartphones, computers, and even TV. Newsy was found in 2008, and this January, it was acquired by E.W. Scripps Company for $35 million.

Hellen Tian

  President of Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI), Mike Brooks, will retire at the end of September. Since assuming the role in 2009, Brooks has helped REDI focus its efforts on attracting new business, expanding existing business, as well as building an entrepreneurial-friendly environment.

This week we sat down with Brooks, to talk about the importance of entrepreneurship to the local economy, and the challenges mid-Missouri faces in economic development. 

Daniel Horacio Agostini via Flickr

 Hailing a cab may become a thing of the past in Columbia, but local taxi companies and city rules might get in the way.

Uber, a ride sharing service that connects riders and drivers through a smartphone app is looking to expand in Columbia. Missouri Business Alert’s Siddarth Vidnala went to see what people on both sides of the issue have to say.

401k2013 via Flickr


Since the launch of 1 Million Cups last year, representatives from nearly 60 companies have stood in front of about 30 people that fill a downtown Columbia conference room every Wednesday.

1 Million Cups provides a launch pad into the city's startup community where entrepreneurs have six minutes to present their business and ideas. Following the pitch the floor is open to questions and discussion from anyone at the informal gathering.

tlsmith1000 / Flickr

Over 4,500 people on average are released from prison each year in Missouri, of those 480 in Boone County. After being locked up for weeks, months or even years, how do people adjust back to life outside prison and find a job? One obstacle confronting ex-offenders is the little box on job applications that asks about criminal history.

Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media


Residents across the Midwest are struggling with tight propane supplies, especially in this bitterly cold, snowy winter.

But it's not just homes that lack adequate access to heating energy. Harvest Public Media's Peter Gray reports on the recent fuel shortage, and how it's hitting farms that put bacon and eggs on your plate in the morning.

If you are a fan of wine, particularly European wines, from France, Italy or Germany, you can be proud of the role Missouri plays in creating that wine.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Monday’s Morning Edition on NPR featured a story about a Columbia biotech startup. We thought we’d give it an encore run on KBIA in case you missed it. After hearing Shihab’s unique story, I called Laurel Smith-Doer, who’s a professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  She’s studied immigrant and women entrepreneurs in biotech in the New England area. I asked her what she’s found in her research.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

There will be no farm bill until Congress returns in the New Year. But it turns out, dairy prices won’t surge on January 1st as some farm bill supporters have suggested. Harvest Public Media’s Grant Gerlock reports.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to China this week. It’s a trade visit that happens every year, but this time there is added interest for American farmers. China has rejected 5 loads of corn from the U.S. in recent weeks. The corn contained an insect-resistant trait from the seed company, Syngenta, that’s approved in the U.S. but not China.

The city of Moberly made a Yahoo Homes top ten list of the nation’s cheapest markets for family homes. The report says the average listing of a four bedroom, two bathroom house is just under 100 thousand dollars. In comparison, the most expensive place to buy a home in the U.S. is Malibu, California which has an average price of more than 2 million dollars.

Director for the Moberly Chamber of Commerce Debbie Miller says Moberly is an affordable place to live because it is predominantly a rural area; but, the city is in close proximity to larger metro areas.

Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

A new railroad bridge over the Osage River between St. Louis and Jefferson City is now open for both passenger and freight train use.

The new bridge cost $28 million, with most of the funds coming from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo says the project came in under budget and ahead of schedule.

Image by Evan Townsend

Missouri businesses will have to shell out more money for unemployment taxes next year in order to pay down debt the state owes to the federal government.

Missouri began borrowing federal dollars in 2008 to pay for jobless benefits after an economic downturn drained the state's unemployment benefits trust fund.  Brendan Cossette with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry says that led to the feds levying a surcharge on Missouri businesses to repay the borrowed money.

Kyle Winker / KBIA

Missouri's colleges and universities continue to educate an increasing number of international students.

A report from the Institute of International Education says more than 17,300 international students enrolled at a Missouri college of university during the 2012-13 academic year. The Joplin Globe reports that's a 7.7 percent increase over the previous academic year.

The University of Missouri-Columbia has the largest number of international students, with 2,490.

Courtesy of Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Just like Silicon Valley, there is a shortage of tech talent -- specifically programming talent -- right here in the Midwest. That dearth is the biggest obstacle holding back an emerging field of Midwestern tech startups. KBIA’s Scott Pham reports that one St. Louis native thinks he has an answer.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Coming up we’ll check in with some farm families about their surprising amount corn crop this year.

Heather Adams / KBIA

Wild dogs, coyotes, and bobcats are just some of the predators that have always been a threat to ranchers who raise sheep or goats. Traditionally, people think of getting dogs to help protect their flocks and herds. But there is another option and it’s becoming more popular among ranchers. Guard donkeys. KBIA’s Heather Adams has more.

This week, we’ll take a look into one state some students at giving food stamps to the unemployed.

An outbreak of salmonella linked to raw chicken is spreading across the country. As Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports, the partial government shutdown could make it tougher to track.

Rusty_1 / Flickr

“30 Rock” fans know the phrase well: Shut it down.

Nearly all of the characters have used it at some point during the TV show’s multi season run. And now it’s echoed in real life as the federal government has gone into shutdown mode. This week we take a look at how the shutdown has affecting mid-Missouri.