Business Beat

Wednesdays at 4:45 p.m.

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

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.

A miscalculation by Brookside apartments is costing some Columbia residents up to $35 per week.  The Downtown Leadership Council hosted a public forum Tuesday to discuss parking issues in Columbia. One full time downtown worker says he has to pay for parking daily now because Brookside residents are taking up all the free spots. Council members say Brookside estimated 25 percent of their residents would bring cars to Columbia.

supplemental nutrition assistance program
Selbe B / flickr

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and some Missouri social welfare advocates are concerned about the impact of the cut on rural Missourians. SNAP, formerly food stamps, was already expected to receive a fund cut this November.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

It’s about that time of year when hog farmers begin the annual process of pumping a year’s worth of manure out of the pits under their barns. The nutrient-rich slurry will fertilize cropland. But there’s an ongoing problem in these pits: a mysterious foam that sometimes forms on the manure. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer explains, no one quite understands why gases get trapped in the pits, but the foam has been causing explosions. That’s right; this is a story about exploding manure pits.

columbia city hall
File Photo / KBIA

Columbia City Council members approved stricter requirements for a controversial potential housing development near Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. KBIA’s Kate Grumke reports dozens of residents spoke up about their concerns at Monday’s meeting.

A new report from the US Department of Agriculture has found that through voluntary conservation measures, farmers reduced the amount of nitrogen that washes off their fields into Mississippi River watershed waterways by 21 percent. That's good news for water treatment plants that spend millions of dollars each year to remove farm chemicals from drinking water supplies. Harvest Public Media’s Abbie Fentress Swanson takes a look at the particular challenge posed by the nitrogen in fertilizer, which has been running into Midwest streams at concerning levels this summer.

Missouri Capitol
File / KBIA

A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Missouri is in the top ten states when it comes to using cost-benefit analysis of taxpayer money. 

Cost-benefit programs analyze the cost of public programs and the benefits they provide taxpayers.  In short, it’s the study of how much bang taxpayers are getting for their buck. And it can be a very effective tool when drafting new laws or policy.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA file photo

Gov. Jay Nixon stopped by Columbia twice this week. He has spent his summer drawing attention to the many problems he and other critics see with House Bill 253. That is the income-tax cut bill he vetoed in June. There is a chance state Republicans could make a run for an override of that bill in September. The bill cuts income tax and corporate taxes and under certain circumstances allows business taxes to be claimed on personal income taxes. Conservative estimates peg a state revenue loss of $692 million dollars if the bill were to become law.

Altar'd State

Kayla Lewis was shopping at the Columbia Mall when she saw a new store that piqued her interest. The next week, she brought her mom along to shop at Altar’d State.

Altar’d State opened in the Columbia Mall July 5, bringing a touch of Christianity to shoppers.

“We wanted to swim upstream,” Altar'd State CEO Aaron Walters said. “The world was going one way, and we saw an opportunity to go another.”

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The world’s soil is in trouble, even in the fertile Midwest. Some experts warn that if degradation continues unchecked, topsoil could be gone in 60 years—with implications for agriculture and the broader environment. Farmers feel the pressure of feeding a growing global population and protecting the soil necessary to do that—all while operating a viable business.  Harvest Public Media considers two possible ways to improve the soil. The first--planting strips of prairie grass alongside farm fields. Amy Mayer reports.

Credit Tamara Zellars Buck / KRCUUnion Baptist Church as it stands today in Pinhook, Mo.Edit | Remove

In the countryside, there are fewer people – and some prefer it that way, especially thieves. The National Insurance Crime Bureau says that metal thefts have increased by 36 percent since 2010 – and that leaves farm equipment and machinery as easy pickings. Reporting for Harvest Public Media, Payne Roberts has the story.

Google Glass may seem like space-age technology. But that doesn’t mean it’s only for Star-Trek fans. The innovative device is a pair of glasses with a small screen above the right lens that functions as an extension of a user’s Smartphone. Glass can be used for a variety of functions like taking pictures, shooting video or replying to email all with voice commands. Veterans United in Columbia is one of the advance testers of Glass and recently held a product demo. KBIA’s Anders Aarhus reports.

American airlines
Simon_sees / Flickr

May is the third month in a row that the City of Columbia has not had to pay American Airlines guaranteed money for serving Columbia Regional Airport. 

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

A Columbia biotech company has announced plans to commercialize its products around the globe.  EternoGen, LLC. develops collagen-based products for minimally invasive surgical procedures.  KBIA’s Ben Wilson has more on the company’s expansion.

The Columbia City Council recently voted in favor of purchasing 16 natural gas-powered vehicles along with building a natural gas fueling station in northeast Columbia. KBIA’s Rickelle Pimentel tells us why some community members aren’t as excited about this decision.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Our neighboring city of Independence, Mo., is going green with its lighting over the few years. 

At the 81st annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Las Vegas last past weekend, Independence announced its plans to partner with Philips Lighting on an energy and maintenance saving project.

Crop insurance is a big part of the farm bill debate in Washington this year. The Senate recently passed a bill that would expand the heavily subsidized program. And now the House is zeroing in on the issue. Several amendments to the farm bill pending in the House would curb how much the government provides to cut the cost farmers pay for crop insurance. But, premiums aren’t the only part of the system supported by tax payers. Crop insurance companies also enjoy lots of government largess. Harvest Public Media’s Frank Morris reports.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Drought conditions in much of the country have eased, but the Great Plains region is still in rough shape. Last year’s dryness pushed the nation’s cattle herd to its lowest numbers since the 1950s. Dry conditions this summer could cause the herd to dwindle even further. As Harvest Public Media's Luke Runyon reports from Colorado, that means beef prices are on the rise this summer just in time for grilling season.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

On this week's Business Beat: 47 million Americans are enrolled in the SNAP program, or food stamps, including nearly 16 percent of Missourians.  SNAP is the biggest spending item in the farm bill. And the program has a big bulls eye on it as Congress debates new legislation. As Grant Gerlock reports for Harvest Public Media, the economic considerations go beyond who receives SNAP benefits to how and where the money is spent.

Dozens of Ste. Genevieve County residents met last night (Tuesday) with the company applying to open up a sand mine in their neighborhood. Locals fired questions at Mark Rust, owner of Summit Proppants, for four hours about health concerns, traffic safety and property values.

Missouri voters will get the chance to consider a constitutional amendment next fall that would affirm the rights of farmers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices. The state House and Senate passed the measure during the end of the legislative session last week. Harvest Public Media reports.

rustinpc / flickr

With a new farm bill, farmers may have access to fewer dollars for conservation. For 27 years, the popular Conservation Reserve Program has transformed small parcels of land, contributing to cleaner water, more habitat for migrating birds and less soil erosion. But as Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports from Iowa, the program has been enrolling fewer acres in recent years and it’s not just budget cuts that could make it smaller still.