Every day from now until the end of the year Missouri Business Alert will be looking back at the top five stories that shaped particular industries or regions in the state. Keep checking back to find out what 2012’s biggest news-making events were where you live and where you work.
Tornado Hits Branson, Tourism Officials Put Damage in Perspective
With tourism as its lifeline, Branson’s tourism officials and entertainers wanted to make sure a February tornado would not hurt its livelihood. They wanted vacationers to know the twister was far from paralyzing the city and most of its theaters, restaurants and attractions were alive and well. “The tornado has significantly damaged a small number of our businesses,” said Lynn Berry, spokeswoman for Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have more than 1,000 businesses. The tornado affected less than 50.”
Springfield residents found out their Postal Service processing center would not be consolidating with the Kansas City location, at least until February 2014. This news came after a February announcement that the center would be moving. Consolidation could affect local postal employees faced with transferring to Kansas City or other facilities or losing their jobs. The move also could affect mail delivery to Springfield and southwest Missouri residents. Consolidation with a facility 180 miles away could end next-day delivery of first-class mail, regional postal manager Gail Hendrix said during a session held in Springfield earlier this year on the consolidation plan. Sending mail to Kansas City and then trucking it back could mean two- or three-day delivery, she said.
Some Springfield bar and restaurant owners blamed decreased traffic in their businesses on a April 2011 smoking ban on workplaces and public areas in the city. Sales tax data showed a 6.3 percent drop at bars during the first seven months the ban was in effect, although smoke-free advocates disputed this data. Overall sales in Springfield during this time period increased by five percent. Springfield voters affirmed the ban in June, passing it with more than 60 percent support.
Tax Incentive for Kraft Foods’ Plant Upgrade Move Forward
Springfield City Council gave in June to a tax incentive plan that could spur a $55 million upgrade at the local Kraft Foods plant. Council members expressed their “official intent” to offer Kraft the tax break, which would cut in half the property taxes owed on the new equipment for 10 years. The vote gives city staff the ability to draft a final plan to bring back to the council, likely by the end of July, said Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith.
Lawsuit Targets Hammons Hotels CEO
The owners of more than half the hotels managed by John Q. Hammons Hotels slapped the Springfield company with a lawsuit accusing CEO Jacquie Dowdy of violating contracts and usurping control of the business. The owners, operating under variations of the name Atrium TRS and Atrium Hotels, filed the lawsuit in Delaware on July 20, naming Hammons Hotels and Dowdy specifically as defendants. A long-time aide to founder John Q. Hammons, Dowdy assumed control of Hammons Hotels in October 2010, when Hammons was placed in a long-term residential facility for health reasons.