Start Now to Make 2010 a Strong Year

By Tom Lesnak
Special to The Examiner
Independence, MO —

It is hard to believe that 2009 is over and a new year is upon us. While we hope that the economic challenges of the past year are coming to an end, it is time for all businesses to be thinking about plans or “New Year’s resolutions” for the coming year. Actually, if you waited until you read this to start planning, you are already behind so let’s get to work.

I’ve come up with a few ideas that all businesses can benefit from during 2010.

1. Spend some time each day doing some “opportunity thinking.” You can do this by yourself, pull your staff into the discussion, or jot down thoughts on sticky notes when an idea hits you. We all lament over missed opportunities but they are only missed because we thought of them after the opportunity went away. Each new opportunity should provide your company with a new angle on how you approach your products or customers.

2. In a challenging economy, relationships are a crucial part of business survival. While we’d like to see a quick rebound in economic conditions, the bounce will likely be slow so make the extra effort to not only build new relationships, but strengthen the ones you have with your existing customer base. Your best customers are your competitor’s best prospects so make sure they don’t have a reason to look elsewhere. Something as simple as a phone call to chat, a written note, or even an invite to join you at an event like a Missouri Mavericks game is a great way to cement your bond to that customer.

3. Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional thinking. The easy way is to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. While that may provide a certain level of success, it can be argued that there is no such thing as standing still in business. You are either going forward or backward and the ability to “think out of the box” is an important part of being able to grow your business.

4. Make sure you are continually reviewing your priorities and evaluate on a regular basis if your strategies are successful and meeting the objectives you have set out for your business. Losing your original focus can lead to inconsistent practices and create inefficiencies within your business operations.

5. Don’t forget to have fun along the way. I’ve seen one local business which incorporates “surprise” events and activities to have a little fun in the course of the work day. If your employees feel like work is eight hours each day of their life that they’ll never get back, they probably aren’t as productive or enthusiastic and that attitude will eventually have a negative impact your customers and clients. Don’t be afraid to put up a nerf basketball hoop in the break room or have a mandatory Wii bowling tournament in the conference room.

While we can’t always control issues like inflation, consumer spending, and the price of fuel, we can always control how we treat our customers, clients, prospects and employees. I encourage all local businesses to challenge themselves on how they can do that better in 2010.

January 16, 2010 at 6:36 am Leave a comment

Vegan-friendly baker first to open in Ennovation Center – Independence, MO – The Examiner

By Adrianne DeWeese – adrianne.deweese@examiner.net
Posted Jan 08, 2010 @ 11:36 PM

Jennifer Ward grew up in the kitchen, watching her mother and father bake traditional foods like pancakes. They resided next door to their church, and after service every Sunday morning, they invited everyone over for breakfast.

This, Ward said, is why the pancakes were the first creation in her gluten-free cooking journey that has turned her into an entrepreneur. They were the one item that “just turned out beautiful” when Ward started baking gluten-, nut- and dairy-free, vegan products years later.

Ward, 40, will be the first tenant in the Independence Regional Ennovation Center when it opens this spring. The Ennovation Center is the rehabilitation of the former Independence Regional Medical Center, providing wet-lab, kitchen and business space for entrepreneurs like Ward.

Shortly before Lee’s Summit resident Ward married her husband, Scott, 10 years ago, he experienced severe headaches and intestinal problems. A series of traditional medical examinations revealed nothing, but an alternative medical practitioner diagnosed Scott with celiac disease, a digestive condition that the consumption of protein gluten triggers.

With no cure, the effective method to manage the disease is changing the diet to eliminate wheat and gluten products. First, the family spent a fortune at alternative grocery stores, purchasing cake and pancake mixes, bread and pizza, Ward said.

She decided to make her own recipes instead. Her first batch of cookies included garbanzo bean flour, ultimately resulting in “disgusting cookie soup,” Ward said.

“When I first started playing, oh my goodness, it was a disaster,” she said. “I mean, really, it was funny.”

Without a college degree in food science, Ward extensively researched gluten-free products, still holding on to aspirations of one day attending culinary school courses. She laughed about seeing herself as a scientist whose lab is in the kitchen.

Xanthan gum, Ward said, is a complex ingredient. As a natural carbohydrate, the product is added to bread and other gluten-free baked goods. A tiny bit, one way or the other, “can make or break your recipe,” she said.

“I had pancakes once that were like water – terrible. They didn’t fluff or anything,” Ward said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just put some xanthan gum in,’ and they turned out too high and were terrible. It makes a huge difference.

“I’m amazed, honestly, that I was able to do some of these recipes without any chemistry background.”

With previous career experience in the real estate industry, Ward worked at Whole Foods Market in Overland Park, Kan., a little more than a year ago. She enjoyed her co-workers and grocery store atmosphere, but as the bakery buyer, she purchased the ingredients and products. The not-so-fun part, Ward said, was removing the products from the dock, moving them around in the walk-in freezer and placing them within the store. She often thought to herself, “How am I going to get myself through this moment?”

She wanted to spend more time in the kitchen, but she was consistently busy with her responsibilities. At last, the cooking studio instructor asked Ward to instruct a class on gluten-free baking. Her husband soon encouraged her to start a business, and she did so, launching Be Free Bakers in summer 2009, which now includes more than 50 customers.

“I may not be the next Betty Crocker tomorrow,” said Ward, who has also adopted the gluten-free lifestyle, along with her two children, ages 4 and 6, “but at some point, I’d like to grow this company as something that’s a mainstream American product.”

Her products’ packaging, Ward said, is entirely compostable. Be Free Bakers, which now operates out of a Lee’s Summit church, is all about the green movement, she said. Visit befreebakers.com or call 816-966-9895 for more information.

“If I can, if the incubator is something that just catapults me forward,” she said, “absolutely, my site will try to be as green as possible.”

But in a way, her first kitchen that’s truly her own will be green, with the renovation of a decades-old space into a new use.

January 9, 2010 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

Demolition has begun at the old Independence Regional Health Center – KansasCity.com

By BRIAN BURNES
The Kansas City Star

An Independence landmark is coming down.

Demolition has begun at the old Independence Regional Health Center. As part of its conversion into a “business incubator,” developers are modifying the red-brick complex that has stood for decades in northwestern Independence.

Their plans include taking a wrecking ball to the seven-story north tower, perhaps as soon as next week.

“It’s the most economically feasible thing for us to do,” said developer David Edwards.

The demolition has prompted mixed reactions in the city. Several residents have expressed mild regret at the modification of the hospital that for many served as an emotional and economic anchor before it closed in 2007. But many of those same residents concede they are glad to know the dark and empty facility will have a new function.

“There is a surprising emotional attachment to the building,” said Brent Schondelmeyer, an Independence native. “I was born in that hospital and my father died there.

“But life moves on, and one has to cheer this project for breathing life into the building and the neighborhood.”

The incubator, the Independence Regional Ennovation Center, is scheduled to open as soon as April. Edwards described the facility as unique in that it would offer space for kitchen-based and bioscience start-ups, as well as for traditional business entrepreneurs.

In 2009, the Independence City Council allocated $10 million in tax increment financing to the project, and the Independence School District allocated about $5.5 million in TIF proceeds.

“To see the old hospital come down — with all the memories of family members passing away there and others being born — I can understand how it could be traumatic,” said Mayor Don Reimal. “But it’s also gratifying to see a hospital being reused in an original way.”

Several potential incubator tenants have expressed interest. The first, Edwards said, could be the operator of a local gluten-free bakery.

But first, demolition needs to be completed.

The tear-down began Dec. 22, almost exactly 100 years from the day — Dec. 15, 1909 — that founders dedicated the original facility. It then was a three-story nursing home for infirm members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

It grew from there. Independence residents of a certain age sometimes identify themselves by referring to the “San,” a reference to the facility’s original name, the Independence Sanitarium.

“The interesting thing is that ‘Sanitarium’ had nothing to do with tuberculosis,” said Bill Russell, a history professor at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. “The hospital was where the church could integrate both spiritual and physical healing.”

The name “Sanitarium” endured until 1986, when trustees decided the term was archaic. After that it was known as the Independence Regional Health Center, a nonprofit enterprise operated by the RLDS Church. That year the facility employed about 1,100 area residents.

In 1994, the church sold the hospital to the for-profit Columbia Healthcare Corp.

“Some people were upset because they felt the church was giving up that ministry,” Russell said.

But the transaction assisted the community in other ways. It placed the hospital on the tax rolls. That generated revenue that helped finance the operating expenses of the Midtown/Truman Road Corridor Redevelopment Corp. The tax abatement program offered property owners in midtown Independence tax relief when they upgraded their homes to city and national standards.

Today, Schondelmeyer said, the incubator could bring a similar economic renewal to the same area. Still, he added, pressing health care needs remain among residents of the area, which is in an older part of Independence.

When HCA Midwest Health System opened the new Centerpoint Medical Center in southeastern Independence in 2007, it closed Independence Regional and the Medical Center of Independence. Residents who lived around Independence Regional at 1509 W. Truman Road lined up to vent to City Council members regarding the impact of the hospital’s closing.

While many requested an urgent care center be established at the old hospital site, that does not seem likely now, Reimal said. He added, however, that HCA has moved a group of physicians to the Commerce Bank building at 300 N. Osage St., near Independence Square. Those same physicians also hope to schedule clinics at the northwestern Independence headquarters of the NorthWest Communities Development Corp., a social services agency.

Meanwhile, residents now must reconcile their emotions regarding the demolition.

Former Mayor Barbara Potts is among them. In the early 1950s, she served as an X-ray technician at the sanitarium. She is dismayed, Potts said, that the hospital’s north tower will come down.

“It’s a landmark, and I was hoping that they could retrofit it intact,” Potts said. “But,” she added, “ … when putting on my former mayor’s hat, I know the business incubator definitely represents an addition.”

January 7, 2010 at 9:11 pm Leave a comment

The Geography of Unemployment in the United States

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November 29, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Good use of old hospital – Library Provides Lift – The Examiner

The Examiner
Posted Nov 28, 2009 @ 12:37 AM

The space may be just a fraction of what used to be available, but the move is only temporary.

This week, the Mid-Continent Public Library’s Independence North branch opened the doors to a new location – the former Independence Regional Health Center.

The temporary spot, 11,000 square feet compared to the 43,000 square feet in the branch’s U.S. 24 home, is expected to last about a year while the library undgoes a major renovation. Library officials say the new-improved library will be a destination library.

Thumbs up to the library and the library staff for continuing with a forward-thinking approach to meeting the needs of the community. These renovations come after the library’s genealogy center moved into it’s own location on Lee’s Summit Road, giving the facility at 317 W. U.S. 24 room for this much-anticipated expansion.

The temporary location boasts 80,000 materials accessible to the public and another 170,000 materials stored in the basement. While that area is closed the the public, the materials are still available for checkout. Library officials should be commended for their efforts in ensuring the public still has access to the necessary material.

Thumbs up, also, to the library officials, Independence School District and city of Independence in working together to come up with a viable solution. Not only does using the hospital enable the public to continue access to the books and research materials, but it also makes invaluable use of a facility that has been vacant for more than two years. While the plans for the old hospital’s future use are still being laid out, it’s good to see the building will get some kind of use during the next year.

 

November 29, 2009 at 7:50 am Leave a comment

Don Reimal gets another term – Independence, MO – The Examiner

By A staff report – localnews@examiner.net
The Examiner
Posted Nov 21, 2009 @ 12:51 AM
Independence, MO —

Mayor Don Reimal will run unopposed for a second term as Independence mayor in April’s election.

Reimal was the only resident to submit a nominating petition for the mayoral seat.

Nominating petitions were due by 5 p.m. Friday for the seat and the two at-large council member seats.

Only three residents filed for the two at-large council member seats, which means a primary election will not take place in February, according to City Clerk Jane Pickett Sharon.

At-Large Council members Jim Schultz and Lucy Young both filed for re-election, and political newcomer Elisa Breitenbach also submitted a nominating petition.

The Jackson County Election Board will now certify the nominating petitions.

The general election will take place April 6, 2010.

November 21, 2009 at 8:56 am Leave a comment

State of Schools Address Powerpoint – Sept. 11, 2009

September 18, 2009 at 6:26 am Leave a comment

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