August 28, 2015

Tax amnesty period begins soon for eligible delinquent Missouri taxpayers

Missouri will offer a tax amnesty period from September 1 to November 30.  Tax amnesty provides individuals and businesses with a one-time opportunity to pay back taxes that were due prior to December 31, 2014 without having to pay interest or penalties.

The Missouri State Capitol (Photo courtesy:  Missouri House Communications.)

The Missouri State Capitol (Photo courtesy: Missouri House Communications.)

Michelle Gleba with the Department of Revenue said eligible Missourians will be notified.

“We’re planning to send out direct mailings to taxpayers and businesses in mid-August,” said Gleba. “They can complete the amnesty-eligible notice, which will show them the amount they owe, as well as the amount they would save in interest and penalties.”

“If you participate in tax amnesty, you must also agree to comply with state tax laws for the next eight years and agree to be excluded from future amnesty programs,” said Gleba.

Approximately $60 million in Missouri taxes have not been collected and Gleba the state’s goal is to collect what’s owed. House bill 384 says the money collected will go toward a tax amnesty fund that will be administered by the State Treasurer.

Tax types eligible include individual or corporate income tax, corporate franchise tax, employer withholding tax, sales tax, consumer’s or vendor’s use tax and fiduciary tax.

St. Louis named America’s best baseball city. Kansas City comes in 11th out of 272. Where does Springfield rank? You’ll be shocked

Busch Stadium?  Best place to watch baseball?  You betcha. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Busch Stadium? Best place to watch baseball? You betcha. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI researched the best and worst cities in the U.S. to follow America’s Pastime, baseball.  It especially focused on fans who are on a tight budget. To rank the cities, the website looked at 11 key parameters such as the performance level of each city’s teams, average ticket and minimum season ticket prices, stadium accessibility and more.

What they learned is that St. Louis came in number one, not only in the category of “Team and Performance Rank,” but also number one in “Cost and Fan Engagment Rank.”  Kansas City wasn’t that far behind either, coming in ranked 11th overall.  We also had three other cities that were ranked.  Cape Girardeau at 83, Columbia at 125 and Springfield at 194.

How Cape and COMO finished ahead of Springfield is beyond my comprehension, so I take this study with a grain of salt, but Cardinals and Royals fans, you at least have something to brag about.

Here’s the methodology they used to determine that Cullowhee, North Carolina is the 7th best baseball town in the country.

WalletHub analyzed 272 of the most populated U.S. cities and chose cities with at least one college baseball or Major League Baseball team.

[Read more…]

Washington University graduates create ‘smart pillow’ to improve sleep quality

Graduates from Washington University in St. Louis are developing a “smart pillow.”

Ultradia Co-Founder and CEO Zimin Hang (Photo courtesty of Ultradia)

Ultradia Co-Founder and CEO Zimin Hang (courtesy: Ultradia)

What started out as part of a senior project became a business, a sleep optimization system called Chrona.  Chrona is a thin memory foam pad embedded with pressure sensors and tiny speakers that slips into a pillowcase.  It uses a smartphone to track sleep patterns and plays different frequency sounds to improve the quality of sleep.

Zimin Hang said the initial idea came to him in high school, but Chrona wasn’t developed until his senior year of college.

“The business actually got started at the beginning of senior year of undergraduate when we were able to connect with the engineering department and actually try to create something tangible,” said Hang.  “The Ultradia team is composed of nine members total and seven of which have graduated from Wash U.”

Ultradia has been in business for about a year and is getting a patent on the technology.  Last week, the company received nearly $100-thousand dollars through a KickStarter campaign to develop and test the ‘smart pillow’ technology.

Hang said after he graduated in 2014, he co-founded Ultradia with fellow Washington University alum Ben Bronsther.

The Chrona system includes a memory foam sensor sheet that you put in your pillowcase and an accompanying mobile app.

The Chrona system includes a memory foam sensor sheet that you put in your pillowcase and an accompanying mobile app. (Photo courtesy of Ultradia)

“Then we were really able to really focus on building the business and getting it to the stage where we could obtain funding whether that’s through KickStarter or private channels,” said Hang. “And we did have a prototype, we did have partners in the medical school to help us validate the technology.”

Hang said there are many long term benefits to improving deep sleep.

“If you can synchronize deep sleep and create a deeper state of sleep, then it translates to more restorative sleep and better memory consolidation,” said Hang.  “There’s actually studies coming out now showing a connection between losing deep sleep and then developing mental illnesses, you know, five, ten years down the road, illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and there’s so many different things that start to happen when you start losing out on deep sleep,”

Hang said there aren’t many studies or products that make use of sound during sleep.

Chrona uses an accelerometer to measure head and torso movement  and mini speakers to play sound.

Chrona uses an accelerometer to measure head and torso movement and mini speakers to play sound. (Photo courtesy of Ultradia)

“There’s a lot of products that track sleep, track fitness, track all kinds of stuff, we’re going a step beyond that by creating an active system that actively improves your sleep,” said Hang.  “We want to add to the existing literature of this specific methodology, acoustic entrainment, to really push forward this field of sleep research because it is currently a relatively new field.”

The Chorna crew is currently testing the product, with goals for its expansion.

“This isn’t just a product, it’s an entire process to really unlock and understand the intricacies of sleep and conveying our findings to the public,” said Zang.


Missouri siblings named National Small Business Persons of the Year

Siblings from a rural northwest Missouri town have been named nation’s top small business persons of the year.

Sarah Galbraith and Alan Doan accepting their award as National Small Business Persons of the Year. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Galbraith)

Sarah Galbraith and Alan Doan accepting their award as National Small Business Persons of the Year. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Galbraith)

The U.S. Small Business Administration has honored a brother and sister from Hamilton for a quilting business that ships up to 5,000 orders a day to customers around the world.  Alan Doan and Sarah Galbraith started Missouri Star Quilt Company, a retail store with a thriving ecommerce business that employs 184 people.  Last year, the SBA loaned the company money for a 42,500-square-foot warehouse to maintain its shipping operations.

Galbraith and her brother were invited to Washington D.C. by the SBA after the company was nominated for the award.

“It took me kind of by surprise at how emotional that was and it felt really good to be honored in that way and to be among people that really understood what it takes to get there,” said Galbraith.

“It was cool to hear Hamilton, Missouri mentioned in the circle of big winners and stuff, I’m from a farming town in northwest Missouri, you just don’t expect that to happen,” said Doan.

The brother-sister duo opened the business after the 2008 market crash cost their parents most of their retirement savings and threatened to take their house.  Doan said the idea for the company came when his mother took up quilting and she was willing to wait up to a year for a long arm quilter to finish one of her quilts.  Doan called his sister and they decided to take out a loan to buy the quilting machine and small building to house it in.

“I called my sister Sarah and said let’s just do this, everybody talks about starting a business, they all think about it, like I feel like we’re pretty smart people, we can figure this out, let’s just do this, let’s just do this business,” said Doan.

Jenny Doan, Sarah Galbraith, and Alan Doan (Photo Courtesy of Sarah Galbraith)

Jenny Doan, Sarah Galbraith, and Alan Doan (Photo Courtesy of Sarah Galbraith)

“We didn’t have a lot of money to put into it, everything that we put into it was our own, we didn’t want to get a big loan cause we didn’t really know how far we were going to go with it,” said Galbraith.

Doan said the brick-and-mortar business in Hamilton was the end of their foresight, but sales began to explode when their mom started to put instructional videos about quilting on YouTube.

“It’s no great idea I had or Sarah had, it was the fact that mom ended up being really good at teaching these tutorials,” said Doan.  “People just love her, they love learning from her, they love watching her screw something up and fix it, mom is just the most real teacher you’ll ever get.”

Jenny Doan’s how-to quilting videos have drawn millions of views.  Galbraith said online sales make up 90 to 95 percent of the business, but quilters from throughout the country come to visit the store.

“Because they have that relationship with us online, they know mom there, they trust her there because she’s their teacher, they’re wanting to come and see us, there not just ordering from warehouse, they’re ordering from us,” said Galbraith.

“In my view, we’re a technology company, I see a lot of the advantages that we have as oppose to maybe other shops out there as our technical advantage in terms of what we’re able to build and offer on the website,” said Doan.

The siblings’ parents now travel so that Jenny may speak and teach at quilting events around the world.

“They go to Australia and Alaska, the big cities in Chicago and New York, it’s fun to watch them as this older couple just finally living their dream,” said Doan.

Galbraith said her parents’ quality of life has improved, but her siblings handle most the pressures that come with running a business.

“She gets to do what she loves and what she loves to do is sew and talk,” said Galbraith.  “Dad, he works hard, he’s pretty much mom’s right hand man.”

Missouri could face Canadian sanctions over labeling program

Economic sanctions could target Missouri, as well as the other 49 states, if the U.S. doesn’t lift the requirement that meat be labeled according to the country it came from.

Missouri pork is one of the products Canada intends to target with tariffs if given permission by the WTO, and if the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Program isn't repealed.  (photo courtesy; the University of Missouri College of Agriculture)

Missouri pork is one of the products Canada intends to target with tariffs if given permission by the WTO, and if the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Program isn’t repealed. (photo courtesy; the University of Missouri College of Agriculture)

The World Trade Organization has for the fourth time ruled against the United States’ Country of Origin Labeling program (COOL), saying it discriminates against Mexican and Canadian livestock. The United States is out of appeals, and now Canadian General Consul Roy Norton says Canada is preparing to ask the Organization for permission to enact tariffs on its imports from the U.S.

“It’s not Canada’s objective or desire to retaliate against any product coming from the United States – Missouri, or any other state – to Canada. We love Missouri products,” said Norton. “But we feel that, having one four times in the court of law and nothing having happened so far on this, we have no choice but to signal a willingness to retaliate. When the WTO tells us, probably by September, what the dollar value of our losses has been, we will then have the final authority, as it were, to retaliate, if the United States hasn’t acted in the interim.”

Canada has identified about $60-million dollars’ worth of Missouri products it imports that could face tariffs. Top targets are cereals, which represent $25-million in exports a year; iron or steel grinding balls, the export of which are valued at $14-million; and baked goods including bread and cakes, worth $13-million.

Mexico’s market for Missouri goods is more than twice as large as Canada’s, and it’s also considering tariffs.

Legislation is moving in Washington to eliminate the labeling program. This week it cleared the House Agriculture Committee. Three members of Missouri’s Congressional Delegation; Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R, MO-4) and Congressmen Sam Graves (R, MO-6) and Billy Long (R, MO-7), are sponsors of that bill.

Hartzler, after voting in favor of the bill with a majority of the committee’s members, issued a statement in which she called COOL a “troublesome” law.

“I have heard many times from the producers and livestock owners in Missouri of the negative effects of this provision,” wrote Hartzler. “The truth is the COOL program amounts to nothing more than a government mandated marketing program that does not provide any real value to producers or consumers.”

Supporters of COOL say the U.S. has a right to implement the labeling program and say Canada and other countries’ opposition is based on American consumers’ preference for U.S. products. They argue the WTO shouldn’t be allowed to decide U.S. food policy.

COOL backers also say labeling is a food safety issue, noting that a cow recently tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a degenerative neurological disease in cattle. It is the first such case in Canada since 2011. Norton argues COOL has nothing to do with food safety.

“The argument is made, but without any factual basis,” he told Missourinet.