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Spanning the Region

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Missouri Innovation Centers Help New, Existing Businesses

The Missouri Technology Corp. has created a network of 10 centers across the state, each with a particular area of focus on innovation. The centers are state-sponsored, not-for-profit organizations that assist entrepreneurs and enterprises during the early stages of development of new technology-based ventures. Funding for the innovation center program is through the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Each center is a partnership between local universities and a diverse group of public, private and nonprofit organizations. Services include incubation, consultation, educational training programs, and technology evaluation and transfer. The centers focus on innovation in areas such as life sciences, biomedicine, applied science and engineering, agriculture, industrial and rural enterprise, and entrepreneurial development.

The Missouri Technology Corp. is working with the Innovation Centers to find
new methods to calculate the total economic impact that accrues to Missouri citizens as a result of the Innovation Center operations.

Innovation Centers are located in Columbia, Rolla, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Joplin, Kansas City, Kirksville, Springfield, Warrensburg and St. Joseph.

For more information, visit: and click on "Business Solutions."

Arkansas To Regulate Refund Anticipation Loans

The Arkansas state legislature recently passed the first legislation regulating issuers of refund anticipation loans (RALs). This type of loan is issued by tax preparers and is repaid directly or indirectly from the consumer's income tax return or tax credits.

The new law requires prominent posting of a fee schedule containing examples of interest charged on the RAL in the amounts of $250, $500, $1,000 and $2,500. It also requires posting a statement informing consumers that: they are borrowing money against their tax refund; if the refund is less than expected, they will still owe the entire amount of the loan; and if the refund is delayed, they may have to pay additional costs. It must also inform the taxpayer that refunds usually come within eight to 15 days without paying any extra fees and taking out a loan.

These disclosures must also be given to the borrower separate from the application on a colored-paper form printed in large type.

For more information about the RAL regulations, visit

Asset-Mapping Technology Benefits Mississippi Communities

The state of Mississippi is using "asset mapping" to identify valuable resources in its communities. Asset mapping entails pinpointing the resources on a GPS interactive web site. The process is designed to identify assets that set a community apart from others or that have the potential to enrich the quality of life of its citizens.

The work is being done by the state's Asset Development Division, which pursues innovative ways to develop unique Mississippi assets, such as cultural heritage, natural resources and small town lifestyles. Assets that have been identified so far include natural geologic formations, historic buildings, landmarks and other attractions with the potential to attract tourists.

By identifying, improving and promoting their assets, these communities can improve their quality of life, increase their competitiveness and increase tax revenues. The Asset Development Division has used several strategies to help communities achieve these benefits. They include:

  • partnering with the Mississippi State University Community Action Team, Mississippi Main Street Association, Mississippi Arts Commission and other local organizations to create solid recommendations;
  • encouraging communities to form a citywide or countywide vision and a plan to achieve it; and
  • delegating action plan responsibilities to committees and devising measures to track success.

For additional information, contact Joy Foy at 601-359-2659.

Credit Card Challenge Urges Illinoisans To Reduce Debt

According to the Federal Reserve's consumer credit report for February 2009, the average American carries $8,000 in high-interest credit card debt. The Illinois state treasurer's office is challenging Americans to reduce their consumer debt through a new debt reduction campaign, "Cut the Coffee, Save a Latte."

The campaign addresses consumer debt issues and proposes to help consumers eliminate their credit card debt by following a simple, 12-step plan. The challenge is voluntary and anonymous, and participants receive a monthly e-mail from the treasurer's office with financial tips and words of encouragement.

In addition to registering for the challenge, consumers will find resource information on other programs offered by the Illinois state treasurer's office at Additional resources for financial hardships are also available.

Kentucky Program Helps First-Time Homebuyers

First-time homebuyers who obtain a loan through the Kentucky Housing Corp. (KHC) may be eligible to receive up to $4,500 for downpayment and closing costs. The program began May 1, 2009, and will continue through Nov. 30, 2009.

The First Home Advantage Program provides a second mortgage with principal and interest payments deferred until July 1, 2010, for KHC-approved, first-time homebuyers.

The program offers a 10-year loan that defers payment with a zero percent interest rate until July 1, 2010. The loan will then fully amortize over 10 years at the rate of 6 percent. If the borrower pays off the loan before July 1, 2010, KHC will forgive $300 of the principal balance.

First-time homebuyers are also eligible for an $8,000 tax credit through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009. They can file for the housing tax credit on their 2009 tax returns and use it to repay the First Home Advantage Program loan to take full advantage of the prepayment incentive.

To qualify for this program, the buyer must obtain a KHC first mortgage through a KHC-approved lender, be a first-time homebuyer, meet KHC income and purchase price guidelines, and have a 620 minimum credit score.

To learn more, visit the KHC web site:

State Web Sites Track Stimulus Fund Spending

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires state governments to keep residents informed about how federal stimulus funds are being spent. Under the act, billions of dollars are being invested in community and economic development, infrastructure, human services, transportation and workforce development. In the Federal Reserve's Eighth District, the following state web sites track the funds: