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We are family

Nearly 7,500 Chiefs kingdom family members and friends gathered early Saturday morning for the second weekend of Chiefs Training Camp for Family Fun Day where the team held an autograph session for fans with an after-party for fans at Family Center Farm and Home.

Lisa Graham, a mother who came with her sons from Seneca, Missouri, said she returned to Family Fun Day for a second year because she enjoys the atmosphere that the camp brings for families.

“We came to the camp last year and the players interacted with our sons and they were so genuinely nice and interested in what they were doing. My sons are all football players and we just became so attached to all the players — not just the big names. This year we’re looking forward to the boys getting to watch that again because they learned so much ... just with the teamwork, watching the guys interact with each other, and then watching the plays as they played out in real time in person,” said Graham.

Jadyn Schuster from Harrisonville, Missouri, said that she was excited to see the players.

“I want to get my football signed and my jersey. I also am just hyped to meet some players and watch them practice,” said Schuster.

Graham said that there’s not a fan favorite in her household, but that her family loves all the players.

“We have a Kelce jersey, a Mahomes jersey, a Tyreek jersey, we have a Sammy shirt. We have an affection for all of them as last year they interacted with our sons and were so genuinely wonderful to them,” said Graham.

For more information on Chiefs training camp and a full schedule you can visit online at

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Social media key for small businesses

Social media has made a substantial impact on small businesses that want to have their name heard.

But perhaps the thing that could use improvement is the level playing field for general opinions. Someone with little-to-no related business experience can write a negative post or rate a business with one star, and that can cast the same weight as an authoritative figure on the matter.

Further, negative ratings can carry more weight than positive reviews, as some consumers choose to judge businesses by the lowest common denominator: what they recently did wrong.

As with anything, small business owners hope the positive outweighs the negative, and for Nicole Radke, owner of Friedrich’s Market, preventing negativity is better than trying to cure it.

She was one of 400 North American small business owners selected to attend a Facebook summit at Menlo Park out of the hundreds of thousands with a presence on social media websites.

“One of the things we talked at the community summit was that the negative things can be much louder than the positive,” Radke said. “If there’s problems, then you know, we want to be able to solve that with them, because that’s going to leave the person on the other end feeling better.”

A good reputation is important. When a customer inquired about the market’s recent batch of beer bread in person at the store, Radke apologized for being out of stock, but she followed up by telling the customer when they could be the first to pick up the next batch.

Online, sometimes those answers are provided by her customers before she can respond.

Radke remembered one instance where a St. Joseph business had a negative comment on Facebook. She said some loyal consumers actually banded together to give information on the post and expand the conversation

“Immediately everybody banded together to say, ‘Hey, this is not the whole picture – here’s the other information that goes with it,’” Radke said. “If you have an established relationship within your community, then it’s so much easier to have those really difficult conversations.”

Kristi Bailey, director of communications and marketing for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, recalled one instance where an individual gave a business one star, because they didn’t care for the product.

They “commented on the businesses page, gave her one star, and it was really just a personal preference about the product,” Bailey said. The business owner “reached out to customers and friends and said, ‘Hey, do you mind leaving me a review? Because I need to counterbalance this negative one.’”

Businesses that choose to not participate in social media aren’t excluded from the conversation.

“Even if they don’t have a Facebook, or Twitter or Instagram, people can still be talking about your business on those platforms,” Bailey said. “You have to be aware of what’s going on online, because it can affect your business.”

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With increased port traffic, is St. Joseph a river town once again?

A tow boat labors against the current as it slowly emerges around a bend in the Missouri River.

The vessel finally docks at St. Joseph’s river port and connects to a barge loaded with distillers grain, an ethanol byproduct used as animal feed. In around 12 days, the barge will arrive in New Orleans, where the grain gets loaded onto a cargo ship for the longer trip to its ultimate destination: northern Africa.

Far from the Sahara Desert, Bill Becker watches the loading process near the U.S. Highway 36 bridge and remarks on the value of patience.

“It’s not for just-in-time delivery,” he said.

Becker and others associated with St. Joseph’s river port know a thing or two about patience. They wait hours for a tug boat’s arrival and know that the cargo — there’s enough inside one barge to fill up to 60 tractor-trailers — won’t reach its terminus on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers for days or weeks. For the port itself, this is a journey measured in years, almost decades, since the first concrete was poured in 2001 and the facility went years without serving a commercial barge in St. Joseph.

“We have to prove ourselves,” said Becker, the chief executive of the company that manages the port. “In two to three years, I think you’ll see that this investment was actually wise.”

Progress has been slow, but after more than $4 million in facility improvements, after floods and droughts curtailed river traffic, St. Joseph’s multi-modal port is finally showing some giddy-up. The facility handled three barges last year and expects seven or eight barge shipments during the 2019 navigation season.

“We’re on pace to do 20 to 25 next year,” Becker said. “Ultimately, I think the region can support 75 to 100 barges a year. We think we have that type of opportunity and that type of growth.”

Over the years, state and local funds were used for concrete expansion, new truck scales and a conveyor system, but ports were an easy target for state budget cuts. Two recent developments may have tipped the scales.

Construction of two bulk storage facilities allows the port to have large quantities of fertilizer, grain, steel coils other other products ready for barges that don’t exactly arrive on a precise train schedule. Transport 360, a division of MK Minerals in Wathena, Kansas, provides on-site management to run the port and drum up business.

Becker is the CEO of Transport 360 and MK Minerals.

“You have to have all the pieces of the puzzle together,” said Brad Lau, executive director of the St. Joseph Port Authority. “What really helped was getting those storage facilities. There’s such a low margin. In order to be viable, you have to be able to get them in, get them loaded and get them unloaded.”

He said he believes the state will provide additional funding as the economic potential becomes apparent. The Missouri Department of Transportation estimates that St. Joseph’s port could bring $1.2 million in economic output and help support 2,066 jobs.

Becker believes the port will grow in popularity as highway infrastructure is stretched to the limit. Each barge shipment takes up to 60 trucks off the road.

“As I like to say, the river doesn’t get chuckholes,” Becker said. “We’re excited about the opportunity.”

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Falkner reflects on first year as state lawmaker

State Rep. Bill Falkner’s journey to the state capitol wasn’t as overwhelming as it typically is for an incoming freshman lawmaker.

“Serving as mayor for eight years sure gave me an advantage,” said Falkner, a Republican who was St. Joseph’s mayor from 2010 to 2018. “But there also was a learning curve.”

That learning curve included the bill process, and trying to figure out how to get the information that was needed on any given legislation.

“As mayor, a lot of the information came to me and through me, so I had a good handle on everything that was going on.” Falkner said in an interview with News-Press NOW. “Down in Jefferson City, you have to go find the information that you need, it doesn’t come to you.”

Falkner said there were roughly 1,300 bills filed on the House side, making it difficult to keep track of everything from changes to the bills and any committee action.

The freshman lawmaker sponsored three bills in his first session, but none made it to the finish line. However, Falkner believes one of his measures regarding online sales tax is going to be a major issue going forward.

“I think one of the number one things we need to address this next session is how we are going to do internet sales tax,” he said.

Currently, Missouri doesn’t have a mechanism in place to collect online sales tax on products purchased by Missourians through out-of-state retailers.

As for what surprised him after his first session, Falkner said it was a one-size-fits-all mentality.

“I was taken aback that if (lawmakers) had one problem in one part of the state they thought they had to do it for the whole state,” he said. “That causes problems for other communities.”

Despite that view, Falkner said that all of his colleagues were there for the right reasons and trying to do what’s best for their communities.

The mayor-turned-legislator has put forth a focus on local and municipal issues while in his first year in Jefferson City. He helped former a local government caucus, which looks at legislation that affects municipalities and tries to work with the bill’s sponsor to address issues that local governments may have with the measure.

In Addition, Falkner’s committee assignments include a seat on the Local Government Committee as well as a Special Interim Committee on Oversight of Local Taxation. He is also the vice-chair of the Special Committee on Small Business.

One thing Falkner said he wished his fellow lawmakers and him had more time to do was perfect legislation during the committee process, but overall, he calls his first year in the Missouri Legislature a positive experience.

“I’ve really enjoyed working for the citizens of St. Joe and trying to lookout for our best interest on things,” he said. “It’s also been a pleasure to work with the other legislators from our area.”