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HURRAY EUGENE. Eugene Bortner, a Silver Dollar City employee and Branson resident, is Missouri's Older Worker of the Year. Bortner has worked at Silver Dollar City since 1981. Previously, he worked for 30 years for Beatrice Foods in Kansas City. The award is sponsored by a number of state and federal agencies, along with a number of advocacy groups. A release from the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said the contest is set up to recognize the contributions of older workers in the workplace. Nominations are accepted from throughout the state and are judged regionally before a final winner is named. "Older workers are a valued asset to co-workers and Missouri employers," said Karla M. McLucas, director of the Labor and Industrial Relations Department. Thirteen semifinalists were also named along with Bortner.

PLEASE CHECK YOUR WEAPONS AT THE DOOR. The Internal Revenue Service will hold a special Problem Solving Day noon-8 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Ramada Inn, 2820 N. Glenstone. According to a news release from the IRS' Kansas-Missouri District, the open house provides an opportunity for taxpayers with long-standing tax problems to meet with IRS employees face-to-face (or should that be hand-to-hand?). Interested taxpayers may call 862-8852 to schedule a Problem Solving Day appointment. Taxpayers unable to attend the special event can contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday to be referred to the Taxpayer Advocate, which handles problems that cannot be resolved through ordinary channels.

SHOW ME THE MONEY. NationsBank announced Feb. 5 that it has been certified as a preferred lender by the U.S. Small Business Administration throughout its five-state Midwest region. The certification covers all NationsBank operations in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas and Iowa. "Our national designation as a preferred lender underscores our commitment to small businesses and the efficiency of our SBA loan approval process," said Steve Burch, regional executive of NationsBank for southwest Missouri, in a news release. NationsBank ranks as one of the nation's top SBA lenders, based on the number of SBA loans approved, and ranks No. 1 in Arkansas, St. Louis and Wichita. In terms of overall small-business lending, NationsBank is the nation's largest small business lender, with more than $6 billion in outstanding loans, the release stated.

HATS OFF. "Western hats remain an important fashion statement," according to Dr. Oscar Ingram, a University Extension agronomy specialist from Marshfield. Ingram offered several recommendations for handling, storing and protecting your 10-gallon beauty in a Jan. 8 news release on Caring for Your Cowboy Hat. Among his recommendations: handle the crown of the hat as little as possible and always with clean hands; avoid any handling which causes flexing or bending of the brim or crown; if your hat is stored for long periods, keep it in a western hat box and keep it in a cool, dry environment; brush your hat regularly with a brim brush to remove dust and loose dirt; use a felt hat-cleaning sponge to remove rain spots; and, for really heavy dirt (such as occurs with cow herding, stable cleaning or honky-tonk hopping) "take your hat to a full-service western store for more professional care," Ingram said.

PILOTING A COURSE. Mercantile Bank NA and Edward Jones announced Jan. 29 that they have formed an alliance to offer small business loans through Jones' brokerage network. A nine-month pilot of the new alliance has been launched in four states: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. If the pilot succeeds, the program may be expanded nationwide. According to a Mercantile press release, the small business loans, ranging in amount from $25,000 to $200,000, will be available to companies with revenues of $5 million or less. The loans will come in the form of either secured lines of credit or term credit to finance equipment purchases.

SLICE OF NICE. The Victim Center, formerly the Missouri Victim Center, has established a resource library available to the public with the help of a special grant from United Way of the Ozarks. The library houses various books, journals and videos pertaining to child sexual abuse, rape, workplace violence, domestic violence, grief and self-help issues. Materials are categorized for children, parents, adolescents and adults. The library is free to the public. Hours are from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. The Victim Center is a non-profit agency and all services are provided free. For more information, contact Lisa Farmer at 863-7273.

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