COLUMBIA, 1/12/12  (Beat Byte) --  A retail recruiting consultant for Wichita, Kansas has his eyes on Columbia, Missouri.  
This month, Mike Berne of MJB Consulting in New York City and representatives from Wichita's Downtown Development Corp. will meet 15 prospects from Manhattan, Kansas City, Tulsa, Columbia, and Springfield, Mo. with a 14-page recruiting brochure called "Wichita: Center of Progress," the Wichita Eagle has reported.  
The move is part of an effort to bring "niche businesses, not national brands" to Wichita's lagging downtown center.   "The plan is to aggressively court all 15 prospects," Berne said.

Credit agency Fitch Ratings has affirmed the 'A' rating on approximately $117 million of bonds issued on behalf of Boone Hospital Center (BHC).   The bonds are secured by BHC's income and revenues. 

The agency notes that operating profitability has consistently exceeded Fitch's 'A' requirements; BHC's debt burden remains superior to Fitch's 'A' requirementsand BHC maintains a strong market share in an area with a stable,  diverse economy and low unemployment. 

Columbia, Missouri is a "new entrant" on a list of "housing markets showing measurable improvement" from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).   The list includes 76 improving markets, up from 41 in December.   It identifies "metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months."    

The list measures three sets of independent monthly data:  employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau.   A metropolitan area must see improvement in all three areas for at least six months following their respective bottoms before being included on the improving markets list.