Wi-Fi Sensors Hope To Go Back To Work Soon
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Wi-Fi Sensors Hope To Go Back To Work Soon

Date: October 18, 2011
By: Mengti Xu
State Capitol Bureau

While Missouri lawmakers have cited a failed economic development deal in Moberly as a reason for rejecting the administration's China Hub plan for St. Louis, another failed economic development issue just 60 miles north of Moberly has begun to get the attention of state legislators.
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Wrap: Governor Jay Nixon's administration awarded a one-million dollar state loan to Wi-Fi Sensors in 2009 to launch a manufacturing plant in Missouri.

But the company missed its first payment on the loan back in November of 2010.

According to its website, Wi-Fi Sensors planned to produce transmitters that could be attached to remote devices and report the conditions of those devices back to a central computer.

Under the terms of the loan, the company promised 40 new jobs and over four million dollars in private investments.

But the company has left the town of Kirksville without any jobs created and with an abandoned facility with its space now leased to Hollister Incorporated from whom the company bought the building in 2009.

The Regional Economic Development Director for Kirksville is Phil Tate.

He says Wi-Fi Sensors never had employed over 15 to 20 people for a short period of time.

Tate also says the failure of the business is a disappointment to the community.

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Description: "We always want to see taxpayer dollars are used wisely whether they are federal dollars or whether they are state dollars. And it is a disappointment when they are not."

Documents from Wi-Fi Sensors indicate that two brothers lead the company.

The founder is Peter Fuhr, who had been on the faculty of a California university and now works for the federal government's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

His brother David Fuhr has a mail address in Kirksville and is listed as the firm's chief operating officer, but he was not available for an interview.

In an email response to questions, David wrote they remain optimistic that one of the many defense department contracts they are relying on will land to help them with employment.

Tate says he is aware of the brothers' efforts to try to keep running the company.

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Description: "I don't think they are there on on-going basis, but I also don't think that you can absolutely say they are closed when they state to us and I think to you, the press, that they are trying to secure contracts and trying to bring the employment back to the company."

Tate says he also hopes the company can resume employment soon.

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Description: "We are hoping that they could get back to employment and their employment levels will be considerably better than that. And of course, that will be an opportunity to improve economy in Kriksville."

The Senate Governmental Accountability Committee has launched an investigation into Wi-Fi Sensor's default.

Peter wrote in an email message to St. Louis state Senator Joseph Keaveny they have pumped closed to four million dollars of money into the company.

The Kirksville failure is part of some recent failed economic development projects addressed by the Senate committee. 

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Mengti Xu.