Missouri Minute: Lathrop Gage to double after merger; USDA secures KC space

Good morning, MBA readers,

We’re guessing most of you got sweets or spirits for Halloween, but can you guess what’s in USDA’s bag of treats? A big bargain on a 17-year lease in downtown Kansas City for two of its research agencies. But just across the state line, a not-so sweet deal: One of Waddell & Reed’s subsidiaries is ending a sponsorship with Sporting Kansas City as the financial services firm makes cutbacks. And if you’re over Halloween and already counting the days to the winter holidays, Showtime is debuting a new holiday flick filmed in Missouri. Scroll down to read more about these stories and other top business news from around the state.

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Now hear this

Speaking Startup: A grassroots group of women helping women lead
Lauren Conaway had been involved in the Kansas City startup community for a few years, but she felt like something was missing. “I realized that I was meeting a lot of really incredible women,” Conaway said, “but that I wasn’t really connecting with them on a meaningful level.” Conaway is working to change that with InnovateHER KC, which she describes as a women’s leadership community. For this week’s Speaking Startup podcast, we chatted with Conaway about her organization and the Women’s Empowerment Week events it hosted last week. Plus, we spoke with Brandon Erbschoe and Jacob Muchow, two early team members at QuarkWorks. The Columbia-based app developer is expanding, and we got the details.

Stay alert

Lathrop Gage to nearly double in size after merger
The Kansas City law firm announced Thursday that it will merge with the Minneapolis-based firm of Gray Plant Mooty. The union will nearly double the headcount at Lathrop Gage, which has 240 lawyers in 10 offices nationwide, including a St. Louis office. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Mayor, comptroller reach agreement on St. Louis convention center expansion
The St. Louis Board of Estimate and Appropriation voted unanimously Thursday to issue the city’s half-share of bonds for the planned $200 million expansion of America’s Center. The decision caps a longstanding dispute between Mayor Lyda Krewson and Comptroller Darlene Green over the handling of financing for the project. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Boosted by Express Scripts buyout, Cigna raises earnings forecast
Managed health care giant Cigna announced Thursday that it expects earnings to rise at a long-term rate of 10% to 13% in 2020. CEO David Cordani signalled that adjusted earnings will likely rise to roughly $18 per share. (Reuters)

Jefferson City magazine distributor to lay off 115
Cowley Distributing, a regional magazine wholesaler, has notified the state that it will cut about 115 employees as it sells its wholesale operation. The buyer, American News Company, is expected to hire back some of the employees, roughly half of whom are based in the St. Louis area. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Sinquefield-backed consultant doubles down on controversial airport documentary
Travis Brown, whose public affairs firm First Rule is backed by Missouri mega-donor Rex Sinquefield, defended a documentary the firm made about St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Critics say Brown’s involvement in the film creates a potential conflict of interest since he works for Grow Missouri, another Sinquefield entity advising St. Louis on privatizing the airport. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Waddell & Reed subsidiary cuts Sporting KC sponsorship short
Ivy Investments announced Wednesday that it will prematurely break a five-year sponsorship with the Sporting Kansas City soccer team after one more season in 2020. The deal comes to an end as Ivy’s Kansas City-based parent company has faced financial struggles and announced earlier this year that it plans to lay off 158 area employees. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Wentzville advances bonds for Kroenke-backed project
The Wentzville Board of Aldermen voted this week to issue bonds to build a new city recreation center and provide $23 million for a new retail center on a property owned by billionaire developer Stan Kroenke. The bonds would be repaid with special sales taxes at stores along the city’s central commercial corridor and split some of the revenue with Kroenke’s companies. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis commission endorses $26 million in subsidies for two developments
The Tax Increment Financing Commission voted Thursday to recommend subsidies for two major developments: $14.1 million for a mixed-use development near a MetroLink station and another $11.8 million for redeveloping the former St. Louis Post-Dispatch building. The TIFs need final approval from the Board of Aldermen. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Showtime debuts holiday flick filmed in Missouri
“Christmas at the Chateau,” a holiday movie filmed in St. Joseph, was scheduled to debut Friday on Showtime’s streaming service. (St. Joseph News-Press)

Show me

Today’s graphic looks at the nearly 2,200 applications to operate medical marijuana facilities in Missouri that were submitted to the Department of Health and Senior Services. Initially, the state is expected to give 348 licenses to operate medical marijuana businesses. That means more than 1,800 other applications will not lead to licenses.

Say that again

“In (the cannabis) industry, we’ve seen so many people come in from the illegal drug trade or weed culture who just crap all over everybody. Those people will eventually get weeded out. And people like those in this room will be the ones to step in as real entrepreneurs and businesspeople to start to build real companies.”

That’s Michael Wilson, co-founder of United American Hemp in Olathe, Kansas, explaining how Kansas City entrepreneurs can break into the cannabis business, Startland News reports. Wilson, who recently spoke at a Startland event, described the industry as a Wild West frontier where it’s up to entrepreneurs to distinguish themselves as professionals. Wilson and his fellow panelists noted that different state and federal laws on selling cannabis products make any venture, even at the state level, a regulatory spider web of uncertainty. That’s unlikely to change soon, Wilson said, advising would-be cannabis entrepreneurs to thoroughly research the industry and laws governing it before embarking on a venture.

Go figure


That’s how much the U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay over 17 years to lease 120,000 square feet of office space in downtown Kansas City, The Kansas City Star reports. The USDA announced Thursday that it had chosen a building on the Missouri side of the state line after city officials offered up to $26 million in subsidies to help relocating two research agencies. It’s a bargain for the USDA, which will pay roughly $12.58 per square foot annually, when compared to the rate of $22.50 per square foot advertised for the same building. It’s also well below the average listing of $21.73 per square foot for Class A office space in the city, according to data from commercial real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield.

Hello, my name is

Coala Life

This Swedish medical device startup is expanding into St. Louis as an integral part of its U.S. strategy, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Coala, which developed a patch-free heart monitoring device that syncs up to a patient’s smartphone, has hired its first local employee and assembled a U.S. advisory board that includes two St. Louis doctors. The 4-year-old firm was one of 16 international startups that visited St. Louis in June for the Health Innovation Summit hosted by BioSTL’s global recruiting arm. “St. Louis has been an enormous entry point to us in the U.S. We have our first customers here,” said Philip Siberg, Coala’s co-founder and president.

It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning. As for that leftover candy the trick-or-treaters didn’t take? Treat yourself this weekend. You deserve it.


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