Missouri Minute: DFA in talks to buy bankrupt milk processor; another Missouri district sues Juul

Good morning, MBA readers,

What’s holding Kansas City’s economy back? That’s a question local leaders have grappled with as the metro area has lagged other mid-sized metros — and the country as a whole — in economic growth since the Great Recession. Kansas City has seen post-recession growth in household income, quality jobs and gross domestic product, but it hasn’t kept up with its peers in those departments. That may be about to change, though, according to the Mid-America Regional Council: It projects Kansas City will outpace peers in economic growth for 2019 and 2020. To keep pace with the business news of the day in Kansas City and beyond, read below.


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From our newsroom

Rolla startup aims to improve hiring process with AI
Working as a software contractor for a large IT company, Naga Rayapati grew frustrated as he saw a chunk of his paycheck wind up in the pockets of middlemen who helped broker the job. That led him to start GoGetter, a Rolla-based company that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to remove those middlemen from the hiring process.

At street art festival, participants bring varied palette of skills
People from different corners of the Kansas City arts community came together to put on the third year of the SpraySeeMO Mural Festival. The artists at the festival had unique stories and backgrounds, but they all seemed to know the struggle of running their own creative business.


Stay alert

DFA explores acquiring bankrupt milk processor
Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America is in talks to purchase Dallas-based Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk processor, which announced Tuesday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Dean Foods is DFA’s largest customer. (Bloomberg)

Another Missouri district school sues Juul
The Ava R-1 School District in rural southern Missouri has filed a lawsuit against the e-cigarette company. The suit alleges Juul actively misleads consumers with claims that vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes, and that the company addicted a new generation of children to nicotine. (Springfield News-Leader)

Ferrellgas reaches agreement with lender to avoid default
Overland Park, Kansas-based Ferrellgas Partners reached an agreement with lender TPG Specialty Lending to avert a possible default on its debt. TPG claimed a technical default in September, but it has agreed to waive that declaration, helping the companies avoid arbitration. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Cerner completes second round of layoffs in recent months
The Kansas City area’s largest private employer laid off 130 workers on Tuesday, including 60 in the Kansas City area. In September, the health care IT company laid off some 250 workers. Officials have said Cerner plans to grow employment in the Kansas City area, but executives are looking for ways to diversify as the electronic health records industry matures. (Kansas City Star)

Express Scripts unveils multimillion-dollar expansion of innovation lab
The pharmacy benefits manager’s St. Louis County lab originally opened in 2010. Its new spaces include a “command center,” where experts can access technology that could lead to health breakthroughs, as well as an immersion area, where visitors can experience what it feels like to have a chronic condition. (St. Louis Business Journal)

$2 billion financial advisory looks to grow St. Louis presence
Alabama-based RFG Advisory Group wants to expand in St. Louis. The firm, which entered the St. Louis market in 2014 and has about 30 employees there today, “identified the St. Louis market as one of (its) primary targets for growth in 2020,” RFG President Shannon Spotswood said. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Springfield brewer hopes distribution deal will boost production 500%
Great Escape Beer Works, which opened last December, has entered a distribution agreement with Heart of America Beverage Co. in an effort to grow production. The deal will allow Heart of America to distribute Great Escape beer on tap throughout the Springfield area. (Springfield Business Journal)

Landscaping company, owner sentenced for illegally leasing out foreign workers
Cardinal Lawn and Landscape was sentenced Tuesday to probation and slapped with a $50,000 fine for visa fraud after illegally claiming to “host” 74 foreign workers. The Jefferson County landscaping company submitted visa forms claiming the workers would only be employed at Cardinal, but instead leased them out to a number of other companies over a five-year period. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Say that again

“There’s momentum here. There’s been some smart moves and it’s taken some time for that to start to reveal itself in the data that’s out there.”

That’s Joe Reardon, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, on the area’s economy, The Kansas City Star reports. Despite improvements in key areas such as employment and productivity, Kansas City has lagged behind the rest of the nation in overall economic growth since the Great Recession. It’s unclear which factors are holding Kansas City back, but economists suggest the city’s slower growth may be attributed to its lack of dominance in a specific industry. For instance, similarly sized cities Nashville, Tennessee, and Columbus, Ohio, have marquee universities and niches in health care and insurance, respectively. That’s not the case in Kansas City. But the city is beginning to buck its decade-long growth lag, according to a report by the Mid-America Regional Council. The report predicts the metro area’s economy will grow faster than the U.S. economy in 2019 and 2020, partly due to the $1.5 billion single-terminal project at Kansas City International Airport.


Go figure

82.4%

That’s how much more farmers in Georgia have received in federal aid per acre this year than their counterparts in Missouri, The Kansas City Star reports. A report from Senate Democrats released Tuesday looks at the $25 billion in aid issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to the ongoing trade war. It finds that Georgia, the recipient of the most aid per farm acre, has received $52.35 per acre in the first round of 2019 payments; Missouri farmers have received $28.70 per acre, the 10th highest in the nation. The report adds that southern states in general have received more aid per acre than those in the Midwest. Democrats argue that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has shown unfair favoritism toward southern states, especially his home state of Georgia.


Hello, my name is

Kristin Johnson

This Edward Jones partner has been named the financial advisory firm’s chief human resources officer and a member of its executive committee, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Johnson, who has been a partner since 2006, joined the firm in 1995 as a member of the internal audit department. She has since held leadership roles in areas including internal audit, service, operations, and talent acquisition and performance.


It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.


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