Missouri Minute: Judge puts Sprint merger trial on fast track; Highway Patrol targets video gambling

Good morning, MBA readers,

There’s a bold new idea circulating around Washington D.C. this week: Redirect federal research funding and close the innovation gap between coastal hubs and other cities. The proposal is part of a new report from the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation that calls on Congress to help create eight to 10 new innovation centers across the country. And it just so happens St. Louis is among the most promising candidates to be one of these “growth centers,” according to the report. The authors argue that the coastal “hyperconcentration” of innovation sectors, such as aerospace and software, has given rise to a bevy of economic issues: unaffordable urban housing, daunting commute times and efficiency costs across the country. The authors contend that these problems could be relieved by spreading innovation jobs throughout the heartland. One vehicle for this change, they say, is a national growth center initiative harnessing billions of dollars in research and innovation funding. Scroll down to read more about this proposal, the Sprint/T-Mobile merger trial and other top business news of the day.

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Sprint/T-Mobile merger trial begins on fast track
The trial over Sprint and T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion merger began Monday with Sprint chief marketing officer Roger Sole taking the stand to testify. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, who is presiding over the case, put the trial on a fast track, skipping over customary opening arguments so both sides could start questioning witnesses. He also asked the companies and the state attorneys general suing them to trim their lists of witnesses. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)

Highway Patrol cracks down on video gambling while prosecutors wait
As of last week, the Missouri State Highway Patrol had referred 101 of at least 200 complaints regarding what it calls “illegal gambling devices” to local prosecutors. So far, prosecutors have been careful to pursue charges as they await guidance from state officials. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Drury sets opening date for Walt Disney World hotel
St. Louis-based Drury Hotels has announced that its new 604-room property in the Disney Springs Resort Area in Orlando will open by the end of 2021. The project, which is estimated to cost roughly $30 million, is the company’s largest to date. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Waddell & Reed selects team to develop new headquarters
The Overland Park, Kansas-based financial services company has selected Kansas City’s Burns & McDonnell and an affiliate of Financial Holding Corp. as the developer of its new $140 million office in downtown Kansas City. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Spire’s gas utilities executive picks up COO title
The St. Louis-based natural gas utility on Monday named Steve Lindsey executive vice president and chief operating officer, effective Jan. 1. Lindsey, who had been executive vice president, chief executive officer of gas utilities and distribution operations, will retain oversight of gas utilities while assuming management of Spire’s midstream operations. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Post Holdings CEO earns $11 million despite reduced bonus
Post Holdings paid CEO Robert Vitale $11.3 million in fiscal year 2019, up 15% from 2018. The $1.6 million bonus and $8.1 million in stock were paid at 90% of the target level even though the company beat its earnings goal for the year. Post’s compensation committee used “downward discretion” to reduce Vitale’s bonus because some business units did not meet their targets. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

New York-based company laying off 82 in Lee’s Summit
ExlService.com, which provides operations management and data analytics services, will cease operations at its Lee’s Summit office next month, eliminating 82 positions. The Lee’s Summit operation provided roadside assistance to stranded motorists that were insured by one of Exl’s insurance company clients. (KCUR)

St. Louis professional indoor soccer team makes ownership change
The St. Louis Ambush announced Monday that minority owners Tony Glavin and Elizabeth Perez have sold their ownership shares to Jeff Locker for an undisclosed amount. Locker, co-founder and CEO of St. Charles-based AXIUS Financial, will be one of two owners, with Shelly Clark as the team’s majority owner and CEO. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis study finds lack of specialists to blame for premature rural deaths
In a new study, researchers from St. Louis University, Washington University and Harvard University conclude that improved access to medical specialists would prevent many rural deaths and hospitalization. According to the authors, rural residents have higher preventable hospitalization and mortality rates than their urban peers. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Go figure


That’s the share of new jobs created in the “innovation sector” since 2005 that have gone to just five coastal metros, according to a new report published Monday by the Brookings Institute and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. The report proposes that Congress invest in previously overlooked areas. It also calls for an “R&D surge” that would pump billions of federal dollars into research in designated metro areas, called “growth centers.” The authors list St. Louis as one potential target for federal investment to help counter “the economic drift” across the country. “St. Louis exactly the kind of community we should be looking at as a candidate for this kind of innovation surge,” co-author Mark Muro told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Eighty percent of Missouri construction firms plan to hire hourly craft personnel for expansion in the next year, but that same proportion of companies in the state is having a hard time filling some or all positions, according to an annual workforce survey from the Associated General Contractors of America. That mirrors the trend across the U.S.

Say that again

“CIDs are meant to fund projects that benefit the community. They aren’t supposed to be illegal personal piggy banks for board members or anyone else, especially for spectacularly improper projects like a $10,000 walk-in beer cave.”

That’s Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway, who in a new report released Monday, renewed calls to reform the way special taxing districts are used in Missouri, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The 27-page report refers to a community improvement district created in Carter County in 2010. Galloway asserts that revenue generated from a special sales tax in the district was used for personal gain, including extensive remodeling of a store that was sold six months later. The report notes that the public “was not reimbursed for the public funds used to renovate the convenience store.” In a separate report last month, Galloway, a Democrat running for governor in 2020, said the rampant use of taxing districts in St. Louis resulted in the highest sales tax rates in the state.

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Missouri State University President Clif Smart tweeted his thanks to Springfield’s Darr Family Foundation, which plans to announce a $6.5 million gift to MSU to build an agricultural magnet school operated by Springfield Public Schools. SPS Superintendent John Jungmann said the “historic investment” will allow the district to provide hands-on agricultural experience for up to 150 elementary students, the Springfield News-Leader reports. The school is expected to open in August 2021.

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Boddle Learning

This Kansas City-based education tech startup scored $25,000 as the winner of the AT&T Aspire audience award, Startland News reports. Co-founder and CEO Clarence Tan said the win was the result of the startup’s latest pitch at the AT&T Pitches and Purpose contest in San Francisco. The company plans to use the prize money toward hiring new team members in sales and curriculum and learning sciences.

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


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