Missouri Minute: Krewson kills airport privatization process; DFA joins renewable energy project

Good morning, MBA readers,

Amid a flurry of pre-holiday business news, the undeniable bombshell locally was St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to end a two-year process exploring privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. From its start under former Mayor Francis Slay, the process was met by resistance from public officials. Perhaps most notable among the opponents was St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green, who has long criticized the process. Behind the scenes, privatization was under enormous pressure from interests whose fortunes are tied to the airport’s operation. Krewson herself admitted that some of Lambert’s major carriers “remain pretty skeptical” of leasing the airport to a private operator. Another report suggests the final straw may have been concerns about transparency raised by prominent business groups Civic Progress and the Regional Business Council. Read on to learn more about how the privatization effort unraveled, a potential new gas tax in Missouri and a $200 million project to turn dairy farms into sources of renewable energy.


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New gas tax hike aims to raise $144 million for Missouri transportation
A bill introduced by Missouri Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, would increase the state’s tax on gasoline from 17 to 19 cents per gallon and diesel fuel from 17 to 23 cents per gallon. Libla, who chairs the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, said the new taxes would raise about $144 million a year for transportation, $44 million of which would go to cities and counties. (Missourinet)

Facing steady opposition, Krewson kills airport privatization process
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Friday that she would not support a request for proposals to lease Lambert International Airport, citing a chorus of opposition from local officials, businesses and the public.The move, applauded by Comptroller Darlene Green, a staunch opponent of the privatization process, effectively kills the two-year effort started by former Mayor Francis Slay. (St. Louis Public Radio)

DFA joins $200 million renewable energy project
Kansas City, Kansas-based Dairy Farmers of America will join a nationwide partnership headed by Dominion Energy and Vanguard Renewables to harness methane from dairy farms and convert it into renewable natural gas. (Kansas City Business Journal)

EPA, DOJ side with Bayer in Roundup appeal
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice have called on a federal appeals court to reverse a lower court verdict that found Bayer and its Roundup weed killer to blame for a California man’s cancer. Contrary to earlier court decisions, the government’s brief claims that glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is not a carcinogen. (Reuters)

Missouri awards 10 licenses to test medical marijuana
The state’s first wave of commercial medical marijuana licenses were awarded to 10 facilities that will test all of the cannabis cultivated and sold in Missouri. These facilities test products for levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and ensure there are no foreign substances or bacteria present. (St. Louis Public Radio)

SSM Health, MU Health Care break exclusive negotiations after a year
The two organizations have agreed to end exclusive negotiations for ownership of SSM ministries in Jefferson City and Mexico, Missouri. While SSM and MU will continue discussions, the former has begun broadening its search for a partner to transfer ownership of the ministries, which include SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Jefferson City. (Columbia Missourian)

BJC plans to replace 17-story facility in St. Louis
BJC HealthCare expects to wrap up structural demolition of Queeny Tower, located at Washington University Medical Center, by the end of 2020. The demolition is part of the $1 billion Campus Renewal Project, which is expected to expand a wide range of services at the St. Louis-based health care provider. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Mercy drops plans for midwifery service after dispute with local clinic
St. Louis-based Mercy Health has nixed a plan to build a comprehensive health center in Ferguson that would include midwifery service after the nearby Jamaa Birth Village clinic accused the health care provider of poaching its business. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Boone County approves property tax increases
The Boone County Commission has passed a 2020 budget of $85.8 million, which includes a 2-cent bump in property tax to 14 cents per $100. The new levy is expected to generate about $600,000 for the county’s general fund. (Columbia Missourian)

Clayton hires new city manager
The Clayton Board of Aldermen has hired Wentzville City Administrator David Gipson as its new city manager, effective Feb. 3. Gipson succeeds Craig Owens, who left the position in May to become city manager in Lawrence, Kansas. In his role, Gipson will lead a staff of about 400 and oversee the city’s comprehensive strategic planning process. (St. Louis Business Journal)

MU to build new biosciences lab with federal funding
Fueled by almost $25 million in federal funding, the University of Missouri will construct a new plant bioscience lab where scientists affiliated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct research alongside MU scientists. (Columbia Missourian)

St. Charles pet food maker creates chief medical officer role
Royal Canin has elevated Brent Mayabb, chief veterinary officer and vice president of corporate affairs, to the new role of global chief medical officer, effective Jan. 1. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Lillian James Creative acquires KC marketer
Kansas City-based Lillian James Creative has acquired local consulting firm LV8 Group, marking a shift toward business-to-business marketing. (Kansas City Business Journal)


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The end of 2019 marks the close of a decade that has seen a steep decline in coal production and consumption in the U.S. Last year, production was down about 30% compared with 2010. Consumption saw a bigger drop, about 35%, in the same period.


Say that again

“I think in particular those rural areas, those small interior cities … you have a sense in local communities it’s impacted them in so many different ways.”

That’s AJ Bockelman, campaign manager for Healthcare for Missouri, a grassroots organization that is pushing a statewide vote on Medicaid expansion, St. Louis Public Radio reports. Healthcare for Missouri, which enjoys support from BJC HealthCare and Washington University, is quickly gaining momentum, with over 25% of the 172,000 signatures needed for a ballot measure in the 2020 election, per campaign officials. The group aims to extend Medicaid eligibility to those who earn up to $18,000 a year and is “on track” to qualify by the May 3 deadline for a ballot measure, Bockelman said. The campaign expects support in both rural communities and urban centers across the state. According to St. Louis Health Director Fed Echols, nearly 25% of the city’s residents live at or below the poverty line and cannot afford health insurance. “By expanding Medicaid, we’ll address a lot of these issues,” he told the St. Louis Board of Alderman’s Health and Human Services Committee two weeks earlier.


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Thanking members of the Airport Advisory Working Group and the 18 companies that had expressed interest in operating St. Louis Lambert International Airport, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson called for an end to the city’s exploration of privatizing the airport. In a statement, she said airlines and the city’s business community remain committed to finding a way “to make the major investment needed” at the airport.


Go figure

60%

That’s roughly how much Missouri unemployment is expected to drop by the end of the year, from 292,714 reported unemployed people in 2018, the Columbia Missourian reports. As of August, about 75,000 people reported they were unemployed and in need of state assistance, an average of about 9,000 people per month. At that rate, about 112,000 people would be unemployed by the end of 2019. It’s the lowest level of unemployment since 2011, with peak unemployment of 613,000 Missourians in 2012. Peter Mueser, a labor economist and professor at MU, attributes the sharp decline to improvements in the wider economy, mirroring nationwide drops in unemployment in recent years.


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Summersalt

This St. Louis-based clothing line has raised $17.3 million in a Series B funding round, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The funds are expected to help Summersalt, which started in 2017 as a swimwear brand, to expand into lifestyle and apparel with a focus on travel-friendly products. “From the moment we launched Summersalt our goal was to own every corner of our customer’s suitcase,” co-founder and chief brand and digital officer Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin said in a statement. “With this latest round of funding we are one step closer to this.” The latest round was led by Utah’s Mercato Partners and brings Summersalt’s total funding to $26 million.


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