Missouri Minute: KC businesses see Super Bowl bump; Evergy resists activist pressure

Good morning, MBA readers,

As the follow-up act to the year’s biggest shopping season, the first quarter usually yields the lowest sales numbers for retailers. But businesses in Kansas City are hoping that Christmas will come twice this year amid historic hype around the Chiefs. Local clothing brands say they are excited for next week’s Super Bowl and are working hard to get inventory prepped amid a spike in demand for Chiefs gear. And if the Kansas City Royals’ 2015 World Series championship is any indication, some retailers say, the business benefits of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run could continue for years.

Apparel designers are far from the only ones getting a Super Bowl boost. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has seen his star — and jersey sales — rise during the postseason, and he is projected to become the first player since the 2016 season to top Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in NFL merchandise sales. Plus, airlines are looking to cash in on Kansas City’s excitement by offering extra flights from KCI to the game in Miami.

Scroll down to read more about the Super Bowl’s impact on the Missouri economy and get other business news from around the state.

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Missouri lawmakers again seek to lower sales tax on feminine hygiene products
Two similar proposals in the Missouri House would lower the sales tax on tampons, pads and other products to 1.2% from 4.2%. One version from Rep. Gina Mitten, D-Richmond Heights, includes a 1.2% sales tax cap on adult and child diapers. Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, proposed another iteration that does not include the cap on diapers, citing cost concerns. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Evergy stands firm after activist investor challenges strategy
The Kansas City-based utility said Tuesday it stands by its business plan after Elliott Management Corp. urged Evergy to improve its performance or consider merging with another power company. Elliott, Evergy’s fourth-largest shareholder, claims that around $5 billion of value could be added if the company stopped its buyback program, cut costs and invested more in its infrastructure, including renewable energy. (Reuters)

MLS ownership group will build St. Louis stadium even without state help
A lawyer representing the ownership group told a city board Tuesday that the group will build a new $461 million Major League Soccer stadium even without state tax credits. The state denied a request last month for $30 million in tax credits for the project. The group still seeks a 25-year partial tax abatement on improvements to the property and hopes to continue discussions with the state Department of Economic Development. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Hedge fund wants KSDK owner to consider merger or sale
HG Vora Capital Management, which owns about 4% of television station operator Tegna, has urged the company to pursue a merger or sale at a time of widespread consolidation in the industry. Tegna owns 67 local TV stations across the country, including St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK. (Reuters, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Veterans United ranked VA’s top lender
The Columbia-based mortgage firm was the leading Department of Veterans Affairs lender for fiscal year 2019 with over 53,000 home loans serviced. That’s up from roughly 31,500 in 2015. (Columbia Missourian)

Airlines add new flights from KCI to Florida for Super Bowl weekend
Five airlines, including American, Delta and Southwest, have added additional flights to Miami and Fort Lauderdale for the Super Bowl weekend of Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. The airlines are not canceling any other flights to accommodate the additional trips, a KCI official added. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Mahomes on track to top NFL’s merchandise sales
As he leads his team to the Super Bowl, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is on track to finish first in NFL merchandise sales, dethroning New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the first time since 2016. Mahomes’ merchandise sales are up 30% compared to this time last year. (CNBC)

KC firm invests $30 million in South African app
Five Elms Capital has invested $30 million in Skynamo, which developed a mobile sales and management platform for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors. Skynamo, which has a U.S. base in Atlanta, serves more than 650 companies. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Lucky’s Market to shutter two Missouri stores as part of nationwide closures
The Boulder, Colorado-based grocer plans to close 32 of its 37 stores across the country, including one in St. Louis and another in Springfield. The company’s location in Columbia will remain open. The move comes as Kroger, the Ohio-based supermarket giant that invested a “meaningful” sum in Lucky’s, plans to divest its shares. (Riverfront Times)

Southern Bank to absorb Rolla bank in $29 million deal
Poplar Bluff-based Southern Missouri Bancorp has announced that it will acquire Rolla’s Central Federal Bancshares Inc. in a cash deal worth $15.90 per share, or $29 million. Under the deal, expected to close in the second quarter, Southern Bank would take over Central Federal Savings & Loan Association’s single branch in Rolla plus $69 million in assets and $46 million in deposits. (Springfield Business Journal)

St. Louis bank president to retire
Gary Hemmer, 66, will retire June 30 as president of First National Bank of Waterloo. Hemmer, who spent more than 20 years with the bank, will become its chairman in February as incumbent Robert Hoffman becomes director emeritus. An executive committee plans to announce a successor soon. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis skating rink to transform into outdoor concert venue
The Centene Community Ice Center will make a seasonal transition as a new concert venue called Saint Louis Music Park for the spring and summer seasons. The new venue, which has an exclusive booking deal with Live Nation Entertainment, is set to debut in May with a show starring Kesha and special guest Big Freedia. (KSDK)

Bi-State to operate shuttered Loop Trolley with limited liability
Instead of outright taking over the troubled Loop Trolley, Bi-State Development will move forward with a plan to operate it, in an effort to limit liability. Under the new plan, the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District will remain the owner of trolley assets and recipient of roughly $34 million in federal grants. (St. Louis Business Journal)

New S&T lab aims to address high voltage demand
The Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla is leading a multi-campus effort to develop a high-voltage battery that can power light rail systems and charge electric cars faster. Its new lab is the sixth of its kind in the U.S. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Lux Living pitches new 300-unit apartment building in St. Louis
The St. Louis developer of hundreds of apartments around the city is planning a new $68 million, 300-unit apartment building near the Soulard Market. It would be Lux Living’s largest project to date. Developers hope to finish construction by August 2021. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis begins dismantling buildings for valuable materials
The St. Louis Development Corporation has hired nonprofit salvage organization Refab to dismantle and recover brick, lumber and other materials from old, abandoned buildings instead of simply demolishing them. City officials are determining 30 buildings to take apart this year and plan to work with St. Louis Community College to train deconstruction workers. (St. Louis Public Radio)

AltCap launches new training program for women and minority entrepreneurs
The Kansas City-based community development financial institution has launched NeXt Stage KC, a seven-month program that will train female and minority business owners. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Say that again

“It’s a beautiful time to be an entrepreneur in Kansas City right now. You’ve got to catch the wave now. This is just going to be a huge help for everyone in the city for years to come.”

That’s MADE Urban Apparel owner Mark Launiu explaining the ripple effect of major sports accomplishments like the Kansas City Chiefs going to the Super Bowl, Startland News reports. Launiu said the Royals’ 2015 World Series win was “like Christmas all over again” for his then-2-year-old startup, which seized on the surge in fandom to boost its sales. He’s not the only one excited for more national sports hype. Dan Mahaney, owner of the Normal Human clothing brand, said the fandom gives his designers an opportunity to get creative to incorporate the Chiefs colors and other football themes into their designs. And for many businesses, like the Kansas City Clothing Co., the Super Bowl hype means more work to catch up with the rush of new orders.

Go figure

$12 million

That was Kansas City startup FlexPro’s annual sales for 2019, marking a 400% jump over the prior year, Startland News reports. Nathan Corn founded the healthy meal delivery business with just $8,000 in startup capital, he said. Speaking to a crowd at the demo day for Kansas City incubator BetaBlox, Corn described his entrepreneurship journey as a bootstrapped sport in which he had to sharpen both his mind and body. Corn added that growing his business, which now employs 55 people, was always a challenge. He attributes the growth to his ambitious and risky vision of serving a national audience from the beginning, as opposed to focusing on the local market before branching out.

Hello, my name is

Meg Schneithorst

Enterprise Bank & Trust has named this longtime executive as its new president of the St. Louis region, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Schneithorst, who has been at Enterprise for 14 years, succeeds Doug Bauche, who retains the position of chief credit officer. The shuffle comes as the second-largest St. Louis bank prepares a $213 million expansion in New Mexico, which will take up more of Bauche’s time, Enterprise president Scott Goodman said. Schneithorst herself will be succeeded as president of specialized lending by Abby Kepple, a 19-year veteran of the company who previously served as president of tax credit services. The company also promoted a third woman executive, Emily Weber, to director of business banking.

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


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