Missouri Minute: Evergy in talks with activist shareholder; St. Louis bank profits flat in 2019

Good morning, MBA readers,

For the past decade, school administrators in the state have had an increasingly difficult time filling vacancies with qualified teachers. The reasons are straightforward — the recruiting pipeline is shrinking, and more instructors are retiring or leaving the profession mid-career.

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, there is a 5% shortage in the number of qualified instructors in the state, forcing administrators in various districts to develop solutions for retaining the instructors they have.

Teachers have cited low pay as one of the more important reasons they are forgoing the profession. Research suggests there is a wage gap between teaching and other professions when accounting for education and experience.

Compounding that problem are the other issues that teachers have to face, including difficult classroom environments and long work hours.

Education officials are trying to to address the problem, and it will likely be a costly fix. The state education department has proposed a funding increase of $400 million, most of which would be directed toward teacher pay.

Scroll down for more on this story and the rest of the day’s top business news.


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From our newsroom

Missouri faces teacher shortage as wages, demands drive educators away
An increasing number of people are deciding to forgo teaching or leave the profession after a few years. This is causing a teacher shortage in the state, making it difficult for school administrators to staff their districts and forcing state education officials to seek answers.


Stay alert

Evergy in advanced talks with activist shareholder
Sources said that the Kansas City-based utility is in talks with Elliott Management, the company’s fourth-largest shareholder, over the composition of its board. Elliott called on Evergy last month to improve its performance or consider merging with another utility. The activist hedge fund could get a say on the appointment of as many as two directors on Evergy’s 15-person board. (Reuters)

St. Louis bank profits flat in 2019
Bank profits in the St. Louis area stayed flat last year, totaling $719 million compared with $717 million in 2018 after years of steady growth. In 2018, profits rose 58% from the year before. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Pennsylvania firm won the most Missouri medical marijuana licenses
The company, Justice Grown, is the only applicant in Missouri to have received the maximum of three cultivation, three manufacturing and five dispensary licenses allowed for a single group. A number of other large, out-of-state companies won a high number of licenses. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

VIP Cinemas declares bankruptcy
The company, which makes high-end movie theater seats, said the decline of cinema chains has pushed it to bankruptcy. The company moved its corporate offices to the St. Louis area last year. (Reuters)

Chicago firm buys land-lease community in Independence
Green Courte Partners has acquired Highland Manor, an Independence land-lease community with 382 lots. Terms were not disclosed. The real estate investment firm bought another land-lease property in Gardner, Kansas, in 2018. (Kansas City Business Journal)

More TEH Realty complexes sued
Arkansas-based Simmons Bank is suing to take over two apartment complexes owned by TEH Realty in the St. Louis area. TEH, which is under fire for its management of complexes in both the Kansas City and St. Louis areas, owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and sewer bills for the two properties in question, according to the lawsuits. (St. Louis Business Journal)

KC developer proposes affordable housing made of shipping containers
Syndicate Kansas City is proposing a project that could bring 48 affordable homes made of shipping containers to Kansas City. Some are concerned the development, if approved, could damage neighborhood dynamics in the area, but the developer says it’s a good opportunity for the city to obtain more housing for low-income people. (WDAF)

Mark Mantovani launches St. Louis County Executive bid
The business executive, who lost a 2018 primary for St. Louis County’s top elected office by less than 2,000 votes, announced his new bid Wednesday. He will face St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman in the August Democratic primary. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Cultivation Capital leads funding round for app designed to help visually impaired
The St. Louis-based venture capital firm has led a nearly $3 million funding round for Be My Eyes, a San Francisco-based startup that produces an app to help explain to visually impaired people what is in front of them. (St. Louis Business Journal)


Show me

Today’s graphic offers another snapshot of the housing market in Missouri. The state’s median residential property selling price grew about 4.6% in 2019, according to a Missouri Realtors report, marking the largest annual increase in the last few years.


Say that again

“I need you to help me. I need you to have faith in me, and in yourself, and one another. I don’t have all the answers yet, but I will.”

That’s what St. Alexius Hospital emergency room director Sonny Saggar said to hospital staff on Tuesday when he was appointed CEO of the financially troubled hospital, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Saggar takes over from interim CEO Russell Kraeger, who will stay on as chief medical officer, chief of surgery and chief of the intensive care unit. In his address, Saggar added that he wants to boost transparency at St. Alexius. The hospital and its owner, Americore Health, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Dec. 31. Americore CEO Grant White, who also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, said the hospital is “stabilized” and “a lot better now than we were a year ago.”


Go figure

$32 million

That’s the jump in annual payment the Kansas City Royals are expected to see from a proposed new broadcast contract with Fox Sports Kansas City, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. The Royals previously signed an 11-year deal with the sports network that netted the team about $20 million a year, but the deal expired after the 2019 season. Now, a new deal has an estimated value between $48 million and $52 million a year and will likely range from six to eight years. In 2017, the Royals had the second-best local TV ratings among all Major League Baseball teams.


Hello, my name is

Veterans United Home Loans

A major mid-Missouri employer is adding jobs in the St. Louis area. The Columbia-based mortgage lender has opened an Earth City office and plans to hire 150 employees there in the next year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Veterans United was recently ranked 17th on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. The company is the fourth-largest employer in Columbia with about 2,400 local employees, the Columbia Missourian reports. Founded in 2002, it has grown into the nation’s largest VA lender.


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


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