Good morning, MBA readers,
When Missouri voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in 2018, the contentious conversations about cannabis had only just begun. Most recently, much of the discussion about the nascent industry has taken place in Jefferson City, where lawmakers have held a series of hearings to sort out lingering questions and state officials are facing a wave of lawsuits over licensing for marijuana businesses. Also at the Capitol, one lawmaker has proposed a bill that would allow employers to terminate workers for drug tests that show THC in their system, but that has drawn concern from a marijuana trade group. In other news of prolonged processes, T-Mobile and Sprint have agreed to new terms for their planned merger. And as that deal inches toward closing, a new episode of the Speaking Startup podcast explores what such a merger could mean to Kansas City’s startup landscape. Get those stories and the rest of Missouri’s biggest business news below.
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Speaking Startup: The ripple effects of a corporate mega-merger
What might a merger involving one of Kansas City’s largest corporations mean for the city’s startups? We explore that in this week’s episode of Speaking Startup. Following a federal judge’s approval of Sprint and T-Mobile’s merger, we visited with Ryan Weber, president and CEO of the KC Tech Council, about the deal. Plus, we caught up with James DeWitt, co-founder and CEO of United American Hemp, about how his Kansas City-area company is trying to carve out a niche in the newly legal hemp market.
Sprint, T-Mobile agree on new merger terms
The two companies announced Thursday they agreed to a new merger deal in which T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom will get a slightly higher ownership stake in the combined company. Deutsche and SoftBank Group, Sprint’s majority owner, are expected to hold about 43% and 24%, respectively, of fully diluted New T-Mobile shares. The merger price remains at $26.5 billion. (Kansas City Business Journal)
Missouri Senate backs tax break for long-term care savings
The Missouri Senate on Thursday passed a bill providing a new tax incentive for people to save money for caring for chronic illness. The bill would allow individuals to deduct up to $4,000 annually, and married couples up to $8,000, from their state income taxes for money placed in a “long-term dignity savings account.” (Associated Press)
Workers could be fired for medical marijuana under new bill
Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, on Thursday introduced Senate Bill 610, which would allow employers to terminate employees if a drug test showed they used medical marijuana. (Columbia Missourian)
Second major client drops Cerner records system
Atrium Health, a Charlotte-based health system with more than 40 hospitals, plans to swap out Cerner’s electronic health record system for one from chief rival Epic Systems. Last week, AdventHealth, a health system with 50 hospitals, switched from Cerner to Epic. (Kansas City Business Journal)
Missouri House committee to hold third hearing on medical marijuana issues
House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said a special House committee will hold another hearing next week on how medical marijuana licenses were distributed to businesses. The committee held its second hearing earlier this week, during which an attorney for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services confirmed that the department expects about 600 lawsuits over the issue. (Missourinet)
USDA eyes big St. Louis office, drawing interest from AT&T tower
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is in the market for 175,000 square feet of space in St. Louis, according to filings made to the bond investors who own the former AT&T tower in downtown St. Louis. The 1.4 million-square-foot skyscraper has been vacant since 2017, when AT&T moved employees to different buildings. (St. Louis Business Journal)
$210 million bond issue for St. Louis convention center finally regaining momentum
The St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment on Wednesday approved the financing agreement for the city’s share of $210 million in bonds, which would finance an expansion of the America’s Center convention center downtown. The vote comes a day after the St. Louis County Council introduced legislation to approve its half of the bonds. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Price Chopper to spend $52 million on KC stores
The locally owned grocery store company plans to spend $52 million remodeling its current stores in Kansas City and building two new locations in the metro area. Price Chopper estimates that the investments will add about 300 new jobs. (Kansas City Business Journal)
KC law firm launches new Salt Lake City office
Husch Blackwell has launched a new office in Salt Lake City after adding veteran mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer David Rudd as a partner. (Kansas City Business Journal)
KC allows expansion at former McGonigle’s Market despite surprise sale to Iowa chain
The Kansas City Council on Thursday effectively approved an expansion of the former McGonigle’s Market location, an effort that has been on pause since the store announced a sale to Iowa-based chain Fareway Stores. (Kansas City Star)
Buchanan County advances ban on wind farms
A proposal that would ban wind farms in Buchanan County heads to the Buchanan County Commission after the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 8-4 to back the plan. The region has several large wind farms that have drawn opposition from residents. (Missourinet)
Ansira Partners acquires digital marketing business
The St. Louis-based marketing technology firm announced Thursday it would acquire the digital marketing arm of CDK Global, an automotive retail technology company. The sale is expected to close in the first half of 2020 for an undisclosed sum. (St. Louis Business Journal)
Mercy South announces new $37 million rehabilitation hospital
Mercy Hospital South in St. Louis announced plans Thursday for a $37 million rehabilitation hospital on the site of a nearly-complete $54 million cancer center. The hospital is preparing to spend $18 million to completely rebuild its labor and delivery floor. Mercy hopes to open the new facility in early 2022. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Mercy Springfield promotes VP to clinic leadership
Mercy Springfield Communities has promoted Jennifer McNay, a doctor and vice president of primary care, to president of its clinics. As president, she leads a clinic operation with nearly 700 doctors in the region. (Springfield Business Journal)
News-Leader moves printing operation to Columbia
The Springfield News-Leader plans to move its printing operation to a sister production operation in Columbia after March 30. The new facility also prints the Columbia Daily Tribune. (Springfield Business Journal)
Say that again
“We are losing population. They are moving to St. Louis. They are moving to Kansas City. They are moving out of state.”
That’s Sarah Low, a University of Missouri Extension professor, at MU’s recent Agroforestry Symposium. Low pointed out that Missouri has underperformed most of its neighboring states in population growth and GDP growth over the last decade, and that rural Missouri has felt that stagnation most acutely. To address those issues and boost the economic vitality of outstate Missouri, state officials are encouraging investment in rural entrepreneurship and value-added agriculture.
That’s how much money Monarch Bioenergy has raised from its joint partners to continue converting methane from pig farms into renewable natural gas, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The investment comes from pork producer Smithfield Foods, the biggest corporate owner of pig farms in Missouri, and St. Louis-based Roeslein Alternative Energy. The companies partnered in 2014 to furnish Smithfield hog farms with a system that would capture methane and add to a nearby natural gas pipeline for distribution. By 2018, the companies completed five “biogas” projects across Missouri and reached a deal to have the projects expand to the Smithfield hog farms in other states, as part of the company’s effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025.
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This St. Louis biotech startup plans to hire at least two more full-time scientists after it snagged $3 million in federal funding, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The grant, which is awarded through the National Institutes of Health, was described by VaxNewMo CEO and co-founder Christian Harding as “the holy grail” for the role it plays in validating the company’s work in the eyes of federal scientists. The Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant brings VaxNewMo’s total federal grant funding to $4.2 million.
It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.