Missouri Minute: KC entrepreneurs pitch for ‘Shark Tank’; Blunt calls for technical training programs

Good morning, MBA readers,

The day’s business headlines are a case study in the value of alternatives — and the difficulties that can arise when options are scarce. Major U.S. manufacturers are searching for new suppliers — and bracing for a surge in costs — as the coronavirus is causing a slowdown in goods shipped from China. Meanwhile, amid a wave of lawsuits alleging damage sown by the weedkiller dicamba, many Missouri farmers feel as if they have little choice but to use seeds resistant to the herbicide. Plus, regulators, elected officials and law enforcement agencies are considering different options at their disposal in the face of continued inaction by a controversial Missouri landlord. Start your week by reading up on those stories and the rest of the state’s top business news.

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Despite dicamba verdict, farmers have limited herbicide options
Although Bayer and BASF will pay millions of dollars to a southeast Missouri peach farmer in a lawsuit alleging crop damage by the weedkiller dicamba, farmers say there are few viable alternatives to the herbicide. Many farmers whose crops have been damaged by the weedkiller in the past have since turned to dicamba-resistant seeds. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis investment firm makes first exit
Israel Chemicals acquired Growers Holdings, a North Carolina-based startup backed by St. Louis-based investment firm Lewis & Clark AgriFood. It’s the first sale of a portfolio company for the firm, which led Growers’ Series A funding round. (St. Louis Business Journal)

T.E.H. Realty unresponsive to mounting pressure
Facing increased criticism for code violations and substandard conditions at rental properties in St. Louis, Kansas City and elsewhere, T.E.H. Realty has missed multiple court dates in recent months in the St. Louis area. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, has called for “a more coordinated effort across the country” to address T.E.H. violations and said he will pursue legislation that would increase the visibility of negligent landlords. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Blunt calls for more technical training programs
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, has introduced an appropriations bill that would give $10 million each to the Department of Education and the Department of Labor to create more technical training programs. Blunt announced his bill at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis on Friday, saying there has been too much focus in recent years on college degrees over technical programs. (St. Louis Public Radio)

KC entrepreneurs pitch for ‘Shark Tank’
On Friday, more than 400 Kansas City-area entrepreneurs auditioned for “Shark Tank”, the ABC show on which entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to “sharks” who make investment offers if they like an idea. (Kansas City Business Journal)

St. Louis babysitting agencies fill need
Area babysitting agencies have carved out a niche by connecting working families to experienced babysitters amid a changing child care landscape. The service STL Sitter has grown to about 450 sitters and 2,000 families since its founding in 2015. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Say that again

“Regardless of what they’re paying over there, we have to quote what we have to charge here.”

That’s Bill Bachman, CEO of St. Louis-based Bachman Machine Company, who said his company cannot match Chinese rates for metal stampings as companies find it increasingly difficult to source materials from China, Reuters reports. The outbreak of coronavirus in China has slowed production and resulted in severe restrictions on travel, disrupting supply chains worldwide. Now, companies that once sought their materials overseas are turning to domestic suppliers, who are charging up as much as 40% more than the Chinese rates, according to some industrial firms.

Go figure


That’s the number of new jobs Charter Communications plans to add this year in Kansas City in response to the growth of Spectrum Mobile, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Charter announced that the new positions, all customer service roles, will be based in the Spectrum Mobile call center in Kansas City, where the Connecticut-based cable company announced 300 other new jobs last year. The facility is expected to house nearly 800 local workers by the end of 2020. Spectrum Mobile, a wireless service wing that Charter launched in 2018, grew to 1.1 million lines in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Hello, my name is

Clever Little Girl Foundation

That’s the name of a new nonprofit foundation founded by Sue McCollum, CEO of Major Brands, who recently sold her ownership stake in the liquor distributor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The foundation will focus on equity and social justice issues in St. Louis. Its name refers to a disparaging comment directed at McCollum by a liquor executive several years ago when she was in the midst of a legal fight with Diageo North America. She ultimately won, forcing Diageo to pay a big settlement. Years later, McCollum is selling her ownership stake in Major Brands to the Wirtz family, the company’s second-largest shareholder. She plans to use the proceeds to fund her foundation. “If you’re a clever little girl you might as well do something with it,” she said. “I want to make an impact.”

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


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