Missouri Minute: Ameren updates grid modernization plan; Evergy reaches deal with activist investor

Good morning, MBA readers,

When Ameren announced its 2019 results last week, it also unveiled a new roadmap for overhauling Missouri’s power grid. The St. Louis-based utility has filed a $7.6 billion grid modernization plan with the Missouri Public Service Commission. Ameren announced its initial $6.3 billion strategy last year and says it has completed 900 projects since, such as installing storm-proof equipment and smart switches to reduce outages.

But unlike many grid modernization plans, Ameren’s includes $1.2 billion to buy two wind farms this year. The move would add 700 megawatts of wind power to Ameren’s grid, following an earlier pledge in 2017. Still, wind power would only make up a modest fraction of Ameren’s existing power sources. And Missouri, which produces less than 1 gigawatt of wind power, lags behind neighboring states like Iowa, which produces 10 times as much.

Ameren also plans to spend $280 million installing smart meters for about 1.3 million customers by 2025. The company expects to install 120,000 meters this year and at least 800,000 by 2023, as well as web portals where customers can access their energy consumption data.

Scroll down to read more Missouri business news, from Evergy’s olive branch for an activist investor to the latest on the state’s medical marijuana policy.

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Missouri lawmakers seek changes to state medical marijuana program
The state legislature is trying to tighten the language of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment passed in 2018 to keep patients from being able to buy edibles or obtain medical marijuana diagnoses over the phone. Sales won’t begin until later this year, but the state has already approved 35,000 medical marijuana licenses. (St. Louis-Post Dispatch)

Evergy, Elliott reach board agreement
As part of a deal with activist investor Elliott Management, Kansas City-based utility Evergy announced on Monday it will add two new members to its board and explore options, including the possibility of a merger. (Reuters)

State board considers shutting down failing nursing school
The Missouri State Board of Nursing is mulling whether to shut down the century-old Lutheran School of Nursing, which is part of the financially struggling St. Alexius Hospital in St. Louis. The school has experienced a recent drop in test scores and enrollment. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis agtech startups to partner on commercialization effort
NewLeaf, a St. Louis-based agricultural technology startup, will partner with another St. Louis-area agtech company, IN10T, after raising $20 million in new financing. IN10T will help NewLeaf integrate data collection and farmer feedback into its product testing. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Arnold Defense and Electronics lands $10.5M military contract
The contract will help the company build items such as rocket launchers for the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, and the governments of South Korea and Pakistan. The work is projected to be finished by next February. (St. Louis Business Journal)

KC plumbing supplier makes acquisition, gains branches across state
Reeves-Wiedeman, one of the oldest companies in Kansas City, closed a deal to acquire Sedalia-based Tallman Co. on Monday, gaining locations in Warrensburg, Sedalia, Laurie and Osage Beach. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Junior Achievement opens KC incubator
Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City will open a 20,000-square-foot career development and innovation center at the NorthWood Shopping Center in Kansas City. Leaders of the effort expect it to attract up to 10,000 high school students per year. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Operator of Missouri movie theaters files for bankruptcy
Goodrich Quality Theaters, a Michigan-based chain that owns theaters in Columbia and Jefferson City, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (KOMU)

Say that again

“Bad landlords have abused our housing system for too long and it’s happening right here in Missouri. They have taken advantage of tenants, failed to provide them the most basic living standards, forced them to live in squalor … It’s time we hold these scumbag landlords accountable.”

That’s what U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, said Monday in a news release introducing a new bill that would create a federal database of neglectful landlords. The “Bad Landlord Database Act” would call on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to track terminations of contracts with landlords due to violation of Housing Assistance Payments contracts. It would also require local public housing authorities to report “bad landlords” to HUD. Hawley’s announcement refers to T.E.H. Realty, which owns properties in Kansas City and St. Louis that have been cited for unlivable conditions. Hawley’s bill comes as renters’ rights gain more attention in cities across the country, Axios notes. It has the backing of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who in December signed a “bill of rights” offering added protections for the city’s tenants. “This bill is a welcome step to improve federal oversight of bad actor landlords and to reinforce protections we’ve already enacted in Kansas City,” Lucas wrote in a tweet Monday.

Go figure

$150 million

That’s how much revenue Ferguson-based Emerson Electric expects to lose in the second quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak, potentially doubling its earlier loss projection, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The technology and engineering conglomerate said in a regulatory filing Friday that it now expects to lose between $100 million and $150 million in second-quarter sales. At an investor conference just a few weeks earlier, the company projected a loss of $75 million to $100 million. Emerson said it expects to recover half the anticipated losses this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, depending on the duration of the outbreak.

Hello, my name is

NISA Investment Advisors

Over the last few years, this Clayton-based investment firm has ballooned to roughly 300 employees and a total of $380 billion in assets under management, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Formerly known as National Investments Services of America, the firm reincorporated in 1994 as NISA. That year, NISA managed just $3.9 billion assets. Today, it manages $225 billion in bonds and other tangible assets, plus $155 billion in options, futures and other hedging strategies. NISA is 100% employee-owned.

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


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