Missouri Minute: KC Ford plant expected to build EVs; lawmakers slam marijuana rollout

Good morning, MBA readers,

We’ve seen everything from escape rooms to axe-throwing clubs sweep across the country, catering largely to millennial and Gen Z clientele seeking Instagram-worthy experiences. Could the next trend in experience-driven business concepts be… mini golf? That’s what one Kansas City company hopes. Swell Spark, which specializes in “interactive experiences,” plans to open a 7,000-square-foot venue in Kansas City’s Power & Light District offering craft cocktails and food paired with an upscale spin on mini golf. Elsewhere, Ford is spending $11.5 billion on carbon-free vehicles, and the automaker’s Kansas City facility is expected to feel the effects of that investment in electrics. Plus, a hearing Wednesday provided the latest opportunity for Missouri lawmakers to air grievances about the rollout of the state’s medical marijuana program amid a flood of appeals by rejected applicants. Read on for those stories and the rest of the day’s top business news.

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Fed report finds coronavirus disrupting tourism, manufacturing
A nationwide survey of business conditions indicates half of the Federal Reserve’s districts, excluding Kansas City and St. Louis, had experienced economic impact from the coronavirus outbreak through late February. In particular, the Beige Book report cited a decrease in tourism from China and supply chain delays in the U.S. (Associated Press)

Bayer says its top seed may have peaked
The owner of Creve Coeur-based Monsanto projects that its Xtend soybean seeds will stagnate around 50 million planted acres this year, which was about 66% of last year’s U.S.soybean acreage. Meanwhile, Corteva, a competitor formed last year from the agricultural units of Dow Chemical and DuPont, expects its new Enlist E3 seed will grab up to 20% of the market this year. (Reuters)

KC plant expected to build new line of electric vans, pickups
Ford said this week that it will invest $11.5 billion in carbon-free vehicles through 2022. As part of that investment, the automaker will roll out an all-electric version of its Transit van, which is expected to be built in Kansas City, alongside gas-powered Transit vans. Ford also announced an electric version of the F-150, which is assembled in Kansas City. (Reuters)

FedEx to close St. Louis area facility after earnings slide
The logistics giant plans to close a facility in Earth City around May 2, impacting up to 125 non-unionized workers there. FedEx said workers will be offered roles at nearby locations. The move comes after the company reported a dip in second-quarter earnings. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Costco buys interest in SSM Health’s pharmacy benefit manager
The bulk retail chain has acquired a minority stake in Navitus Health Solutions, the pharmacy benefit management firm for Creve Coeur-based SSM Health, for an undisclosed sum. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis auto chain enters KC market
Telle Tire & Auto Centers, which previously had 10 stores in St. Louis and Jefferson City, has acquired KC Complete Auto Service, giving it five new stores in the Kansas City area. Marco Gonzalez, KC Complete’s director of operations, will serve as Telle’s president of Kansas City operations. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Shipping container apartments project gets approval from KC officials
A proposal to build an apartment complex out of recycled shipping containers narrowly passed a vote by the Kansas City Plan Commission. Syndicate Real Estate, the local developer behind the concept, said it wants 48 small apartments across four buildings on the city’s west side, charging around $750 a month for rent. (WDAF)

Blues-themed restaurant to debut at Lambert
The Blue Note will debut at St. Louis Lambert International Airport next week in a private grand opening event hosted by St. Louis Blues and Maryland-based HMSHost. The concept is part of a three-year contract with HMSHost, which currently runs over 30 eateries at the airport. (St. Louis Business Journal)

KC entertainment business plans mini golf concept
Swell Spark Entertainment, which owns axe-throwing club Blade & Timber, will open a new venue in the Kansas City Power & Light District. Dubbed Sinkers Lounge, the 7,000-square-foot space will offer a restaurant, bar and mini golf. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Springfield farmland auction could spur development
About 94 acres of farmland in southeast Springfield, marketed for potential commercial or residential use, will hit the auction block next month. The land is in a fast-growing part of the city and could provide space for new commercial development. (Springfield Business Journal)

Say that again

“Whether it’s perception or reality, the pretty widely held view is that this thing has been a disaster.”

That’s Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Gladstone, who in a hearing Wednesday directed criticism at the governor’s office and top state officials in charge of awarding commercial marijuana licenses, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Carpenter is among a chorus of lawmakers questioning the rollout of the state’s medical marijuana program and the decision to hire Nevada-based Wise Health Solutions to evaluate and score the applications. These questions come as the state grapples with more than 800 appeals of denied applications. Some cite inconsistencies in how similar applications were scored and concerns over potential bias by the scorers. Lyndall Fraker, the program’s director, defended the process. “We’ve done everything by the book the way we were supposed to,” he said. “Some people just want us to give a license to everyone.”

Go figure


That’s how much the number of permitted multifamily housing units in the Springfield metro area plummeted last year, to 263, the Springfield Business Journal reports. The Ozark Transportation Organization reports that total residential permits in Greene and Christian counties dropped 38% to 1,173 last year from 1,884 in 2018. OTO analyst Dave Faucett pins the dip in multifamily permits on a “three-year cycle of ‘boom and bust,’” referring to the economic cycles of expansion and contraction. In December, a number of local developers said they were responding to keep up with demand for new homes.

Send tweet

The Twitter account for the ownership group behind the new Major League Soccer team in St. Louis shared the latest renderings for a proposed soccer stadium near downtown. The images highlight tweaks to the stadium that the ownership group said give it a “more open, accessible and inclusive design,” the St. Louis Business Journal reports. A spokesperson said the price tag for the project remains unaltered at $461 million. At the core of the design process is tying St. Louis soccer to the city’s “growth and rehabilitation,” said Julie Snow, whose firm Snow Kreilich Architects is designing the stadium alongside St. Louis-based HOK.

Hello, my name is

Signal Kit

This Kansas City education technology startup announced this week that it sold to a West Coast company and is being integrated into its new owner’s school communications platform, Startland News reports. Signal Kit makes technology to help school districts communicate with their communities. The company was acquired by Santa Barbara, California-based ParentSquare, which makes a platform to unify a school’s communication tools between the administrative and classroom levels. Terms of the cash and equity deal were not disclosed. According to ParentSquare, the combined company will serve more than 2 million students across 44 states, including nearly 20% of all students in California.

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


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