Missouri Minute: Wash U breaks ground on $616M facility; Missouri responds to first coronavirus case

Good morning, MBA readers,

As the number of coronavirus patients continues to tick up worldwide, Missouri got its first confirmed case over the weekend, just hours after Kansas announced its first. Continued public scares over new infections may further batter companies like AMC Entertainment, the cinema chain based in the Kansas City area, whose shares plunged 30% over the past two weeks amid increasing coronavirus fears. At the same time, another company from the Kansas City area says it has an improved way of testing for coronavirus and has been shipping its product to countries across the globe. Scroll down to read more about these stories and others, from Washington University’s planned $616 million neuroscience building to how one St. Louis business decided to deal with a shortage of skilled workers.

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Officials confirm Missouri’s first coronavirus case
Gov. Mike Parson on Saturday said a woman in her 20s tested “presumptive positive” for coronavirus after visiting Mercy Hospital in St. Louis for a fever and respiratory issues. St. Louis County officials said the woman had been studying abroad in Italy before coming home to the area last week. Officials at two local schools informed parents that the woman’s family had broken recommended self quarantine over the weekend. (Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

GM unveils $20 billion car plan challenging Tesla
General Motors, which has plants in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas, said it will invest $20 billion by 2025 in electric vehicles, including a new modular battery that uses less cobalt, a rare resource that stores energy. CEO Mary Barra believes the battery will have a range of over 300 miles on a single charge — a milestone reached only by Tesla. (Reuters, Bloomberg)

Wash U breaks ground on largest US neuroscience facility
Washington University has begun work on a $616 million neuroscience building that will centralize research and collaborative efforts in the St. Louis Cortex innovation district. The 609,000-square-foot facility — among the largest neuroscience research buildings in the country — will house more than 900 researchers by late 2023. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Private medical school plans $80 million St. Louis facility
Ponce Health Sciences University has announced plans for a medical school in north St. Louis, pending regulatory approval and finalization of a lease deal. The new school would serve up to 1,200 students and create up to 120 faculty and staff jobs, officials say. (St. Louis Business Journal)

KC-area insurance firm expands in Alabama
Virtus, an Overland Park, Kansas-based insurance brokerage, has acquired Denver’s First Line Insurance Services for an undisclosed amount. The Denver office will be led by Erik Olson, who joined Virtus less than a year ago. It’s unclear whether First Line’s existing executive team will join Virtus. (Kansas City Business Journal)

T.E.H. Realty affiliate files for bankruptcy
A T.E.H. Realty affiliate that owns Crown Manor Apartments in St. Louis has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing a list of 15 creditors, including Missouri American Water. Crown Manor, one of 12 apartment complexes that T.E.H. affiliates have purchased in the St. Louis area since 2014, has faced a variety of issues related to the tenants’ quality of living. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

KC-area truck equipment firm makes acquisition
Belton-based Safe Fleet, which provides safety and productivity equipment for fleet vehicles, acquired American Midwest Fleet Solutions, a firm in Lone Jack that installs and services fleet vehicle equipment, for an undisclosed sum. (Kansas City Business Journal)

St. Louis luxury car dealership sold to national group
New Jersey-based Holman Automotive has acquired St. Louis Motorcars, a Chesterfield dealership that sells luxury cars. The dealership will be rebranded as Holman Motorcars St. Louis. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Schnucks buys Illinois grocery store
The St. Louis-based grocer has purchased Mahomet IGA, marking its fourth location in the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area. Schnucks said it has offered jobs to the 79 employees at the store. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Local contractor invests in KCRise Fund
Kansas City-based general contractor McCownGordon Construction has invested an undisclosed amount in KCRise Fund, a venture capital firm that co-invests in early-stage companies in the Kansas City area. (Kansas City Business Journal)

KC fintech startup lands spot in New York accelerator
Destiny Wealth, an app that helps people manage debt repayment, was selected for the Nex Cubed Accelerator, a new program based in New York City that’s designed to prepare startups to take on institutional funding. The company, which currently manages over $25 million in user debt, is also part of the current Digital Sandbox KC cohort. (Startland News)

Darr family gives $500,000 to Springfield schools
The Darr Family Foundation has pledged a $500,000 grant to Springfield Public Schools’ Farm 2 School program, which provides local food and education on the food system and healthy eating. (Springfield Business Journal)

Say that again

“The ability to use the rapid technology that’s available now is kind of our secret weapon in this fight with pathogens like the coronavirus. … From a pandemic protection standpoint, this is (InnovaPrep’s) first chance to help.”

That’s InnovaPrep co-founder and CEO Dave Alburty, who says his company’s new device can cut down the time it takes testing for coronavirus from four days to just an hour, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. The Drexel-based biotech hardware maker said its technology analyzes the air near people and delivers results in about an hour. InnovaPrep has already sent system component kits to China and sold them in South Korea and the Netherlands. The company has contacted the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies about using the system, but has not heard back. Alburty said the system could be deployed in public places from schools to airports to “know if the air they’re breathing is infectious.”

Go figure


As of Thursday, that’s how much the University of Missouri had raised as part of a billion-dollar endowment campaign that started in 2011, the Columbia Missourian reports. According to a news release, the campaign, which sought to raise $1.3 billion, has funded two new centers, 30 new endowed faculty positions and 643 new scholarships. The school is also raising money for its NextGen Precision Health Institute as part of that campaign.

Hello, my name is

TerraSource Global

Facing a shortage of skilled workers, this St. Louis-based industrial manufacturer launched a formal apprenticeship program to train new workers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. At first, TerraSource, which has 55 workers and needs dozens more, tried advertising in other cities in hopes of luring qualified candidates. But that strategy didn’t work for TerraSource, so the company teamed with Southwestern Illinois College to develop an apprenticeship program. The program was certified last month by the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprentices earn at least $18 an hour and can progress to $36 an hour by the end of the program, which combines college coursework with on-the-job training. The company hopes to train about 10 apprentices a year.

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


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