Missouri Minute: Fed pushes rates near zero; St. Louis, KC ban large public events

Good morning, MBA readers,

Numbers help tell the story of the coronavirus pandemic and its arrival in Missouri. Take, for example, five: Over the weekend, state officials reported Missouri’s fifth confirmed case of the coronavirus. Or 36: Area companies lost as much as 36% in market value last week before a brief rally Friday. On Sunday, Kansas City and St. Louis banned gatherings of more than 50 people to combat the spread of the virus. With event cancellations piling up, there are more numbers to help quantify the local economic strain: 17 conventions in the Kansas City area have been canceled, causing tens of millions of dollars in economic losses.

As physical contact and gatherings are discouraged, Missourians are turning to virtual options. Following moves by some Missouri companies to expand remote work, the state’s largest public universities are taking classes online for the rest of the semester. And instead of traveling to a canceled tech convention, a Kansas City accelerator is hosting a remote showcase to feature its latest cohort of local startups.

Scroll down to get the latest coronavirus updates and other Missouri business news.


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Speaking Startup: Growing girls in gaming
Esports attracted $4.5 billion of investment globally in 2018. Lindsay Zeiter wants to help make sure women have a prominent voice in the future of that growing industry. That’s part of the motivation behind Girls Who Game, a Columbia organization working to help girls build gaming skills and learn the basics of game programming. Zeiter discussed the organization for the latest episode of Speaking Startup. Plus, due to coronavirus concerns, Kansas City Fashion Week has canceled its spring events scheduled to take place this month. Annette Sunshine, a designer and entrepreneur who would have participated, joined the podcast to talk about her business and the significance of the city’s Fashion Week.


Stay alert

Fed pushes rates near zero, announces $700 billion quantitative easing
In another drastic measure, the Federal Reserve on Sunday set its benchmark interest rate at 0% to 0.25% in response to economic disruptions from the coronavirus, down from the previous target range of 1% to 1.25%. The Fed also launched a quantitative easing program through which it will purchase $500 billion in U.S. Treasurys and $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities. (CNBC)

St. Louis, KC ban most public events
Following federal health guidance, officials across the St. Louis area on Sunday banned events and gatherings of more than 50 people, and they recommended all area schools close by Wednesday. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas banned all gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, but that does not apply to schools or businesses. Gov. Mike Parson recommended people statewide take the same steps. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star, Associated Press)

UM System suspends in-person classes through spring
Classes will be taught online while dorms and other amenities will remain open across all four University of Missouri System campuses in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. (MBA)

Uncertainty still looms over $30 billion state budget
The Missouri government is still unsure how much the coronavirus outbreak will affect the state’s current and future revenues. Senate majority leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said last week that lawmakers may have to divert some funds proposed in the fiscal year 2021 budget in response to the outbreak. (Missourinet)

New T-Mobile leadership is more magenta than gold
Just four of 18 new leadership positions announced by New T-Mobile will be filled by current Sprint executives, with the rest filled by T-Mobile executives. The new leadership team would take over as soon as the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile closes, which is expected to happen in April. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Lawsuit alleges Garmin avoided earnouts in acquisition
Former shareholders of payment technology startup Fit Pay are suing Olathe, Kansas-based Garmin and two other companies, accusing them of breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Garmin acquired Fit Pay for $3.3 million last year, when its owner Nxt-ID defaulted on its senior line of credit. Nxt-ID paid $14.8 million in 2017 for Fit Pay. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Enterprise eases rental requirement as students head home
The St. Louis-based car rental chain is dropping the minimum required age to rent a car to 18 from 21 through the end of May, catering to students who are returning home as universities across the country move classes online. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Amid shopping rush, Schnucks scales back hours
The Maryland Heights-based grocery chain said Sunday that it will temporarily reduce hours to give staff more time to clean stores and restock shelves. Stores that usually open 24 hours will close at midnight and all others will close at 9 p.m. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

KC-area investment firm closes first fund after raising $36 million
Shawnee, Kansas-based Fulcrum Global Capital has closed on its first fund after raising $36 million to invest in agriculture, animal health and agricultural technology. The four companies in Fulcrum’s current portfolio include two St. Louis startups: CoverCress, a biotech firm focused on developing winter cover crops as renewable fuel and livestock feed, and NanoGuard Technologies, which is developing technology to enhance food freshness and reduce waste. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Summit Homes hires former construction CEO as CFO
The Lee’s Summit-based subdivision developer has hired veteran homebuilder Jeffrey Johnson as its new CFO. Johnson previously served as CEO of 4Corner Homes, an Oklahoma-based home construction firm. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Airport runway, short-term rentals on Columbia council agenda
Columbia City Council will weigh whether to authorize a 900-foot extension of the main runway at Columbia Regional Airport during its Monday evening session. The council will also vote on a proposed ordinance that would place a 95-day limit on short-term rentals. (Columbia Missourian)

Union Station exhibits, KC museums close over virus concerns
The American Jazz Museum, the WWI Museum and Union Station will close their doors or shut down specific exhibits at least through March, following other public venues across Kansas City. (Kansas City Star)

Minneapolis partnership buys $28.4 million apartment complex in St. Peters
Timberland Partners, which owns six other apartment communities in the St. Louis area, has purchased Meadowridge Apartments, a 180-unit complex, from Big T Rex I for $28.4 million. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Kirkwood dealership buys adjacent property
Lou Fusz, the second-largest car dealership in the St. Louis area, has purchased a nearly 1.5-acre parcel next to its Toyota dealership in Kirkwood for $2.6 million from Wayland Land Co., an affiliate of the Weekends Only furniture company. The dealership said it has no plans to redevelop the new property. (St. Louis Business Journal)

After losing $1 million in SXSW costs, OHUB.KC plans virtual event
Inclusivity-focused startup accelerator Opportunity Hub will host a two-day virtual showcase of its Kansas City cohort in place of a SXSW event that was scheduled for Monday. The massive tech festival in Austin was called off due to coronavirus concerns, leaving OHUB with at least $1 million in estimated sunk costs. (Startland News)


Say that again

“It’s crippling. Everything’s gone. I’d have been better off if our electricity had gone out and all our meat went bad.”

That’s Ed McVey, owner of Maggie O’Brien’s in St. Louis, who says the best month for his Irish pub and restaurant is looking to be one of his worst as the coronavirus dries up customer traffic, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. McVey’s business is one of numerous in the restaurant and hospitality industries that are grappling with multiple large events, like concerts, the NCAA Tournament and the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade, being canceled to slow the spread of the virus. Making matters worse for restaurants like Maggie O’Brien’s is that their insurance does not cover losses due to the outbreak.


Go figure

55,000

That’s the number of room nights at Kansas City hotels local tourism officials estimate have been affected by recent convention cancellations due to coronavirus concerns, The Kansas City Star reports. Visit KC, the local convention and tourism group, says 17 conventions have been canceled in the area thus far, accruing an estimated economic impact of $47 million. Another seven conventions representing 10,000 room nights and $17 million were rescheduled for later this year. Worldwide, the events business is expected to lose billions of dollars as governments rush to minimize exposure to the virus.


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That’s how Baileys’ Range, a St. Louis eatery usually known for its grass-fed burgers, is responding to coronavirus-related pressure on restaurants everywhere. The offer of free toilet paper with a carryout order comes as health officials encourage people to limit going out in public, impacting a wide range of businesses. It also follows a run on toiletries and other daily items across the country. Even Amazon reported that it is out of “household staples.” The promotion by Baileys’ Range, which also covers sister restaurants Rooster Cafe and Knockout BBQ, seems to be aimed at people who want to avoid going to the store to minimize potential exposure to the illness.


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One of Kansas City’s first coworking entrepreneurs is passing on her ownership of Cowork Waldo as she moves on to other projects, Startland News reports. Saubers started the Kansas City space in 2012 after growing tired of working from home for years. She plans to continue her work with Sans Bar Kansas City, an alcohol-free pop-up bar concept she launched in 2018, and potentially take on other “innovative projects and business opportunities.” Saubers will be succeeded by Zubin Talib, an entrepreneur from Kenya, and Talyn Good, co-founder and former CEO of the nonprofit Heshima Kenya. “We’re excited to keep the community, friendships and space alive as the proud new owners of this integral piece of the Waldo business community,” Good said.


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


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