Missouri Minute: US manufacturers delay new goods; Boeing stock plunges

Good morning, MBA readers,

Eleven days after he announced the state’s first case of COVID-19, Gov. Mike Parson again stepped to the podium in Jefferson City on Wednesday to reveal that one of the state’s patients has died from the virus. Statewide, 24 cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed as of Thursday morning.

Lawmakers are scrambling to pass legislation helping not only patients and health care providers, but also workers, consumers and businesses. Nationally, elected officials have proposed spending at least $1 trillion to blunt the effects on restaurants, hotels, airlines and other industries hit hard by the epidemic. That’s up from the initial $8.3 billion aid package that passed last week. A bill that passed the Missouri House on Wednesday would provide $40 million to step up testing efforts, but critics say it may not be enough to curb the spread of the virus.

The impact of this pandemic on the economy continues to unfold in real time. St. Louis and Springfield have further restricted public gatherings to 10 or fewer people. Simon Property, which owns malls across the state, closed all its properties across the country to minimize exposure. Carmakers have shifted their stance and will close all North American plants — including two in the Kansas City area and one in suburban St. Louis — out of concern for worker safety.

It’s not just for-profit businesses that are suffering. Schools like the University of Missouri are refunding room and board for students moving home to take classes online. Nonprofits throughout the state may have to cut services at a time when they are most needed as the organizations’ reliable funding sources threaten to dry up.


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Missouri sees first COVID-19 death; virus count passes 20
Missouri saw its first death due to the coronavirus Wednesday. The patient, who had recently traveled internationally, was in their 60s and lived in Columbia. At least 24 Missourians have tested positive for the virus, according to Gov. Mike Parson, including two Washington University doctors. (Columbia Missourian, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

US manufacturers delay new goods
The coronavirus is disrupting the global supply chain for new products, causing delays due to import and export controls and holds across the world. There is concern, for example, that new versions of popular products like Apple iPhones won’t be able to launch this fall as planned. (Reuters)

GM, Ford agree to close factories
General Motors and Ford, which operate factories in Missouri, joined other major automakers Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota on Wednesday in announcing they will temporarily close all North American plants over concerns about employees building vehicles in close proximity to one another. (Associated Press)

Boeing stock plunges, despite prospect of bailout
Shares of the aircraft maker dropped nearly 18%, hitting a seven-year low Wednesday amid the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating effect on the aerospace industry. A day earlier, President Donald Trump expressed his support for Boeing’s request for a $60 billion federal bailout. (CNN, Reuters)

Committee advances $1.7 billion KC budget in spite of quarantine, technical difficulties
Most committee members did not physically attend the meeting due to self-quarantine, but a Kansas City Council committee on Wednesday approved the city’s $1.7 billion budget through a conference call. (KCUR)

Simon Property closes malls nationwide
The Simon Property Group, the largest shopping mall operator in the U.S., is closing 200 shopping malls and retail outlets. Simon Property owns St. Louis Premium Outlets in Chesterfield, the Battlefield Mall in Springfield and the Osage Beach Outlet Marketplace. (USA Today)

Thousands waiting for Syngenta payments will get relief soon
Many U.S. corn farmers will see relief payments of more than $5,000 after courts ruled the company sold genetically modified corn containing a genetic trait that was detected — and thus rejected — by China, a major buyer of U.S. corn. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Centene agrees to pay millions to resolve class-action lawsuit
The Clayton-based health insurer will pay $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by investors who claim the company didn’t provide accurate financial information when it acquired Health Net four years ago. (St. Louis Business Journal)

MU chancellor in talks to lead Florida university
Alexander Cartwright, who has been chancellor of the University of Missouri’s campus in Columbia since 2017, interviewed with the University of Central Florida on Wednesday. He’s one of the three finalists for the role of president at UCF, one of the largest universities in the country. (Columbia Missourian)

MU to issue room and board refunds
The University of Missouri will hand out 45% semester refunds to students who vacate campus housing, becoming one of many universities across the country that will miss out on room and board revenue as students leave campus in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. (Columbia Missourian)

Benson Hill targets meatless burger producers with new product
The fast-growing St. Louis agricultural technology firm said Wednesday it will begin selling ultra-high soybean varieties to supply the manufacturers of plant-based meat substitutes. Benson Hill will offer the soybean varieties through its Benson Hill Seeds division. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Missouri federal courts postpone cases
All civil and criminal jury trials in Missouri’s federal courts have been postponed due to the coronavirus. (St. Louis Business Journal)


Say that again

“The reality is if you’re homeless or you’re in chronic poverty, you still need help regardless of whether the stock market is crashing. Their needs only increase during times like these.”

That’s Dan Prater, senior managing consultant for nonprofits at the BKD accounting firm, who says the COVID-19 pandemic is making it difficult for nonprofits to continue their work and cater to those in need, the Springfield News-Leader reports. Prater, who helps nonprofits with strategic planning, noted a big concern for organizations is a dramatic reduction in funding as events are canceled and business sponsors see a drop in their own income. Springfield-based GYN Cancers Alliance, for example, recently had to cancel several events including an golf tournament that would have netted the group about $125,000 to assist women in about 30 Missouri counties.


Go figure

$40 million

That’s how much money the Missouri House allocated Wednesday for the state’s coronavirus response, double the amount the state previously projected needing, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The bill, which includes up to $33 million in emergency federal funds, would help expand testing for COVID-19 and provide more protective gear for health professionals. Missouri Democrats say it’s too little to deal with a fast-spreading virus. Republican lawmakers contend that the state also has to deal with the prospect of reduced tax revenue this year from the economic shocks triggered by the pandemic.


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This latest edict from St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson comes a day after the city ordered all restaurants and bars to discontinue dine-in service beginning Thursday at midnight. Similarly, Springfield announced that all group gatherings are limited to 10 people at most. Businesses in Springfield could face up to $1,000 in fines or even jail time if they break the order, which is intended to discourage crowds that could further spread the coronavirus. Many are encouraging consumers to continue supporting their local eateries by ordering takeout or delivery.


Hello, my name is

Homeroom

After finalizing a $200,000 funding round, this home-sharing startup in the Kansas City area has hired a new executive and plans to double its reach this year, Startland News reports. The funding round allowed Homeroom to hire Parker Hills as its new COO and head of investments. Hills previously founded Keyzio, a real estate technology startup. Homeroom, which matches roommates to their ideal houses, currently has more than 100 rooms already filled or waitlisted. The team expects to double its reach this year and expand into a second city in 2021.


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


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