Missouri Minute: Ford walks back KC factory reopening; Amazon to expand in St. Louis area

Good morning, MBA readers,

The continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to major shifts in plans for large public facilities across Missouri. In the state’s big metropolitan areas, arenas and convention centers are being eyed as potential overflow hospitals. In St. Louis, millions of dollars worth of planned airport upgrades have been canceled as St. Louis Lambert International Airport weathers a dip in traffic and planned flight cuts by its biggest carrier. Large privately owned spaces, too, are adjusting — mostly by going dark. Employers like Ford and J.C. Penney have announced extended closures of facilities, affecting thousands of workers across Missouri.


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St. Louis county leaders want stronger COVID steps from Parson
County leaders from the St. Louis area have called for a statewide stay-at-home order to help standardize Missouri’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical leaders have been asking for such an order since last Monday, but Gov. Mike Parson has not issued one. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Amazon to expand in St. Louis area
The ecommerce company is on the cusp of signing deals to expand its presence in the St. Louis region by at least 1 million square feet. Two locations are planned near Edwardsville, Illinois, and another is slated for the Fenton Logistics Park. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Ford walks back on KC factory reopening
After announcing Friday that it planned to reopen five plants by April 14, Ford changed course, choosing to keep plants closed barring one exception: ventilator production at a Michigan plant to start April 20. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Proctor & Gamble sells KC plant
A Proctor & Gamble factory in Kansas City, Kansas, has sold to a national firm specializing in the disposition of real estate assets. The consumer goods company announced two years ago that it planned to close the plant. (Kansas City Business Journal)

McDonald’s workers strike in St. Louis
St. Louis McDonald’s workers joined others in Tampa and Memphis to protest lost hours, pay cuts and unsafe working conditions, with around 100 walking out of their jobs in the three cities. The fast food restaurant has closed its dining rooms across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has kept drive-thrus open. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Southwest Airlines cutting 40% of May flights
The largest carrier at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and Kansas City International Airport will cut nearly half its flights between May 3 and June 5 due to a decrease in passengers. In St. Louis, that means Southwest will offer fewer than 60 daily departures starting on May 1. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Lambert scraps $3 million of infrastructure projects
Due to a sharp decrease in passengers, St. Louis Lambert International Airport will cancel five facilities upgrades worth over $3 million. Two had already been awarded to contractors. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Kauffman Foundation commits millions to pandemic aid
The nonprofit foundation has pledged $2.8 million to aid Kansas City-area small businesses, entrepreneurs and educational institutions along with families amid the worsening pandemic. (Kansas City Business Journal)

KC businesses donate to COVID-19 relief fund
A group of Kansas City businesses and civic organizations have donated $5 million to the KC COVID-19 Small Business Relief Loan Fund, which will offer loans up to $100,000 to area companies with fewer than 20 full-time employees and less than $2.5 million in revenue. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Arenas eyed as potential overflow hospitals
The Missouri National Guard is checking out a number of arenas and convention centers across the state for potential temporary overflow hospitals. Inspected venues include the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis, JQH Arena in Springfield and the Hearnes Center in Columbia. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

J.C. Penney furloughs staff
The department store chain, which lists 23 locations in Missouri, said it would furlough a majority of its staff in April. The company said furloughed employees will continue to receive full health benefits. (Reuters)

St. Louis United Way experiences surge in assistance requests
The United Way of Greater St. Louis’ hotline received some 7,000 calls last week, more than 14 times the weekly average from February. Organizations like the United Way are feeling pressure as they lose money from a lack of fundraising while being asked to assist with growing community needs. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Schnucks employee tests positive for COVID-19
The St. Louis-based grocery chain confirmed that an employee at its University City store tested positive for COVID-19 and has been quarantined at home since Thursday. The store asked five employees to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Post-Dispatch to furlough employees
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the latest on the list of newspapers to furlough employees amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. The CEO of the newspaper’s parent company, Lee Enterprises, told employees Tuesday they would either be furloughed for two weeks in the third quarter or see a 4% pay cut. (St. Louis Business Journal)

SLU doctors use experimental drug to treat patients for study
St. Louis University doctors are using remdesivir to determine whether it can help COVID-19 patients as part of a National Institutes of Health study introduced across 60 research sites throughout the world. It’s unclear whether the antiviral drug helps treat the coronavirus, but it has been used on some patients who recovered from it. (St. Louis Public Radio)

The Hill’s hanging on, for now
The St. Louis neighborhood known for Italian dining is adapting to the pandemic through curbside and delivery offerings to provide a different option for families who don’t want to go to the grocery store. Restaurant owners also say staying open helps provide a sense of normalcy for people by giving them somewhere to go and something to do. (St. Louis Public Radio)


Show me

The Federal Trade Commission has received more than 7,800 coronavirus-related complaints from consumers since the beginning of the year, according to a new report from the agency. That includes 4,500 cases of fraud totaling $4.8 million in monetary losses.


Say that again

“Individuals and Main Street businesses are impacted here. So it’s not simply focused on large employers, looking across the breadth of our economy to get all sectors some relief.”

That’s Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Esther George explaining the federal government’s monetary and fiscal approaches to the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating impact on the U.S. economy, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. In addition to congressional aid to individuals and businesses, the economy requires cash flow in order to weather the outbreak — something George says is the Fed’s main job. Unlike during the 2008 financial crisis, George said, banks went into this pandemic healthy with plenty of reserve capital and strong income, putting them in a better position to approve loans and lines of credit while offering payment deferrals and other ways to work with borrowers. “That’s exactly what we want banks to do,” George said. “As a bank regulator, steps are being taken so banks know they can work with their customers during this temporary period of disruption to try and get them through.”


Go figure

$23 billion

That’s how much 16 banks have committed to lending T-Mobile for its acquisition of Sprint despite disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Bloomberg reports. T-Mobile formally notified the banks Monday to have the funds ready by Wednesday, suggesting the long-awaited merger is near fruition. The timing is less than convenient — U.S. companies have already tapped major banks for more than $190 billion in credit and short-term loans since March 9 to keep the doors open through the ongoing health crisis. Banks involved in the deal include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays.


Hello, my name is

Robert Jackson

This physician, health care entrepreneur and former medical school leader was named the new chief medical officer of Kansas City-based Noble Health Corp. on Tuesday, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Jackson will oversee clinical operations for the rural hospital operator, which was incorporated in December. Previously, Jackson was associate dean of campus academic affairs at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. In 2007, he founded Premier Specialty Network, a company that establishes and maintains medical and surgical clinics in rural community hospitals.


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


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