Missouri Minute: Emerson offers to aid medical supply production; ‘essential’ status causes confusion

Good morning, MBA readers,

So far, stores remain stocked with most daily items and foods despite some people panic-buying in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has grown to more than 2,700 confirmed cases in Missouri. That could change, however, if the drivers ferrying these goods across the country are not given adequate protections against the coronavirus, an industry group in Missouri says. It’s not yet clear whether federal authorities will accommodate the requests of the nation’s transporters, who are seeking better access to COVID-19 testing, among other precautions. Meanwhile, more Missouri-based companies are volunteering to pivot production toward personal protective equipment and other in-demand medical supplies. And in St. Louis, efforts continue to raise money for workers and businesses affected by COVID-19.

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Emerson ramps up to aid medical supply production
Emerson CEO David Farr said he has been in regular contact with the White House to offer the Ferguson-based conglomerate’s services in the national effort to produce more medical supplies. The company is prioritizing production of components used to produce items like respirators and masks. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Hallmark cuts pay, announces furlough
The CEO of the Kansas City-based greeting card company said in a memo that the pay cuts and furloughs are due to a coronavirus-driven sales drop, which is being worsened by uncertainty over when the disruption will end. (Wall Street Journal)

Missouri businesses unclear over ‘essential’ status
Cities and counties across the state have received calls about businesses that are non-essential staying open, indicating confusion over which businesses should be staying open and which should not. (Kansas City Star)

Construction continues in St. Louis, but builders face uncertainty elsewhere
While many other sectors have shut down for the time being, construction workers are still on the job in St. Louis. But construction firms operating across multiple states are experiencing difficulties due to variations in how states interpret whether construction is essential. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Administrative leave to end for UM System employees
Employees of the University of Missouri System who can’t work from home or on-site won’t be receiving administrative leave after Sunday, UM System administrators announced Monday. (Columbia Missourian)

St. Louis funds raise $3.4M for COVID-19 relief
Local residents and businesses have raised more than $3.4 million for the local COVID-19 Regional Response Fund and the Gateway Resilience Fund, which are both administered by the St. Louis Community Foundation. A panel of public health experts helps decide who gets funding. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis banks contribute money to emergency fund for small businesses
Ten local banks have put $500,000 into a zero-interest loan fund for small businesses hurt by COVID-19. The fund, organized by the St. Louis Development Corp. and the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, will offer loans of up to $5,000 to be repaid within two years. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

KSDK parent to introduce furloughs
Broadcaster Tegna, which owns more than 65 stations across the U.S., including KSDK in St. Louis, announced temporary pay cuts of up to 20% for some managers due to decreased advertising revenues. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis startup seeks app ideas for COVID-19 relief
The local startup, Adalo, is tasking users to create apps that will help connect community members with local businesses to help sustain them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The winner will get free access to Adalo’s technology, which is designed to help non-coders make apps. (St. Louis Business Journal)

UMSL student wins $15,000 for app
University of Missouri-St. Louis student Emily Haas’ idea for Plan-To-Plate, a meal planning app, won first place in the university’s Entrepreneur Quest competition, hosted online this year. She will advance to face winners from the other UM System schools in another pitch competition later this month. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Say that again

“Right now professional drivers are busting their butts to take care for the nation. Their hard and personal sacrifice should not include their health or even their lives if at all possible or preventable.”

That’s Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Grain Valley-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, in a need letter to President Donald Trump. In the note, Spencer warned of a potential supply chain paralysis amid the COVID-19 pandemic, The Kansas City Star reports. Spencer said truck drivers are being forced to haul essential goods into increasingly dangerous areas with little to no protective gear or the ability to get tested, treated or self-quarantine if they get sick. He warned that if these needs are not met soon, drivers may choose to stay home. “Small-business truckers and professional drivers are the vital link to it all, putting their lives on the line for the good of the nation,” the letter said. The association has requested increased access to COVID-19 testing for drivers. Spencer also proposed potentially setting up quarantine and triage for drivers in motels.

Go figure


According to Square, that’s how much merchant sales on its payment processing platform dropped in the St. Louis area last month, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The company compared the weeks of March 2 and March 9 with the week of March 23, when the region’s stay-at-home order took effect. The beauty and personal care category took the brunt of the sudden drop, with local sales down 80%. “It’s an enormous bite,” Square economist Felipe Chacon said. “You’re getting two out of every three businesses being shuttered at that point.” Yet some of these businesses are adapting, the company said, with online and phone sales up 138% for the same period, including a 537% jump in the local food and drink sector. Chacon added that these boosts from takeaway services definitely help businesses, but it’s not enough to make up for the “incidental visits” they would get if not under a shutdown order.

Hello, my name is

Alberici Constructors

This construction arm of one of the largest private firms in St. Louis has donated $500,000 backing the region’s largest hospitals, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Three local nonprofit hospital systems will share the gift: BJC HealthCare, Mercy and SSM Health. The funds — made through the Alberici Foundation — are intended “to support front-line workers” tackling the coronavirus outbreak daily, Alberici Constructors President Greg Hesser said Monday in a statement.

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


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