Missouri Minute: Hospitals feel financial crunch; Boeing considers workforce cuts

Good morning, MBA readers,

As measures to guard against COVID-19 continue, hospitals are feeling the financial pinch due to elective surgery cancellations and efforts to keep patients away if they don’t need immediate treatment. That means, despite the ongoing public health crisis, some Missouri health care workers are being furloughed, and the state’s hospitals are concerned about mounting losses. On a brighter note for some out-of-work Missourians, people who have been laid off as a result of the crisis could begin to see $600 supplemental unemployment checks from the federal government arrive in their mailbox this week. Plus, the latest episode of the Speaking Startup podcast is live, featuring a Kansas City entrepreneur whose company is aiding an international effort to track the spread of the pandemic.


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Now hear this

Speaking Startup: How to track a pandemic without compromising privacy
TripleBlind, a Kansas City startup that makes security software, has joined an international effort to develop an app using GPS data from mobile phones to track the spread of COVID-19 — without jeopardizing users’ data security. The latest Speaking Startup podcast features a conversation with TripleBlind co-founder Greg Storm about that work. Plus, we look at the state of early-stage investing in the midst of the pandemic.


Stay alert

Missouri hospitals feel financial crunch as virus cases reach 4,100
State officials on Sunday reported 136 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 4,160. The outbreak has triggered a drastic drop in revenue at Missouri hospitals, the Missouri Hospital Association said, with some facilities ending or restricting various non-emergency services. (Associated Press, Springfield News-Leader)

Parson signs coronavirus response bill, creates working group
Gov. Mike Parson signed a supplemental state budget that outlines Missouri’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. He also established a working group, led by State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, to make recommendations on how to best spend federal funds awarded to Missouri. (Columbia Missourian)

State worker union contracts expire as negotiation stalls
Missouri’s labor contracts with thousands of state employees have expired as the state continues negotiating with union leaders. The expired contracts are no longer in effect while negotiations take place. Union representatives have accused the state of “stalling” long before the coronavirus outbreak in Missouri. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Unemployment benefits set to go out this week
The Missouri Department of Labor said it will begin issuing $600 in additional unemployment benefits provided by Congress this week to supplement state benefits. More than 200,000 people have applied for unemployment benefits in the state since the middle of March due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus. (KOMU)

Boeing considers 10% cut to workforce
The aerospace and defense company could reduce its 160,000-person workforce by 10% in a series of cuts that could include buyouts, early retirements and layoffs. Boeing’s defense division employs more than 14,000 people in the St. Louis area. (Wall Street Journal, St. Louis Business Journal)

Cities drained by 2019 flood struggle to respond to pandemic
Some towns along the Mississippi River are already in debt from dealing with devastating floods last year, putting them in a difficult spot in responding to a pandemic. Kimmswick, in Jefferson County, is soliciting donations for protective equipment online. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Bass Pro announces job cuts, pay reductions
The Springfield-based outdoor retailer said it has laid off or furloughed a “significant percentage” of its workforce. Bass Pro also temporarily reduced pay for about 9% of the company, including all executives. (Springfield Business Journal)

Officials hold off St. Louis convention center expansion
City officials delayed a final vote over issuing $105 million in bonds to expand America’s Center downtown, citing worries about piling on debt as a recession sets in. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission warned that more delays would further fuel its cash crunch, as the agency usually draws its funds from hotel taxes. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Following bankruptcy, KC Star parent takes drastic pandemic measures
McClatchy is furloughing about 115 employees across 30 U.S. newspapers, mostly affecting positions in advertising and no newsroom jobs. The company also laid off four executives and will require 4.4% of its workforce to take a 90-day pandemic leave. (Kansas City Business Journal)

KC-area wealth manager adds $126 million in assets with new deal
Overland Park, Kansas-based Creative Planning has acquired Coe Financial Services, a Wichita, Kansas-based registered investment adviser with $126 million in assets. The deal is Creative Planning’s sixth acquisition in the past year. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Car dealer’s job cuts hit St. Louis area
Georgia-based Asbury Automotive Group has furloughed 134 employees at seven car dealerships in Creve Coeur and O’Fallon due to the coronavirus pandemic. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Construction continues, but owners push back opening of St. Louis County golf complex
The new owners of the Tower Tee golf complex in St. Louis County say the project is ongoing, but they expect the opening to be delayed past the initial target of fall 2020. (St. Louis Business Journal)


Say that again

“I have found myself in tears more times in the last few weeks than I probably have in my entire life. It is gut wrenching thinking about people I feel responsible for.”

That’s Jeremy King, co-owner of The Watering Bowl, on how his St. Louis-based dog day care company has fared during the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The company, deemed “non-essential,” had to close its four area locations, furloughing all but six of its 118 employees. The company had been trying to boost revenue before the coronavirus hit, through a number of initiatives such as a new website, CBD oil for dogs and more training. Now, King and his co-owner are waiting until the end of the local stay-at-home order to decide how to move forward. They hope to open immediately once allowed and phase in services in stages.


Go figure

67%

That’s how much the state’s hotel occupancy was down for the week ending March 28 compared with last year, the Associated Press reports. And, according to the Missouri Division of Tourism, travel spending in the state was down $242 million. Surveys indicate that some people are postponing trips, while others are canceling them altogether. At the Lake of the Ozarks, which often holds a number of conferences during April and May, restaurants, hotels and bars are largely empty, according to tourism director Tim Jacobsen. In Branson, another state tourism hotspot, shows at Silver Dollar City are canceled. In St. Louis, people aren’t allowed to ride to the top of the Gateway Arch. The state’s tourism directors are telling people that Missouri is still a great state to visit — just not now.


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Following in the footsteps of film festivals like SXSW and Tribeca, the Kansas City FilmFest International is going virtual in response to the coronavirus. The festival will stream its 90-film showcase online all week for $10, according to an announcement on its website. “It is the support of this dedicated community that has allowed and inspired KC FilmFest International to celebrate the power of storytelling as a shared cultural experience through the cinematic arts for 24 years, and to continue to do so, when this all has passed,” the announcement said.


Hello, my name is

Bob Elsperman

The St. Louis-area construction industry leader died Tuesday due to complications from COVID-19, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. After spending nearly seven decades with his family construction company, Tarlton Corp., Elsperman was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 on March 30. He became president of the company, which has led projects for Washington University, Anheuser-Busch, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Saint Louis Art Museum, in 1972. He first joined the company as a 14-year-old.


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


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