Missouri Minute: Children’s Mercy furloughs workers; Bass Pro reopens flagship store

Good morning, MBA readers,

Some Missouri counties are following Gov. Mike Parson’s lead with plans to lift their local lockdown orders after May 3. Other parts of the state are waiting longer. St. Louis and St. Louis County have extended their stay-at-home orders indefinitely, and Kansas City will keep its order in place through at least May 15. Similarly, some of the most prominent businesses based in the area have taken divergent approaches to reopening. Springfield-based outdoor retailer Bass Pro Shops, for instance, restarted operations at its flagship Springfield store on Thursday with new restrictions in place. On the other hand, AMC Theatres, the Leawood, Kansas-based cinema operator, plans to wait until at least July before reopening theaters nationwide. And even then, AMC executives have said, it will be difficult to predict box office performance.

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Speaking Startup: The big investor pitch moves online
For 20 years, the InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum has provided an annual opportunity for Midwestern startup founders to pitch in front of a room full of investors. This year, that room full of investors is moving online. InvestMidwest is teaming up with the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium to host a series of startup pitches and investor meetings over the internet. Phyllis Ellison, executive director of InvestMidwest, joined this week’s Speaking Startup podcast to discuss the process of taking the event online, and what ramifications COVID-19 might have for early-stage investment.

Stay alert

Despite health objections, Missouri counties plan to reopen economies
Clay County has joined a wave of areas around Kansas City rolling back their stay-at-home orders and reopening business as usual starting May 4. Local and regional health officials warn that it is too early to walk back these measures. Meanwhile, St. Louis city and county have extended their shutdowns indefinitely. (Kansas City Star)

Feds say employers can test workers for coronavirus
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Thursday said companies may require workers to test for COVID-19 before entering the workplace. Mandatory medical testing is typically prohibited by the American with Disabilities Act, but is allowed if it is “job related and consistent with business necessity.” (Reuters)

Missouri worker sues Smithfield over COVID-19 exposure on the job
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by a plant worker, alleges that the way Smithfield Foods operated its plant in Milan, Missouri, contributed to the spread of COVID-19 there. The suit claims Smithfield failed to provide workers with sufficient protective equipment while forcing them to work shoulder to shoulder and with no ability to take a sick leave. (KCUR)

Children’s Mercy furloughs 575 workers amid ‘crushing’ financial loss
The employees will be furloughed for up to two months beginning Sunday due the the COVID-19 pandemic, which is costing Children’s Mercy about $1 million a day. Surgeries and outpatient visits at the hospital dropped 70% as non-emergency patients are encouraged to stay home. (Kansas City Star)

AMC won’t reopen theaters until July
The Leawood, Kansas-based cinema operator plans to wait until at least July, when new blockbuster films are slated for release, before it reopens thousands of theaters nationwide. Executives are still unsure how theaters will do upon reopening or how many moviegoers should be allowed inside at a time. (Bloomberg)

O’Reilly Auto reports first-quarter earnings dip
The Springfield-based auto parts retailer reported a 6.5% drop in first-quarter net income, to about $300 million, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Springfield Business Journal)

KC’s small business relief program hits surprise roadblock
The Kansas City Council approved $500,000 for the program in March, but the Economic Development Corporation said it was surprised by a new contract from the city suggesting it would have to come up with additional funds. Mayor Quinton Lucas said city staff would meet with the EDC to help the agency get ready to process applications for loans from local businesses. (KCUR)

Springfield hotels hit ‘rock bottom,’ official says
The local hotel industry hit “rock bottom” during the first full week of April, with just 21.2% occupancy citywide compared to 88.1% a year ago. Room revenue was down 76.4% to about $547,000, according to the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau. (Springfield Business Journal)

UM System president ‘less optimistic’ about fully reopening this fall
University of Missouri System President Mun Choi said Thursday to a faculty group that a range of scenarios are possible for the fall semester, but that he is “becoming less optimistic about the fall to open fully.” A day earlier, he said in an email to the campus community that he expected a return to in-person classes for the fall. (Columbia Missourian)

SLU braces for coronavirus potential job cuts
Saint Louis University cannot overcome the pandemic “without reducing our payroll costs,” President Fred Pestello said Thursday, telling faculty and staff this could mean cuts to benefits or salaries, or even positions. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis nursing home workers demand protective gear, paid sick leave
A number of St. Louis nursing home workers joined the SEIU Healthcare Missouri union this week, calling on nursing homes in the state to provide paid leave to employees who are forced to quarantine due to COVID-19. Employees are also demanding hazard pay, more protective equipment and better access to testing. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Local competitor absorbs Gold’s Gym members in St. Louis
Club Fitness, which operates 24 gyms across the region, has agreed to take on Texas-based Gold’s Gym’s local members as it exits the St. Louis market. Gold’s Gym permanently closed all 10 of its facilities in St. Louis last week, citing underperforming locations prior to the pandemic. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Bass Pro partially reopens flagship store
The Springfield-based outdoor retailer has reopened its central Springfield store on a limited basis nearly a month after its temporary closure. The store will provide same-day curbside pickup for online and phone orders, and allow in-store sales of firearms and accessories. (Springfield Business Journal)

MU business school suspends MBA program
The University of Missouri will suspend its Crosby MBA program until fall 2021 due to dwindling enrollment. Administrators attributed MU’s drop in residential MBA enrollment due to the rise in fast-tracked, online programs as well as master of science programs, reflecting a nationwide decline in traditional MBA programs. (Columbia Missourian)

New $43 million sports complex moves ahead in KC, despite financing concerns
The Kansas City Council advanced a financing plan this week for a proposed $43 million soccer complex, sending it before the full council meeting next week. Some city council members questioned the prudence of financing such a project — which would use new tax subsidies — before knowing the full economic impact of the coronavirus. (KCUR)

Guaranty reports flat earnings amid PPP lending drive
Springfield-based Guaranty Federal Bancshares reported $2.1 million in net income for the first quarter, down 1% from a year ago. As of Thursday, the bank has issued $49 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans. (Springfield Business Journal)

Prime pays for Cox Health’s new pandemic wing
The Springfield-based freight firm has donated $700,000 to finance the new COVID-19 unit at the Cox South Hospital. (Springfield News-Leader)

Frontenac, St. Louis County Library settle dispute over $20 million development
The two parties agreed to reduce the size of a planned $20 million facility in Frontenac by 3,520 feet and close the facility to the public. Since January, the city had spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal and public relations fees to halt the project, which was originally conceived to house the county library’s history and genealogy department. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Say that again

“Missouri is the most restrictive state in the nation. A lot of states right now, because of COVID-19, have taken all barriers away.”

That’s JoAnn Franklin, a Missouri nurse practitioner for over 40 years, who argues the state could, and should, relax more rules restricting how nurse practitioners can provide care amid the pandemic, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Nurse practitioner like Franklin go through more training than registered nurses and generally have at least a master’s degree, providing the same primary and specialty care as doctors. Yet Missouri and other states require that nurse practitioners work under a physician’s oversight, which some say constricts access to health care in even normal times. Missouri has lifted some of these rules in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but physicians still need to review a percentage of a nurse practitioner’s medical charts when they prescribe controlled substances. The Association of Missouri Nurse Practitioners has sent Gov. Mike Parson multiple letters, asking him to waive the collaboration rule altogether as it is “preventing hundreds if not thousands of health care providers from offering care in accordance with their training.”

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That tweet is part of Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley’s big announcement this week: a bill restricting universities’ access to federal pandemic relief funds. The proposed bill, Hawley said, would instruct the Department of Education to withhold federal relief funds from universities “with massive endowments” unless the schools have spent part of their endowment funds to cover the expense of the coronavirus pandemic. The move echoes a concern expressed earlier this week by President Donald Trump, who chastised Harvard University for taking $8.6 million in federal relief funds it received. Since then, a number of top universities have said they would not take any federal relief money. Virtually every college in Missouri has made or is considering staff or pay cuts as the pandemic wreaks widespread financial damage. The University of Missouri System is facing a budget shortfall that could be as high as $180 million.

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This longtime Ballwin-based furniture and appliances retailer has filed paperwork for an $11.5 million initial public offering, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. In its preliminary prospectus, Goedeker’s outlined a growth plan that includes expanded marketing and operating hours, and efforts to speed up shipping. Amid a devastating pandemic, Goedeker’s business model offers an unusual level of security: More than 90% of its sales are made online, where it offers over 200,000 products. Goedeker’s reported $47.6 million in net sales and a net loss of $2.5 million in 2019, down from the net income of $2 million on $56.3 million in sales a year earlier. The company began in 1951 as an electronic repair business run by Ben Goedeker. Goedeker’s was sold last April for $6.2 million to 1847 Holdings, a New York firm that is spinning off the retailer.

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


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