Missouri Minute: State rushes to test food workers; Parson to release reopening guidelines

Good morning, MBA readers,

State lawmakers are back in Jefferson City this week, tasked with sending the state’s budget for the next fiscal year to Gov. Mike Parson by May 8. They will look to trim some $700 million from the $30 billion budget initially proposed by Parson, the top Republican budget official said last week, bracing for steep declines in revenue due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While lawmakers return to the Capitol halls, the state’s universities continue to operate remotely, which is taking a toll on small businesses in college towns like Rolla. And as graduation looms for seniors in Rolla and at other schools across the state, two St. Louis entrepreneurs have devised a way for members of the Class of 2020 to accept their diplomas via robot.

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As lawmakers resume budget work, uncertainty over federal aid looms
The state remains in the dark as to how much federal stimulus Missouri will get to make up its budget shortfall, further hindering efforts to pass a state budget by the May 8 deadline, Gov. Mike Parson said. So far, the governor has withheld about $227 million in state spending due to pandemic’s blow to the economy. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Parson to release reopening guidelines this week
The governor is expected to release a plan this week detailing rules for the state’s reopening on May 4. Local leaders will be able to add their own restrictions to the guidelines. (St. Louis Business Journal)

State rushes to test thousands of food processing workers
Missouri’s health director says the state has implemented a new strategy to quickly test thousands of people working at meatpacking and food plants across the state, including those without any symptoms. The move comes after positive COVID-19 tests by at least 42 people at a Conagra frozen meals plant in Marshall; 21 workers at Burgers Smokehouse in California, Missouri; and 16 employees at a Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph. (Associated Press)

Missouri lawsuit blaming China for COVID-19 damages draws mixed reception
Some argue that Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s latest case is “anti-Chinese” in nature, potentially putting the state at odds with one of its biggest trading partners. Others, like Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst, support the idea of challenging U.S. dependence on trade with China. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Springfield businesses brace for rocky return
As state and local officials plan to relax restrictions on businesses, many business owners in the Springfield area still face considerable uncertainty. For businesses like 4 by 4 Brewing, summer is one of the busiest times of the year, but that’s not the expectation this summer. (Springfield News-Leader)

T-Mobile’s Legere leaves board early
Former T-Mobile CEO John Legere left the company’s board effective immediately on Friday “to pursue other options.” Legere, who helped orchestrate the wireless carrier’s acquisition of Sprint, had previously agreed to serve out his term on the board of New T-Mobile until June 4. (Kansas City Business Journal)

St. Louis CEOs face pay cuts
At least five local public companies have cut pay for executives as they furlough and lay off employees. CEO Charles Gordon and two other executives at Chesterfield-based Aegion are forgoing their entire salary during the pandemic, which was about $700,000 for Gordon. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

North St. Louis has seen fewer SBA loans than other parts of the city
Over the past three decades, lenders have awarded fewer and fewer loans through the Small Business Administration in north St. Louis, compared to other parts of the city. For some, this could mean it’s more difficult for a business to obtain payroll relief loans since most banks distributing these loans are working with existing clients first. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Missouri S&T hopes to hold classes in the fall
Citing data suggesting the state hit its peak in COVID-19 cases more than a week ago, officials at Missouri University of Science and Technology hope the school will be ready to reopen for regular classes by August. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Long-contested bluff development now underway in St. Charles
Developer NT Home Builders has begun work on a subdivision including 221 homes overlooking the Katy Trail in St. Charles. The 48-acre project, which county officials approved last September, has faced widespread opposition from local residents, environmental groups and the county’s planning and zoning commission. (St. Louis Public Radio)

St. Louis entrepreneurs pitch robot-led graduation ceremonies
Linda Williams and Bryon Pierson are pitching a futuristic solution to graduations delayed due to COVID-19: Graduates can “walk” at their ceremony by remotely navigating a robot to receive their diploma. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Say that again

“I don’t know if we will be able to reopen when this is over. I hope so, but I just don’t know.”

That’s Jose Martinez, owner of Taco and Burrito Express, a new taco shop that opened in Rolla just weeks before the implementation of widespread restrictions due to COVID-19, St. Louis Public Radio reports. The shop, which served inexpensive margaritas and tacos, briefly tried offering curbside pickup but ended that because most of its customers — college students — had left town. Martinez isn’t sure the shop will be able to open again once the pandemic subsides. Rolla’s businesses could be especially hard hit by the pandemic, with many students who attend Missouri University of Science and Technology moving home with the shift to online classes. Additionally, cuts to Missouri S&T’s budget for this fiscal year won’t do the 20,000-person town’s economy any favors, since the school is the largest employer in the area.

Go figure

$2.2 million

That’s how much the Deaconess Foundation pledged Friday to support equitable COVID-19 relief in St. Louis through partnerships with local black-led nonprofit organizations, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The foundation, a St. Louis-based ministry of the United Church of Christ, will take applications for the money in an attempt to lessen the gap between black and white communities when it comes to the impact of COVID-19. The initial rounds of funding will go to local relief efforts being run by black women. United Way of Greater St. Louis and The St. Louis Regional Health Commission will receive the first $500,000 of the foundation’s funding.

Hello, my name is


That’s the name of a diabetes drug currently being used in a medical trial to test its impact on treating COVID-19 complications, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Led by principal investigator Dr. Mikhail Kosiborod through Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and drug company AstraZeneca, the trial will test the drug’s effects on 900 COVID-19 patients who are sick enough to require hospitalization but don’t need to be on ventilators or in ICU treatment. The purpose of the trial isn’t to see if the drug, marketed in the U.S. as Farxiga, will cure or treat COVID-19, but whether it helps treat some of the deadly complications of the coronavirus. The drug helps regulate blood glucose levels in diabetes patients, a high-risk category for the virus.

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


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