Missouri Minute: Cerner cancels annual convention; legislators OK bill restricting punitive damages

Good morning, MBA readers,

Local, state and federal officials are forecasting a lengthy path to recovery as the economy attempts to rebound while the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Local officials across Missouri are reining in budgets and bracing for bigger cuts. In Kansas City, they are modeling various scenarios from a “light recession” to a “worst-case” downturn. At the state level, with more than 530,000 Missourians filing for unemployment in eight weeks and economic shocks being felt across the state, the top economic development official said full recovery from the outbreak will “take years.” Nationally, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said additional government spending will be needed “but worth it if it helps avoid long-term damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”

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Weekly unemployment claims decrease again, still dwarf pre-pandemic levels
About 31,000 people in Missouri filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the state labor department. That was the lowest number of filings in nearly two months, but it was nearly triple the highest weekly total from the couple months before the COVID-19 pandemic set in. (MBA)

Bill restricting punitive damages heads to Parson
The bill, passed by the state Senate on Tuesday, would award punitive damages only to plaintiffs who can prove with clear and convincing evidence that the defendant harmed them with “deliberate and flagrant disregard.” (St. Louis Business Journal)

Cerner cancels one of KC’s largest annual conventions
North Kansas City-based Cerner is moving its annual Cerner Health Conference online this fall, marking another blow to the region’s battered tourism and hospitality industry. The event brings about 14,000 people each year to the Kansas City Convention Center. (Kansas City Star)

Commercial real estate index drops to all-time low
A prominent commercial real estate sentiment index dropped to 45 from 57 in recent months. It’s the first time since the index began in 2016 that it has dipped below 50, indicating belief that unfavorable market conditions are coming within the next 12 months. (Puget Sound Business Journal)

VA contractor to furlough, lay off more than 200 in KC
TriWest Healthcare Alliance is furloughing 191 workers in Kansas City and laying off another 17 there due to the pandemic. The company is contracted through the Department of Veteran Affairs to provide private-sector health care for veterans. (KCUR)

Two St. Louis-area malls to reopen
West County Center and South County Center will reopen Monday. CBL Properties, which owns the malls, said it will restrict group gatherings and conduct regular temperature checks on mall personnel. (St. Louis Business Journal)

MU campus to gradually reopen next week
University of Missouri officials on Wednesday announced additional details of a plan to bring a limited number of faculty back to campus next week. Currently, the school plans to reopen for on-campus classes in the fall, but officials advised faculty and staff to be ready to quickly pivot back to remote teaching. (Columbia Missourian)

MSU board to vote on innovation center expansion
The Missouri State University Board of Governors is set to vote Friday on a $13.9 million deal to add 30,000 square feet of space to the Jordan Valley Innovation Center in downtown Springfield. (Springfield Business Journal)

Springfield family sues retailer for selling bullets used in murders
A lawsuit filed this month claims that Texas-based Academy Sports + Outdoors illegally sold the bullets used in a trio of murders in Springfield in 2018. The family of one of the victims claims that a local store was negligent in selling bullets to the accused killer without checking whether he was legally permitted to own ammunition. (Springfield News-Leader)

Branson budget down 54%
The city of Branson this week issued an update on its fiscal year 2020 budget, which shrunk to $13.2 million in general funds from $20.4 million, based on the assumption that no sales tax revenue will be recorded from March through July. (Springfield Business Journal)

Bushnell sues California contractor
The Overland Park, Kansas-based manufacturer of optical products is suing a Palo Alto engineering firm, claiming the firm’s failure to deliver on contractual obligations inflicted more than $5 million in damages. (Kansas City Business Journal)

City Foundry STL taps local celebrity chef to curate food hall
Developers of the anticipated dining destination have hired Niche Food Group, led by local celebrity chef Gerard Craft, to provide culinary direction at the food hall. (St. Louis Business Journal)

KC barbecue restaurants get financial aid from charcoal maker
Jones Bar-B-Q and Gates Bar-B-Q each received $10,000 from Kingsford, the leading maker of charcoal in the U.S. The company awarded financial aid to 25 restaurants nationwide to be used however they choose. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Student sues Wash U for tuition refund after pandemic shut down campus
A first-year business student at Washington University in St. Louis sued the school to recover about $28,000 in tuition and fees for the spring semester, which was moved online due to the coronavirus outbreak. The university has stated that tuition will not be reimbursed because students will be able to complete their coursework online. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Krilogy promotes new partner
The St. Louis-based wealth management firm has named Andrew Shenberg as its eighth partner. Founded in 2009, Krilogy has more than $1 billion in assets. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Say that again

“I think we have to be realistic about the long road that’s ahead here. It’s going to take years, frankly, to fully recover from the effects of this thing.”

That’s what Rob Dixon, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said Tuesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Speaking to the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Dixon warned that the state may need to make more “hard choices” during the last six weeks of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, due to shrinking state revenue. He also noted that it took five years for state revenue to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. “The virus is not going away anytime soon,” Dixon said during a different briefing Tuesday. He expects Missouri’s unemployment rate for April will be similar to the national rate of 14.7% when state numbers are released in a few weeks.

Go figure

$292.5 million

That’s how much spending Kansas City could have to cut over the next six years in a new worst-case scenario recession outlined by city staffers, The Kansas City Star reports. The city’s budget office on Wednesday presented its newest projection to a City Council committee, after members asked for a less optimistic report. In reality, “the result will probably be somewhere in the middle,” said Scott Huizenga, the city’s budget director. For now, it is hard to tell exactly how much the city will have to cut from its budget, officials said, but they expect to have a clearer picture by July or August.

Send tweet

That’s Mayim Bialik, the neuroscientist and former star of “The Big Bang Theory,” promoting an online class as part of a partnership with St. Louis-based Varsity Tutors. The online education company has launched a new series of lectures taught by celebrities, from Bialik to Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman to astronaut Leland Melvin. Enrollment in Varsity Tutors’ Virtual School Day program has blossomed to over 100,000, up from 30,000 a month earlier, the St. Louis Business Journal reports.

Hello, my name is

Date Lady

This Springfield-based company has signed a new deal to expand its product line to Target, the Springfield Business Journal reports. Founded in 2012, Date Lady makes date-based products ranging from syrup to chocolate spread to caramel sauce. Owner Colleen Sundlie said she started out selling at stores like Whole Foods that focus on natural and organic products. “Now, we are finding that more mainstream shoppers are looking for those same natural and organic products in mass retailers,” she said. The new deal put Date Lady products in more than 750 Target stores nationwide effective this week.

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


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