Missouri Minute: Mayors, business groups push for online sales tax; rural banking index remains low amid pandemic

Good morning, MBA readers,

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed economies everywhere to their limit, with historic numbers of people suddenly out of work. About two and a half months since Missouri’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, some of the pandemic’s most dramatic economic effects are lessening — albeit slowly — as businesses adapt to a new reality. Weekly unemployment claims continue to decline, with new filings decreasing each of the last five weeks. Still, there were roughly 259,000 Missourians who remained on unemployment rolls as of Thursday’s report, more than double the highest total during the Great Recession. In another example of data pointing to incremental improvement from a potential COVID-19 nadir, an index that surveys rural bankers across the Midwest has increased from a historic low, but only marginally. Like the businesses reopening in phases across the state, signs of some economic improvement in Missouri are emerging — gradually.


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Missouri mayors, local business groups push for online sales tax
Mayors around Missouri are urging Gov. Mike Parson to call lawmakers back to pass a bill that would collect sales tax from online businesses selling in the state. Missouri, which stands to gain an estimated $80 million from an online sales tax, is one of just two states without one. Absent such a tax at the state level, business groups in southwest Missouri are seeking a similar measure at the local level. (Kansas City Star, Springfield Business Journal)

Rural banking index remains low amid pandemic
Creighton University’s monthly rural banking index inched up to 12.5, up from April’s record low of 12.1. A score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy, and above 50 suggests expansion. The study surveyed bankers in 10 Plains and Western states, including Missouri. (Associated Press)

Missouri unemployment claims continue to slow as 27,000 more file for benefits
About 27,000 Missourians filed new claims for unemployment last week, down slightly from over 30,000 claims a week earlier and a drastic improvement from over 100,000 weekly claims last month. The most recent figure remains several times higher than typical pre-coronavirus levels. (Springfield News-Leader)

Stifel taps Nasdaq to run new ‘dark pool’ trading platform
The St. Louis-based investment bank has partnered with Nasdaq on a new alternative trading system, or ATS, that is set to launch in June. The ATS would potentially open up untapped opportunities for institutional orders to trade against. (Reuters)

Quest Analytics names new CEO
The health care firm, which moved to Overland Park, Kansas, last year, has tapped Steve Levin as its new CEO. Levin, who most recently served as head of strategy and mergers and acquisitions for Connance, brings 20-plus years of industry experience. (Kansas City Business Journal)

SelectQuote reveals IPO price
The Overland Park-based insurance company plans to offer 28.5 million shares for an opening price of $20 per share. SelectQuote’s initial public offering comes as it looks to hire 1,000 new sales and support staff this year. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Springfield to continue gradual reopening
Officials announced the city will further loosen pandemic restrictions starting Saturday, allowing public gatherings of up to 50 people and using an occupancy formula to prevent overcrowding at businesses. (Springfield Business Journal)

KC delays funding for eviction assistance
The Kansas City Council on Wednesday effectively tabled a vote on a $65,000 contract with the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom to provide legal services to low-income tenants who are facing eviction. The bill will not come up again until the council meets in June. (Kansas City Star)

UMSL to cut pay for most workers
The University of Missouri-St. Louis announced it will cut pay for more than half of its faculty and staff starting June 1, yielding savings of up to $4.3 million. It faces a $4.7 million state funding shortfall for fiscal year 2021. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis-area colleges mull options for reopening campus in fall
Schools across the St. Louis metro hope to resume in-person lectures this fall, after a spring of pandemic refunds and budget cuts. Lindenwood, for example, is considering opening school earlier so students can social distance at home during flu season. Saint Louis University plans to use a “hybrid” model involving both in-person and remote learning. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis ag startup joins Wells Fargo incubator
Pluton Biosciences, which researches soil microbes for agricultural or medical uses, is among six startups that were selected for this year’s Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, a partnership with the Danforth Plant Science Center. Also known as IN2, the program offers up to $250,000 funding and research space to each firm. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Northwest Missouri manufacturer warns it may lay off 85 workers
Forest City-based battery maker Exide Technologies, which is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, has notified the state that it may have to lay off 85 people this summer if it fails to secure a sale of the company. (Missourinet)


Say that again

“Who else is out there like that? And how do we find those tax scofflaws?”

That’s St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, commenting on a proposed back-tax settlement with a wireless telephone company that owes the city over $1 million. The company approached the city through a law firm and wants to settle its debts without divulging its identity before signing the deal, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports. Krewson and Aldermanic President Lewis Reed held up the settlement this week over concerns that the company could owe other kinds of taxes as well, or that possible conflicts of interest could exist. The settlement raises concerns over the number of other companies that could be dodging their payments or withholding large sums. Krewson said the city may consider hiring a firm to investigate that possibility.


Go figure

22%

That is the budget cut that the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission has approved as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports. It brings spending down to $30 million for the 2021 fiscal year, a cut of about $9 million on top of already reduced spending. Revenue for the office is expected to fall by $10.5 million due to dwindling hotel tax revenue, and leaders have warned that even deeper spending cuts may be necessary.


Send tweet

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has asked Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session of the Missouri General Assembly to address “opportunistic COVID-19 lawsuits.” In a press release, the chamber said that “coronavirus liability” is a growing problem in Missouri. The group expressed concern over lawsuits involving individuals who contract the coronavirus and sue the establishments where they believe they were infected, regardless of whether or not the company was following proper guidelines.


Hello, my name is

Husky Corp.

This Pacific-based company believes it has found a new, inexpensive way to manufacture ventilators, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports. The company usually makes gasoline nozzles and other equipment for storing and dispensing fuel. But when COVID-19 increased the need for ventilators, one employee realized Husky could use its products to help. Husky is considering getting a prototype approved by the Food and Drug Administration and selling it in less-developed countries that need cost-effective materials, because the device could sell for $7,500 as compared to $15,000 for similar products.


It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning. Have a good Memorial Day weekend.


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