Missouri Minute: University executive roles to be merged; KC considers new COVID-19 restrictions

Good morning, MBA readers,

Following COVID-19 outbreaks at several meat processing plants, a labor union representing employees at chicken processing plants in Missouri and five other states has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and local unions allege a policy of quicker poultry processing endorsed by the USDA puts workers at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. The pandemic has also created problems for workers involved in the processing of unemployment benefits. The state has been so overwhelmed by surging unemployment claims that the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has signed an emergency contract to outsource some of the backlogged claims to an outside company, Ernst and Young. Elsewhere, Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes continued a month of big-money moves. Within weeks of signing a record contract with the Chiefs, Mahomes has joined the ownership group of the Kansas City Royals.


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Missouri chicken processing plants among those involved in a union lawsuit
Unions representing chicken plant workers in six states, including Missouri, are suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture over a policy allowing birds to be slaughtered more quickly, because they say it endangers workers and allows for the spread of COVID-19. Plants in the state have been the location of outbreaks of the virus. (Associated Press)

St. Louis development plan to focus on Black middle class, population loss
The city’s economic development department has said it will restructure around the new plan, released Tuesday. The plan identifies rebuilding the Black middle class, stemming population loss on the north side of the city and shifting away from a “developer-driven” focus as some ways to improve economic development. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Top university executive roles to be merged
The University of Missouri System Board of Curators on Tuesday approved combining the roles of president of the UM System and chancellor of its flagship campus in Columbia. Mun Choi will fill the combined role, giving him a level of authority unmatched since the UM System was formed in the 1960s. (Columbia Missourian)

Missouri awards emergency contract to help handle surge of unemployment claims
Overwhelmed by unemployment claims due to the pandemic, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has awarded Ernst and Young a $9 million contract to help review its processing system. The company is helping set up a 125-person call center to catch up on the backlog of claims. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Wash U nears development of blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease
Washington University in St. Louis has been developing a blood test to screen for Alzheimer’s after developing a technique that detects protein linked to the disease. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

13 Kansas City-area stores to close after bankruptcy 
Ascena Retail Group, the parent company of women’s retailers including Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant, has filed for bankruptcy protection. The group will close over 1,600 stores, or about half of its properties across the U.S., including 13 in the Kansas City area. (Kansas City Business JournalUSA Today)

Kansas City considering new COVID-19 restrictions
Kansas City may join St. Louis in implementing new COVID-19 restrictions, particularly by reducing indoor seating capacity and mandating that bars close earlier. (Associated Press)

Busch Stadium graduation ceremonies canceled for St. Louis Public Schools 
The St. Louis Department of Health has canceled ceremonies scheduled to take place in the stadium Thursday because of rising numbers of coronavirus cases and new restrictions on crowds imposed by the city. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Say that again

It is almost impossible to plan for (COVID-19). Nobody can predict exactly how broad and far-reaching its effect will be.”

That’s Matt Barton, CEO of the Missouri Association of Insurance Agents, commenting on the unpredictable state of affairs that the pandemic has caused for insurers. Many enterprises have been forced to go out of business by the recent economic downturn, but most insurance plans do not cover those kinds of losses. That has caused many insurance agencies in the state to see lower profits from their clients’ inability to pay. Some are even facing lawsuits from clients who believe their losses should be covered. Some states have considered passing laws that mandate this kind of coverage, which could be detrimental for the insurance industry, as most policies were not priced to cover losses of the magnitude seen during the pandemic.


Go figure

7.2%

That is last week’s percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases from all testing conducted in Boone County, the Columbia Missourian reports. Just two weeks earlier, the rate was more than double that, at 16%. The only change enacted during that period was Columbia’s adoption of a mandatory mask requirement. Health department officials are attributing this decrease in cases to the effectiveness of masks at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. They are hopeful that the number continues to decrease until under the level of 5%, deemed a safe level of positivity by public health officials.


Send tweet

Earlier this month, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed the richest contract in professional sports history. On Tuesday, the 24-year-old football star revealed how he’s spending some of that money: buying a stake in the Kansas City Royals. Mahomes’ latest move drew a range of responses on Twitter — including some of the humorously self-effacing variety, like the tweet above from sports journalist Jordan Cicchelli. Mahomes joins an ownership group, led by Kansas City energy entrepreneur John Sherman, that purchased the baseball team last year. The quarterback said he looks forward to deepening his roots in the Kansas City community, which he said will be helped by his role with the Royals. Mahomes has longstanding ties to baseball: He played in college, and his father was a pitcher for various Major League Baseball teams for more than a decade.


Hello, my name is

Inventr

This St. Louis startup is currently participating in the third cohort of the XX accelerator program, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The San Francisco-based accelerator is following the theme “Fight the Virus” for the cohort of 15 companies. The three-month program offers opportunities for these startups to obtain mentorship and capital through crowdfunding campaigns. Inventr makes technology designed to automate the patent process for other early-stage technology companies.


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


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