Missouri Minute: St. Louis approves convention center bonds; Maritz furloughs more employees

Good morning, MBA readers,

As the school year begins across Missouri, the coronavirus continues to complicate plans for educators at all levels. The University of Missouri and Missouri State University, the two biggest higher education institutions in the state, have both reported student infection numbers over 140. MU started classes Monday, and MSU returned last week, and now both join the ranks of universities trying to prevent the spread of the virus as in-person teaching resumes. In primary education, Jefferson City elementary schools have delayed their start date. The reason? The district said its virtual education partner, Springfield-based Launch, faces staffing shortages as it tries to meet increased demand for online education. Also in Springfield, a temporary restraining order seeking to block Springfield Public Schools’ reopening was denied. Several parents sued the district, saying its plan to reopen with a blend of in-person and online education is not accessible to some students with disabilities and special needs.


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Stay alert

St. Louis officials approve bonds for convention center expansion
The city’s Municipal Finance Corp. approved issuing $105 million in bonds for a $210 million expansion of the downtown America’s Center convention complex. The project took years to bring together and recently experienced delays as the city evaluated the economic impact of the pandemic. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Nurses union asks OSHA to inspect workplace safety at HCA hospitals
National Nurses United asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to inspect 17 HCA Healthcare hospitals, including two in the Kansas City area. The union claims HCA failed to notify nurses when they were exposed to the coronavirus and pressured them to work when they displayed symptoms. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Maritz furloughs 49 more employees from Fenton headquarters
The corporate incentives and events company furloughed the workers beginning Friday. Maritz previously announced 475 furloughs that it plans to make permanent in October. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Court rejects restraining order against Springfield schools reopening plan
Several parents of Springfield Public Schools students sued the district, claiming the hybrid program of virtual and in-person classes is not accessible for some students with disabilities and other learning needs. The lawsuit included a temporary restraining order against the reopening, which was rejected, but the parents hope for rulings in their favor as litigation continues. (Springfield Business Journal)

Jefferson City elementary schools delay virtual start to Aug. 31
Launch, the virtual education partner the district is working with, faces staffing shortages due to the unexpected numbers of schools using the program. A decision was made to delay the start of school while Launch finds and prepares teachers. (KOMU)

Enterprise Bank & Trust buys San Diego bank for $156 million
The St. Louis-based bank said it bought Seacoast Commerce Bank largely because of the San Diego bank’s focus on small business lending. Seacoast is the No. 9 Small Business Administration lender in the country, with 75% of its loan portfolio consisting of SBA loans. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Texas restaurant chain plans Kansas City expansion
Fajita Pete’s, a Houston-based Mexican restaurant chain specializing in delivery, catering and carryout orders, will open its first location outside of Texas in Overland Park, Kansas. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Missouri scratch-off lottery ticket sales soar
Scratcher sales increased by 73% in April, May and June, leading sales for the fiscal year ended June 30 to increase by 13%. Lottery officials attributed the boost to the shutdown of many other forms of entertainment. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Springfield innovation center gets loan from community foundation
Community Foundation of the Ozarks announced a $1.6 million loan for the $14.4 million expansion of Missouri State University’s Jordan Valley Innovation Center in downtown Springfield. (Springfield Business Journal)


Say that again

“We need to fund the Postal Service and fight off this attempt to shut them down. The Postal Service goes into every part of the United States that private carriers like UPS and FedEx just don’t go.”

That’s Robert Moran, an alderman in Sheldon, commenting on the importance of the U.S. Postal Service in his southwest Missouri town and other rural communities, The Kansas City Star reports. The pandemic has placed significant financial strain on the post office, and Congress is currently gridlocked over a relief bill that could designate funds to the constitutionally mandated service. In the meantime, some customers report a slowdown in delivery. Delays have an acute impact on rural communities, as does the fate of the Postal Service, which some policymakers are currently trying to privatize. Rural residents of Missouri are less likely to have reliable access to the internet, and they depend on the Postal Service to deliver not only important packages such as medicine, but also the magazines and letters that help keep them connected to the rest of the world. Many small business owners in rural communities also depend on the post office for banking services.


Go figure

159 and 141

More than 150 University of Missouri students had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, the first day of fall classes for the school, according to a new university dashboard. That represents about 0.5% of MU’s student population. At Missouri State University, more than 140 students tested positive last week, which marked the start of classes at the university, the Springfield News-Leader reports. As universities across the country start the fall semester, spikes in coronavirus cases among students throw in-person learning into question. Some schools that planned to offer in-person classes this fall have already shifted back to online learning, such as the University of Notre Dame, because of case counts among students. Neither MU nor MSU has announced a change to its policies as a result of the case numbers.


Send tweet

That’s St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy announcing that she will drop her proposal for a countywide half-cent sales tax to support early childhood education. The bill lost support after uproar over how it was drafted, questions over how revenue would be used and criticism that the tax would disproportionately affect poor people, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Some state representatives went so far as to suggest the proposal could prompt wider investigations into how local governments function.


Hello, my name is

G.I.F.T.

Generating Income For Tomorrow, or G.I.F.T., is a new nonprofit that will award grants to Black-owned businesses in the Kansas City area, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. The grant program was founded by Christopher Stewart in response to frustration expressed by multiple Black business owners over lack of funding and limited access to loans. The nonprofit aims to award 12 grants annually, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, and seeks to focus on businesses in lower-income areas in order to boost job creation and economic growth. Applications for the next grant open Oct. 1.


Word to the wise

Surge morgue

This is a term some used to refer to makeshift morgues built at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in anticipation of the death toll rising so greatly that it would overwhelm hospitals, morgues and funeral homes. Some facilities refurbished for this purpose have seen limited use. In St. Louis County, a $2 million facility had the potential to hold 1,300 bodies, but it has only housed 57 in the past four months, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties shared the cost of the facility, which closed last week.


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



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