Missouri Minute: Retail sales increase again; judge awards KC tenants $52 million

Hello, MBA readers,

As you go about your Thursday business, consider a trio of important economic figures. First: the state unemployment rate. Unemployment in Missouri rose last month for the first time since surging to a pandemic high back in April. The rate increased to 7% in August from 6.9% in July. However, some industries, including food service and retail, continued to add back more of the jobs that were lost at the onset of coronavirus-related shutdowns. The retail sector has not only added jobs in the state, but also has seen national sales rise for a fourth month in a row. Retail sales grew 0.6% in August, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Wednesday, down slightly from July’s growth rate. While retailers are reporting growth, many sectors are reckoning with negative numbers amid the continued financial stress of the pandemic. In higher education, University of Missouri System officials met this week to discuss how the pandemic is affecting financial decisions at their four universities. And that brings up the final figure: 4,503. That’s the number of UM System employees who have been laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic, and the system’s financial chief said some temporary personnel cuts could become permanent if conditions don’t improve.

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Judge awards $52 million KC apartment tenants
The tenants of Ruskin Place Apartments in Kansas City were awarded the damages in a suit against an affiliate of T.E.H. Realty, a landlord facing complaints of substandard living conditions at low-income complexes across the Midwest. The judgment is believed to be the largest ever obtained on behalf of Missouri tenants. (KCUR)

Proposed bill would give St. Louis County Council more say in coronavirus spending
Currently, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has ultimate authority to distribute CARES Act funds, worth nearly $175 million. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Federal transportation grants to fund St. Louis upgrades 
Nearly $21 million will go toward upgrading Mississippi River port facilities, and another $8 million will improve the Jefferson Avenue-Parnell Street corridor. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Charles County voters, election judges not required to wear masks in November
Judges will be required to have a mask on hand, although they will not have to wear it. Masks will be available for those who ask for one. (St. Louis Public Radio)

US retail sales rise for 4th straight month; growth slows
Retail sales in the country rose by 0.6% last month, which was slower growth than in July. (Associated Press)

Columbia businesses, organizations offer learning pods
As Columbia Public Schools starts the year virtually, various facilities in the city are offering space and adult supervision for students to attend remote class for $150 per child per week. (Columbia Missourian)

Historic Shanley Building in Clayton officially saved
Developer BalkeBrown Transwestern has unveiled its $85 million plan to build an eight-story apartment and retail complex and preserve the historic building after an 18-month battle against an original proposal that would have demolished the building. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Wichita firm to redevelop Sprint Campus
Occidental Management will rename the Kansas City-area campus, renovate existing buildings and add up to 2.7 million square feet in new structures. Plans call for multi-family housing, retail space and restaurants. (Kansas City Star)

Contaminated north St. Louis site to become golf course and academy
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis will take over the Carter Carburetor property, and the Gateway PGA Reach Foundation will help with development. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis event software startup Curate acquires California firm
Curate, which provides management tools for event vendors like caterers and florists, is buying BloomTrac, which also makes software for event florists. (St. Louis Business Journal)

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The city of Columbia reported about $1.7 million in sales tax revenue for August. Although that was slightly higher than the same month the past two years, Columbia has seen an overall decrease in sales tax revenue this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“As I work with all four of our universities, I don’t think there’s any one of them that would say they’re not feeling significant pressure from the financial realities we face.”

Ryan Rapp, the University of Missouri System’s chief financial officer, addressed the pandemic’s effect on financial decisions at a meeting Tuesday, the Columbia Missourian reports. He spoke about the financial strain the four-campus system has faced since the start of the pandemic. The system has made 368 layoffs, 3,719 short-term furloughs and 416 long-term furloughs. The system has also implemented 4,200 temporary pay decreases. These numbers were discussed at the meeting, and Rapp said the temporary money-saving measures regarding personnel could become permanent.

Go figure


Missouri’s unemployment rate increased slightly in August, up from 6.9% in July and more than double the August 2019 rate of 3.2%. Before August, the unemployment rate had decreased for three consecutive months after surging to 10.2% in April, driven by coronavirus-related job losses. The state’s biggest monthly employment gains in the private sector came in accommodation and food services, which gained 3,100 jobs, and retail trade, which added 1,400 jobs.

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That’s Blake Miller, CEO of Kansas City-based smart home software startup Homebase.ai, thanking the KC Tech Council for awarding him the No Coast Tech Connector of the Year award. The council has announced the winners of all its annual No Coast awards, which celebrate the achievements of “trailblazers” within the Kansas City technology scene. Kathy Busch, chair of the Kansas State Board of Education, won Tech Champion of the Year. Olathe, Kansas-based device maker Garmin won Outstanding Contribution to Tech. Jenna Beckett of Centriq Training won Tech Educator of the Year.

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Center for Defense Medicine

BioSTL, an organization focused on advancing health care innovation in the St. Louis area, has received a $1.5 million grant to establish the Center for Defense Medicine. The center will develop medical technology for the military, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The grant from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration will allow the new center to help startups that develop medicines that could be used on soldiers, or help the U.S. defend itself against war tactics related to health — such as radiation or chemical attacks. The center will give grants to such companies, and provide coaching and training.

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


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