Missouri Minute: Germ-X manufacturer to expand in St. Louis; state spends stimulus to help tourism

Hello, MBA readers,

The status of additional federal relief for businesses and individuals reeling financially from the coronavirus remains uncertain. Following a string of tweets from President Donald Trump, White House officials said they would cease negotiations on a larger relief package until after the election, but that more targeted aid is still on the table. Markets reacted unfavorably to the news about a broader stimulus package, as only hours before that announcement, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had warned of dire consequences if no agreement was reached. At the local level, too, elected officials continued to grapple with decisions at the intersection of the pandemic and business. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have prompted two of Missouri’s largest cities to extend health orders. In Columbia, bars and restaurants will still be required to close at 10:30 p.m. In Springfield, a mask mandate for public venues has been extended into 2021. Some changes brought about by the pandemic have become permanent, including a shift to remote work for a prominent St. Louis employer. Ascension, the nonprofit health system, announced many of its 1,200 St. Louis-area employees will work remotely from here on out.

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Hygiene products manufacturer to invest, add jobs in St. Louis 
Vi-Jon, the personal care products manufacturer best known for its Germ-X hand sanitizer, said it will add 400 jobs and invest $70 million to expand facilities in St. Louis and Tennessee. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Missouri spends federal stimulus to protect tourism industry amid pandemic
The state has distributed more than $2 million of a planned $15 million in federal aid for tourism groups that have been hit by the loss in revenue due to business closures and travel restrictions. Many used the funds for protective gear and marketing. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Columbia City Council ratifies health order extension 
The city will extend a health order that requires bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to close by 10:30 p.m through Oct. 20. (Columbia Missourian)

Springfield extends mask mandate 
People will have to continue wearing face coverings in public spaces through early January. (Springfield Business Journal)

AMC Entertainment to keep most theaters open 
The Leawood, Kansas-based cinema operator made the announcement after Regal Cinemas said it would temporarily close theaters due to the financial strain of the pandemic. AMC has delayed the release of highly anticipated movies in recent months, but it said big debuts are scheduled before year’s end. (Reuters)

Ascension announces permanent work-from-home arrangement for St. Louis employees 
The St. Louis-based health care system said that most of its 1,200 area employees will work remotely for good. The decision could have ripple effects on the office space market in the area. (St. Louis Business Journal)

State fights to keep planned park in southern Missouri
The Missouri Attorney General’s office said the state will appeal an Oregon County judge’s order to sell 625 acres of land along the Eleven Point River. The land, part of a planned 4,200-acre state park, is covered by a federal easement. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Fruit sold at Walmart recalled
Country Fresh is recalling sliced fruit sold at Walmart stores in nine states, including Missouri, after a possible risk of listeria contamination. (USA Today)

Private equity firm acquires majority stake in St. Louis IT company 
New York private equity firm MidOcean Partners announced that it has invested an undisclosed amount in St. Louis-based IT service provider InterVision Systems. Executives said InterVision is mapping out growth plans with the new funding. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Massachusetts firm to acquire St. Louis IT consultancy
Eliassen Group, a consulting firm based in the Boston area, is acquiring Ferguson Consulting, a St. Louis consultancy that specializes in app development. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Airshare sees growth opportunity in demand for private flights
The Kansas City-area company, which offers private flights through fractional ownership and membership programs, is seeing business take off as the pandemic drives interest in travel featuring minimal contact with strangers. Requests for private flights have jumped 75% nationally, while booking bumped up by 25%, a report shows. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Say that again

“Everybody says, ‘OK, I want this heater.’ But you can’t find it. They’re just not available.”

That’s Christy Schlafly, president of Ford Hotel Supply, speaking about the recent spike in demand for outdoor heaters and the subsequent shortage that has resulted from it, St. Louis Public Radio reports. Schlafly, whose St. Louis business supplies local bars, restaurants and hotels with equipment, said she can’t keep up with demand for the heaters. Many restaurants responded to the pandemic by turning to outside seating options during the summer months. But, as cooler temperatures begin to set in, it will become less feasible to seat customers outdoors. Though there is talk of allowing restaurants in the city of St. Louis to fill to 75% of their capacity in the future — up from 50% currently — that still limits potential revenue. Some restaurants have considered erecting tents around outdoor patios, but they will still need to keep them warm — and heaters are in short supply.

Go figure

$2 billion

Ford’s Kansas City Assembly in Claycomo contributes $2 billion to the area’s gross domestic product, according to a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group. The factory is the largest in the Kansas City area, employing 7,250 workers, and it manufactures more vehicles than any other Ford factory on the continent, The Kansas City Star reports. Executives from the Detroit-based automaker visited the plant on Tuesday to promote the launch of Ford’s new F-150 pickup truck model. After a brief break for retooling, the plant will begin producing the redesigned truck. Additionally, as a result of the pandemic, Ford has produced personal protective equipment during the past few months. The company said it plans to donate 100 million face masks nationally, including 1 million to be distributed through Kansas City-area nonprofits.

Hello my name is

UMSL Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Accelerator

Launched by the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ entrepreneurship program, UMSL Accelerate, this new accelerator aims to address economic disparities in the St. Louis region by supporting startups founded by diverse entrepreneurs. The goal of the accelerator is to assist entrepreneurs that come from marginalized communities whose early stage startups are making a positive difference in underserved areas. Winners of the accelerator will receive $50,000 in funding to further their startup, as well as training through a business development program.

Word to the wise

Tool bank

Neighbors in one north St. Louis community looking to establish small urban farms to grow food have established a shared supply of tools for members to use cultivating their own produce. The number of Black farmers in this area has been increasing as part of a growing effort to provide food to members of the community who face financial constraints, St. Louis Public Radio reports. However, many lack the necessary tools to establish these farms and do not have the means to invest in equipment. The tool bank works like a library, allowing farmers to check out the tools that they need and enabling them to establish their operations with fewer overhead expenses.

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


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