Missouri Minute: Ameren closes deal for wind farm; pharmacies prep for COVID-19 vaccine

Hello, MBA readers,

The fate of a $900 billion pandemic relief package passed by Congress on Monday remained uncertain on Thursday morning. Federal programs introduced earlier this year as part of the first wave of COVID-19 aid are set to expire over the next week if President Donald Trump does not sign the new bipartisan plan. In Missouri, an agricultural product immortalized in a Christmas carol has seen a resurgence in recent years. Chestnut farming is on the rise in the state and across the country, reviving a slice of the agriculture sector that was once on the verge of disappearing. Also bringing an economic boost to rural Missouri, especially this year, is hunting. The activity has seen increases in participation during the pandemic, and some small-town businesses in the state have pivoted to take advantage.


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Ameren closes deal for northeast Missouri wind energy center
The 175-turbine High Prairie Renewable Energy Center in Adair and Schuyler counties is expected to produce enough energy to power the equivalent of 120,000 homes in 2021. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Missouri pharmacies pour energy into vaccine preparations
More than 23,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Missouri so far, representing extraordinary efforts by state officials and pharmacists behind the scenes. (MBA)

Missouri Senate leader proposes state gas tax increase 
Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz wants to increase the state’s gas tax, currently one of the country’s lowest at 17 cents per gallon, by 2 cents a year for five years. (WDAF)

MU to require COVID-19 testing for returning on-campus undergrads
The University of Missouri is implementing the policy as a safety measure for the start of the spring semester in January. It applies to undergraduate students living on campus. (Columbia Missourian)

Clayton aldermen approve mixed-use development
Called Bemiston Place, the project will include about 11,000 square feet of retail space, 236 apartment units and 346 parking spaces. (St Louis Post-Dispatch)

RD Solutions earns $5.5 million government contract
The U.S. Department of Defense awarded the contract to the Kansas City company as part of a national initiative to promote manufacturing. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Connections to Success hires new CEO
The St. Charles nonprofit focused on supporting economic independence has hired Ruth Lee to replace Kathy Lambert, who helped found the organization. (St. Louis Business Journal)


Say that again

“At a time when everything’s not about the money, looking at my husband doing something he loves and watching him smile while he’s at work and having a good time, that is also worth a lot.”

That’s Lois Noland, who owns Noland’s Catering in Macon with her husband, Sonny, talking about how their business’ pandemic pivot has brought joy during a difficult time. When demand for their catering business dried up because of COVID-19, the Nolands decided to take advantage of an industry thriving in their northeast Missouri town — hunting. Now, the caterers also grind and process sausage for hunters. The Nolands don’t generate as much income from the sausage business as they did from catering before the pandemic, but it has helped them endure a difficult stretch for their business and provided plenty of non-monetary benefits.


Go figure

78%

Between 2012 and 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a 78% increase in the number of chestnut farms in the country. The industry is growing in Missouri as well, and in the same time frame the number of chestnut farms in the state grew from 34 to 59. Chestnut trees used to thrive all across the U.S., with the nuts becoming a staple of American diets and even gaining a place in Christmas carol canon thanks to the opening line of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” However, a blight of the trees eventually eliminated most of them, threatening the industry reliant on them, the Columbia Missourian reports. Now, chestnuts are starting to make gains, and some Missouri farmers see the benefit because the trees use much less farmland than other crops, despite the fact that they take extensive time to mature. If the industry continues to grow, Missouri could have a strong hold on a valuable crop.


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The $900 billion federal stimulus package approved by Congress on Monday still remained in limbo early Thursday, lacking the signature of President Donald Trump. Direct payment amounts are a major sticking point for the president. Trump has called for the legislation to give $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans, an increase over the $600 per person approved by Congress, the Associated Press reports. This comes after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin negotiated the relief package on Trump’s behalf and supported the $600 plan. Democrats responded to Trump by saying Republicans had stood in the way of larger direct payments. House Democrats on Thursday attempted to pass legislation approving $2,000 checks, but they were rebuffed. Cori Bush, a St. Louis Democrat who will represent Missouri’s 1st Congressional District in the House starting in January, joined others on Twitter in voicing support for larger direct payments.


Hello, my name is

Junior Bridgeman

The name might be familiar to sports fans, but this week Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman is making headlines in the publishing arena. Bridgeman is a former NBA player whose business interests today include the Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling company in the Kansas City area. He also led an investment group that submitted the winning bid to buy Ebony Media Operations out of bankruptcy, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. The bankrupt publisher produces Ebony Magazine, which has focused on Black communities and figures since it was established in 1945. Bridgeman Sports and Media bid $14 million for the company.


Word to the wise

PPP fatigue

A second round of the Paycheck Protection Program could see fewer loans and fewer lenders than the first round, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. This could be because of what some people are calling “PPP fatigue.” The rollout of the first round of the small business loans was fairly chaotic, lending experts say. Plus, shifting regulations and rules about loan forgiveness may deter lenders who were involved in the first round of PPP loans from participating in the program again. Gerri Detweiler, education director at small business lending platform NAV, said that lenders have already shifted back to their core lending products, so generating interest again might be difficult. This could mean there are fewer loans available for small businesses despite the relief package Congress approved this week calling for more than $284 billion of PPP funding.


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



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