Missouri Minute: Evergy adds to board; Spire seeks to ‘unify’ natural gas prices

Hello, MBA readers,

Under pressure from an activist investor, Evergy continues to evolve. The Kansas City-based utility has announced leadership changes that include the addition of two members to its board and alterations to the composition of a key board committee. The company also finalized a deal to allow investment firm Bluescape Energy Partners to buy $115 million worth of common shares. Elsewhere in the energy sector, Spire, the St. Louis-based natural gas utility, has sent a proposal to Missouri regulators to “unify” prices across the state. The plan was submitted before last month’s energy crunch and soaring gas prices, but it could alter the way customers across the state are billed when supply shortages like that arise in the future. And, as Black banks across the nation gain momentum, First Boulevard, a digital bank based in the Kansas City area, has passed an early milestone. The bank, which was founded with the goal of bringing financial services and products to Black Americans, has raised $5 million in seed funding.


Stay alert

Spire proposal could lead St. Louis customers to pay more
Well before last month’s winter storm that sent natural gas prices soaring, the utility proposed a plan that would unify prices across the state. That could mean last month’s cold snap affects more customers’ gas prices. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Evergy adds to board, issues $115 million in stock
The Kansas City-based power company added two people to its board and altered its finance committee in a deal with activist investor Elliott Investment Management and Bluescape Energy Partners. Bluescape also purchased about $115 million in newly issued common shares of Evergy. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Veterans United Home Loans sees rapid growth in St. Louis
The Columbia-based VA lender opened a St. Louis location last year and originally said it hoped to add 85 jobs in the area. It has hired more than triple that number. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Federal regulator cites Grandview manufacturer after worker dies
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Peterson Manufacturing failed to protect its employees from contracting COVID-19. (Kansas City Star)

EDCKC makes $80,000 in grants to Black-led nonprofits
The Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City issued nine grants of $5,000 or $10,000 apiece to businesses and organizations that have suffered because of the pandemic. (Startland News)

Perficient COO takes on president role
Tom Hogan will retain his current position but add a new title at the St. Louis IT firm. He takes over for Jeffrey Davis, who will continue as the company’s CEO and chairman. (St. Louis Business Journal)

MTC opens applications for two co-investment programs
Applications for the Missouri Technology Corporation’s TechLaunch and Seed Capital programs will be open until April 5. (Startland News)

Arch Express names new chief operating officer
Patrick Barry, former president of the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club and St. Louis FC, will take on the role for the courier service. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Say that again

“Coronavirus was that big nasty right-hander that just threw one high and tight and knocked you down. You got to get back up, dust yourself off, get back in the batter’s box, and figure out how you’re gonna hit this sucker.”

That’s Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, reflecting on the legacy of the Negro Leagues during their 101st anniversary. The museum was supposed to hold large celebrations last year for the leagues’ 100th anniversary, but COVID-19 put a halt to many of those plans. However, Kendrick said a hallmark of the Negro Leagues was resilience, and the museum has tried to embody that quality in its response to the pandemic.


Go figure

180%

The cost of lumber has risen 180% since last April, and the high cost and low supply of lumber are hurting homebuilders’ ability to get homes on the market, according to Will Ruder, vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City. As a result, nine out of 10 homebuilders expect prices to be the biggest challenge of the year, and 80% are apprehensive about material shortages and slow deliveries, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Increased lumber costs are tied to a number of factors that have snowballed over the last few years. The reasons include the destruction of forests in wildfires, tariffs imposed on lumber imported from Canada and hurricane damage to lumber mills.


Hello, my name is

First Boulevard

This Overland Park, Kansas-based bank is among a number of digital banks that have emerged across the U.S. in recent months with a mission of serving Black Americans, TechCrunch reports. First Boulevard, co-founded by Donald Hawkins and Asya Bradley, has raised $5 million in seed funding from Barclays, Anthemis and other investors. The bank is hoping to empower Black Americans, who wield $1.4 trillion in spending power but have been underserved by the financial services sector.


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