Missouri Minute: GM to idle Wentzville plant amid chip shortage; Ameren solar project approved

Hello, MBA readers,

Following Sen. Roy Blunt’s decision to not pursue another term representing Missouri in the U.S. Senate, the list of candidates vying for his seat continues to grow. This week, two high-profile Republicans have officially launched campaigns. On Wednesday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt publicly declared his candidacy, following former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who announced on Monday. Meanwhile, although Missouri has created a COVID-19 vaccine registration system, many people have experienced issues with it, leading them to seek alternative methods for vaccine tracking. In response to this demand, volunteers calling themselves “vaccine sharks” have stepped up to inform Missourians about available doses. And, amid an ongoing global shortage of microchips used in automobile production, the General Motors plant in Wentzville will shutter for two weeks. It’s not the only Missouri plant to suffer such a shortage, as Ford’s factory in the Kansas City area briefly ceased operations for the same reason.


Stay alert

GM to idle Wentzville plant amid chip shortage
The 3,500-worker plant, which makes midsize pickup trucks, will close the weeks of March 29 and April 5 due to a global semiconductor shortage. (Detroit Free Press)

St. Louis conducting first ‘mega’ vaccination event
The city health department is hosting the event Thursday and Friday at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, aiming to distribute 3,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per day. (KMOV)

Ameren Missouri to start construction on solar facility this summer
State regulators announced Wednesday that the 91-acre Montgomery County project is approved. It’s expected to generate 12,000 megawatt hours per year, or enough to power about 1,100 homes. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Missouri gas bills could rise up to 25% from February freeze
Gas utility Spire said prices for western Missouri customers could increase by up to 25% if the company recovered cold-snap-related costs in one year, or less if costs are spread out over multiple years. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

States sue Biden administration over oil and gas leasing pause
Fourteen states, including Missouri, are challenging an executive order halting new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. (Reuters)

Edward Jones settles racial discrimination lawsuit
The St. Louis financial services company has agreed to pay $34 million in a suit that alleged Black advisers and trainees were denied advancement opportunities and access to programs. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Missouri House leader proposes tax credits for businesses in states of emergency
Under the proposal, which comes in response to local pandemic shutdown orders, businesses forced to close could receive tax credits worth up to $50,000 per year. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

State lawmakers push for permanent daylight saving time
Business owners have told lawmakers that people don’t go out to shop or eat as much when it is dark earlier. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Startup CoverCress raises $8 million to roll out new crop 
The Creve Coeur-based company, which is developing a cover crop that can be used as animal feed and to produce fuels, has raised $8 million in investments led by agribusiness giant Bunge. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Community Builders of Kansas City begins affordable housing project
The organization is set to fix up 80 housing units for the $12.6 million project on the city’s east side. (Kansas City Star)

Whataburger plans to hire 700 in Kansas City area
The new hires will staff four new locations of the Texas-based burger chain opening in the area later this year. (Kansas City Business Journal)


Say that again

“The truth is, we have a 60 day lifespan if something doesn’t change. The Northeast News is produced every week on a shoestring budget.”

That’s Abby Hoover, managing editor of The Northeast News, writing about the difficulties the hyper-local weekly newspaper has been facing and the doubts she has about the longevity of the publication, The Kansas City Star reports. The Northeast News recently published an issue with a blank front page, which was meant to symbolize the “potential future of hyper-local news providers.” A story in the paper, which covers Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood, appeals to the community for support and to the paper’s lost advertisers to bring back their business.


Go figure

300%

Food banks in Missouri spent 300% more on food purchases this January than they did for the same month last year, according to Scott Baker of Feeding Missouri, which operates a network of six food banks. Many Missourians remain underemployed, and this has created greater demand for food banks, KCUR reports. For Feeding Missouri, obtaining a large enough supply of food continues to be an issue, although the underlying reasons have changed. Rather than a lack of transportation or an issue of general availability, it is now becoming an issue of the cost to obtain the required amounts of food. Additionally, in the early stages of the pandemic, donors were more conscious of food banks’ needs and gave generously. However, more recently, food banks have seen donations decrease.


Send tweet

I am fighting every day to protect and defend our constitution. As Missouri’s AGI have fought alongside President Trump to defend election integrity, champion pro-growth economic policy, and protect our energy independence. #MOSen

— Eric Schmitt (@Eric_Schmitt) March 24, 2021

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt posted a thread of tweets as he announced his official bid for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt in 2022. This pits Schmitt in the Republican primary against former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who announced his candidacy earlier this week. Both men officially launched their campaigns on Fox News, running on similar campaign platforms focused on priorities laid out by former President Donald Trump. As attorney general, Schmitt has garnered attention for cases including lawsuits against China in the early months of the pandemic, against President Joe Biden’s election win, and against regulations the Biden administration has enacted to reduce greenhouse emissions.


Hello, my name is

StepNpull

This Springfield-based company known for its creation of a foot-operated door opener is headed to pitch its product on the popular television show “Shark Tank,” the Springfield Business Journal reports. After the onset of the pandemic, the company reported a massive increase in demand as people sought to reduce contact with shared surfaces like door handles. That demand has remained consistent, the company said. Whether there is high demand from “Shark Tank” investors for a stake in the company remains to be seen. The episode will air on April 2.


Word to the wise

Vaccine Sharks

This is the name adopted by a group of volunteers in Missouri who use their free time to locate available doses of COVID-19 vaccines and connect them to people who need them. This particular group has about 10 people who volunteer, but there are dozens more doing similar work across the state. This has arisen as many people bypass the state’s centralized system for vaccine registration. The state launched its Missouri Vaccine Navigator in February, after many providers had already developed their own localized systems, leading to many vaccinators not using the state-run site. In the early stages of vaccine rollout, kinks in the process led to wasted doses. Though there have been improvements, complaints persist. That offers an opportunity for the Vaccine Sharks to continue providing assistance.


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