Missouri Minute: Kansas City OKs $8.2 billion in incentives for data center; Evergy to shutter coal plants

Hello, MBA readers,

As more Missourians become vaccinated against COVID-19, wide disparities in vaccination rates are emerging across the state. Vaccines have never been more available, with all residents 16 and older eligible to be vaccinated and a growing number of clinics offering walk-in service. Still, some communities — often in rural areas — are lagging behind. To address that, officials are shifting their focus from mass vaccination sites to smaller clinics and mobile operations to reach people. As health officials work toward more widespread vaccinations, the aviation industry is betting on increased consumer appetite for air travel. Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier at Kansas City International Airport, is adding or resuming flights to nine U.S. cities from KCI as part of a system-wide expansion this summer. Some of the destinations, including Miami, are new routes, while others, such as Portland and San Diego, are routes that had been cut because of the pandemic. Plus, as the Missouri Legislature embarks on the final two weeks of its annual session, lawmakers appear unlikely to approve a bill that would allow expanded gambling in the state. Legislators have blamed an impasse among key stakeholders for dooming that plan. However, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz said he remains committed to addressing the unregulated video slot machines proliferating in gas stations across the state.

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Speaking Startup: Balancing books, business and basketball
Growing up in a single-parent household with a mom she describes as “the epitome of a businesswoman,” Jonaie Johnson knew from a young age that she wanted to run her own business. In high school, Johnson hatched the idea for a connected device to enable busy dog owners to monitor and interact with their pets remotely. Now a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, she is the founder of Interplay, a startup developing that device. When she’s not studying or working on her startup, she’s playing guard for the UMKC women’s basketball team, which she led in assists last season. The latest episode of the Speaking Startup podcast features a conversation with Johnson about her startup’s progress and her experiences balancing books, business and basketball.

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Kansas City OKs $8.2 billion in incentives for data center
The Kansas City Council approved an incentive package to be granted over 37 years to developers of Golden Plains Technology Park, which will cover nearly 900 acres. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Evergy to shutter coal plants
The Kansas City utility is planning to close two coal-fired plants within the next nine years. The move comes as the company attempts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2045. (Kansas City Star)

Waddell & Reed closes on $1.7 billion sale
Macquarie Asset Management finalized its acquisition of the Kansas City-area financial services firm Friday. The deal eliminates about 20% of the 1,100 full-time positions at Waddell & Reed headquarters and moves $76 billion to Macquarie management. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Southwest adding flights from KCI
The airline will expand service from Kansas City International Airport, with five routes that were cut during the pandemic being restored and another four new flights being added. (Kansas City Star)

Gambling bill likely dead, but push to ban gas station slot machines continues
Although a measure to expand gambling in Missouri is unlikely to pass in the final two weeks of the legislative session, Senate leadership continues to push for a crackdown on gas station slot machines. (St. Louis-Post Dispatch)

Seaboard purchases California plant
The company has agreed to acquire an idled ethanol plant in California for $28.3 million. The Kansas City-area conglomerate operates multiple renewable fuel plants in the Midwest, but it hasn’t indicated plans for the new property. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Missouri Technology Corp. evaluating role and mission
The private-public partnership is looking to create a report laying out a data-driven strategy for promoting entrepreneurship in the state. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis-area CEO pay sees small dip
A look at 19 St. Louis-area companies revealed that the median pay for their chief executives fell 3% from 2019 to 2020. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Construction starts on new Ranken Technical College location
The technical college broke ground on a location in Ashland that will cost $6 million and aims to train more skilled workers for mid-Missouri. (Columbia Missourian)

Lake St. Louis project to break ground in June
Construction is set to start next month on a 156-unit multifamily development by Chesterfield developer Mia Rose Holdings. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Michigan company buys KC affordable housing complex
Fourmidable, a Michigan-based company, acquired the 142-unit Alcazar Apartments for an undisclosed price. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Schmitt threatens suit against St. Louis County
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has threatened to sue St. Louis County for not relaxing COVID-19 restrictions. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page gradually eased restrictions through April, and new rules are expected to be announced Monday. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Say that again

“It’s very important that our coworkers see that our leaders from the very top support and are also engaged.”

That’s Crystal Smith, Ameren’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, reflecting on the importance of executive engagement in the company’s inclusion efforts. The St. Louis-based utility was one of 21 Missouri companies that received a 100% rating in this year’s version of the annual Corporate Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign. The index measures companies’ policies, benefits and social responsibility, particularly to the LGBTQ community. Many of the Missouri companies recognized for creating equal and inclusive workplaces share similarities, ranging from supportive leadership teams, to regular training sessions, to prominent employee resource groups.

Go figure


Even as federal health officials said Friday that 100 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, there is a large disparity in vaccination rates across Missouri. The gap between the county with the highest vaccination rate and the lowest is 33 percentage points, The Kansas City Star reports. The gaps separating low- and high-vaccination areas could lead to some counties becoming almost fully vaccinated while others continue to deal with coronavirus hospitalizations. Overall, 37% of Missourians have started vaccination, far from the 70% to 90% vaccination rate experts say is needed to achieve herd immunity.

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Springfield’s biggest annual event, the Route 66 Festival, will return in August, the Springfield Business Journal reports. After being canceled last year because of the pandemic, the event that pays homage to Springfield’s historical ties to the highway expects to draw more than 80,000 people. The festival is slated for August 13-14, barring any major surges in local COVID-19 case counts and assuming continued vaccination rate increases. This year, the event will include a classic car show, parade, concerts and more.


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