Missouri Minute: Unemployment claims hit new pandemic lows; Panera unveils revamped store design

Hello, MBA readers,

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be relaxed and lifted, the labor market is showing gradual signs of improvement. Weekly unemployment claims nationally and in Missouri once again hit their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic last week. Nationally, the figure dropped to 440,000. In Missouri, initial claims fell below 6,500. The new numbers follow decisions in recent weeks by many states to cut federal pandemic unemployment benefits starting in June. Also emerging from the pandemic is a new look for Panera. The Sunset Hills-based restaurant chain has unveiled plans to revamp its bakery-cafes. The new design will focus more heavily on digital ordering, and it will emphasize drive-thru service and to-go options. St. Louis developers also look to be in for a change, as new Mayor Tishaura Jones turns a critical eye to development subsidies. A meeting over the mixed-use City Foundry development was pushed back amid ongoing negotiations. Jones previously vetoed property tax abatements on two other properties in the city’s central corridor, saying the incentives were too generous and that the developers should come back and renegotiate the deals.

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City Foundry development incentives face delays
The $138 million second phase of the mixed-use project in St. Louis’ Midtown neighborhood had a hearing over incentives delayed, becoming the latest development to draw pushback from the administration of Mayor Tishaura Jones. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Panera unveils new store design
The Sunset Hills-based bakery-cafe chain is redesigning its restaurants to offer more digital and contactless ordering and put increased emphasis on drive-thru service. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Spire looks to increase rates
The gas utility is seeking $300,000 from customers to cover fees from a multimillion-dollar discrimination lawsuit. That’s part of a larger proposed rate hike aimed at increasing revenue by $64 million annually, or about $3.28 per month for typical St. Louis customers. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Milhaus plans $55 million KC apartment complex
The Indianapolis-based company is planning another Kansas City project, unveiling plans for a 224-unit apartment building in the Volker neighborhood. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Curators approve MU indoor football facility
The $33.4 million practice facility was unanimously approved by the University of Missouri System Board of Curators. (Columbia Missourian)

Branson lands largest of $18.8 million in state grants
The Missouri Department of Economic Development is awarding 29 grants to help communities become more resilient in the face of disasters. Branson’s $5 million is earmarked for a flood wall around a waste treatment plant. (Springfield Business Journal)

Playscape will open in Forest Park
After two years of construction at the St. Louis park, the $5 million playscape will open June 2. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Branson tiny-home project receives federal grant
The tiny-home community Elevate Branson has received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (Springfield Business Journal)

Say that again

A lot of people ask me, would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I would do it 10 times over. … Even if it makes you look bad, it’s good for business. Because, like they say, there is no bad publicity.”

That’s Dani Davis, owner of the St. Louis bar and restaurant Crafted, which appeared on an episode of “Bar Rescue,” a show in which celebrity entrepreneur Jon Taffer turns around struggling bars. Davis said her bar wasn’t failing at the time, but she decided that the national exposure and chance for a rebrand was too good to pass up. Entrepreneur-focused shows like “Bar Rescue,” “Shark Tank,” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” have become a staple of American television. And though different shows produce different outcomes for the businesses that appear on them, almost all entrepreneurs who appear on the small screen report a big boost in business from heightened publicity.

Go figure


Missouri saw its lowest weekly unemployment claims since the onset of the pandemic, with the figure dropping below 6,500 for the week ending May 15. The local numbers mirrored the national trend, as the number of claims across the U.S. fell to a pandemic low of 440,000, the Associated Press reports. That’s still significantly higher than historical averages. Claims have now fallen five of the previous six weeks nationally. This week, the drop in claims corresponded with a decision by 22 states, including Missouri, to terminate federal pandemic unemployment aid starting in June. Recipients had been able to receive $300 of federal aid on top of the amount their state paid out, but states moved to end that cushion, with many citing concerns about businesses struggling to attract workers.

Hello, my name is

Grant Burcham

Former Missouri Bank & Trust CEO Grant Burcham is now the chief executive and chairman of CyTek, Startland News reports. He acquired the Kansas City-based IT support and services company with Ryan Tillman, who formerly worked at Cerner. Tillman is the president of CyTek. The tech company was founded in 1998 and works with small and mid-sized companies, like medical practices and law firms.


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