Missouri Minute: State tops previous monthly COVID case record; Arch Grants executive director to depart

Hello, MBA readers,

The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. The high court blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large private-sector employees on Thursday. The majority opinion argued the administration does not have the authority necessary for such a sweeping public health mandate. Now, vaccine mandate decisions will fall to states and private employers. The court did, however, uphold Biden’s similar mandate for health care workers. As the mandate debate played out in Washington, Missouri hit a new monthly record for confirmed COVID-19 cases. The state reported nearly 129,000 cases in the first 12 days of January — more than in any full month of the pandemic thus far. Experts say that is not likely the peak for Missouri, based on the omicron variant’s behavior in other regions. In startup news, Arch Grants announced a major departure. Emily Lohse-Busch is leaving her role as executive director of the St. Louis-based startup funding organization. Under her leadership, Arch Grants just completed a $21.5 million fundraising campaign for its grant program designed to draw high-growth companies to St. Louis.

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Market Dives: All eyes on indicatorsThe latest episode of the Market Dives podcast continues to look at the business and economic indicators that will help tell the story of 2022. The second episode of this two-part forecast focuses on indicators measuring small business confidenceauto inventories, the housing market and the changing nature of workplaces.

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Workplace vaccine mandate struck downThe U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s vaccination and testing requirement for workplaces but allowed a similar rule for health care workers. (Missouri Independent)Missouri tops previous monthly COVID case recordThe state has reported about 129,000 cases already in January, nearly 3,000 more than the entire month of November 2020, which was the previous record. (Missouri Independent)KC hospitals face high number of COVID absencesKansas City hospitals are looking to bring in retired workers to make up for shortages related to COVID-19 infections among staff. (WDAF)Lawmakers work to define, regulate gamblingThe Missouri legislature once again will consider bills addressing the legalization of sports wagering and what games and systems constitute illegal gambling. (Missouri Independent)State Republicans propose making constitutional amendments more difficultThe proposal would require at least two-thirds of Missouri voters to approve an amendment, rather than the current mark of 51%. (Associated Press)KC-area homebuilder acquired by Atlanta companyLambie Custom Homes was purchased by Grand Oak Builders, becoming the holding company’s first purchase. It will continue to operate under current management. (Kansas City Business Journal)St. Louis developer faced federal scrutiny, report showsThe FBI opened an investigation into NorthSide Regeneration in 2018 for deals that used a Missouri tax credit program that contributed $40 million to the firm and associated companies. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Say that again

“If we don’t innovate, we won’t exist. You don’t want to be the last community bank with a good online presence, just like you didn’t want to be the last guy who owned the company making horse-drawn carriages.”That’s Mitch Baden, CEO and president of University City-based Royal Banks of Missouri. The rise of financial technology companies, or fintechs, is forcing banks across the state like Baden’s to evolve, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Community banks — banks with less than $10 billion in assets — are competing with fintechs that can provide more services to customers. And in a place like St. Louis, where there is a high concentration of community banks, the rise of fintechs is a growing threat.

Go figure

20%That’s the share of newly eligible Missourians that have registered for Medicaid since the program’s expansion was approved by the courts five months ago, St. Louis Public Radio reports. The expansion opened up the health care program to Missourians making up to $18,000 per year, giving access to an estimated 275,000 people. Only 53,000 newly eligible Missourians have have enrolled. Experts said that’s a result of ongoing court battles as well as the pandemic. But, perhaps most importantly, many people just don’t know that they’re eligible. “It’s pretty clear when you compare to other states that we’re not doing as much outreach,” said Tim McBride, a health policy professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “We got started late. And so there’s a lack of awareness going on, despite efforts by a lot of people to try to clean up that awareness.”

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After more than four years at the helm of Arch Grants, Emily Lohse-Busch announced she is stepping down from her position as executive director of the nonprofit. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the organization is now searching the country for her replacement. Founded in 2012, Arch Grants runs a competitive grant program designed to attract startups to St. Louis and help them grow. Last year, under Lohse-Busch, Arch Grants increased its staff and completed a $21.5 million fundraising effort. “I’m excited to see what new heights they can reach in the next phase,” she said.

Hello, my name is

Fidget HeadquartersThats the name of a new branch of the Teacher’s Lounge, a teacher supply store in St. Louis County that’s looking to fulfill the demand for the trending, anxiety-relieving toys. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the store recently opened a second location in the area. With the stress and screens of the pandemic, the business of fidget toys is booming. “Everyone’s searching for the next cool fidget all the time,” Teacher’s Lounge co-owner Scott Gurley said.

It’s been a pleasure doing business with you. Have a great weekend.


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