Hello, MBA readers,
Despite Missouri opening eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to all residents 16 and older, vaccinators have reported hundreds of unfilled appointments across the state. In an effort to raise awareness of the vaccines and get Missourians to fill empty appointment slots, the state is slated to launch a $5 million advertising campaign next month. The campaign will use TV, radio, social media and print to promote vaccination efforts and dispel misinformation about vaccines. Elsewhere, cafe-bakery chain Panera announced it has phased out in-house delivery operations during the pandemic. The St. Louis-area company is now fully reliant on third-party food delivery services such as Grubhub and UberEats. And, for those hungry for more food news out of St. Louis, the startup Hungry Planet announced that it has raised $25 million for planned expansion. The company, which makes plant-based meat alternatives, took on capital from a group of investors including Post Holdings, the packaged goods maker based in the St. Louis area.
Missouri to begin $5 million COVID-19 vaccination campaign
The promotional campaign will provide vaccination information through TV, radio, social media and print. Vaccinators last week reported hundreds of openings for appointments around the state, so policymakers hope the campaign will push more people to be vaccinated. (Associated Press)
St. Louis startup Hungry Planet raises $25 million
The producer of plant-based meat alternatives will use the funds to expand distribution and keep pace with rising demand. St. Louis consumer packaged goods company Post Holdings led the financing. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Panera ends in-house delivery operations
The Sunset Hills-based bakery-cafe chain will continue to offer delivery services through third-party providers like DoorDash and Uber Eats. Some analysts say the move could reflect staffing shortages. (St. Louis Business Journal)
KC-area dairy company investing $44 million to expand plant
Overland Park, Kansas-based Kansas Dairy Ingredients is doubling the size of a facility in southwest Kansas. The company is led by CEO Brent Davis, who owns Springfield-based Bristol Manufacturing. (Springfield Business Journal)
Hawley raises roughly $3 million despite election challenge controversy
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley brought in the big first-quarter fundraising total despite criticism over his challenge of the 2020 election. Business groups were largely absent from the haul. (Springfield News-Leader)
Senate cuts funding for St. Louis school program
Lawmakers say the program appears to allocate funds to the Opportunity Trust, a nonprofit looking to expand charter school options in the city. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Say that again
“There’s just this sort of Wild West of Class II operations, that they can do anything they want and nobody knows about them unless they get caught.”
That’s Tim Gibbons, spokesman for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, expressing concern about a lack of state regulation for certain concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. “Class II” facilities are a smaller category of CAFOs, housing fewer than 10,000 swine under 55 pounds. Gibbons represents a group that advocates against factory farms and wants stricter standards for Class II facilities. CAFOs in the state have been a source of mishaps like spills and contamination, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, but the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has largely taken a hands-off approach to Class II facilities, which are typically inspected once every five years. Regulatory efforts have been limited by a 2019 bill signed by Gov. Mike Parson prohibiting counties from enforcing health and safety rules that are stricter than state rules. Environmental groups assert that the state legislation doesn’t offer adequate protection against health hazards.
Invenergy, the company developing the Grain Belt Express, has acquired about 40% of the land it needs in Missouri and Kansas to build the power transmission line. Backers say the project would move 4,000 megawatts of wind energy per year across the Midwest and save nearly $13 million annually for municipal utilities in Missouri. They also say the line would help prevent scenarios like the rolling blackouts experienced amid frigid temperatures in February. Despite pushback from legislators and landowners, Chicago-based Invenergy continues to acquire the rights it needs to run the line from western Kansas to Indiana. Landowners will be compensated 110% of market value for use of their land, the company says, but some landowners and lawmakers believe the Grain Belt will benefit the private firm more than the public.
Arch Grants is building the future STL economy through extraordinary entrepreneurs, and #BofA is helping accelerate this positive impact in our community! We’re thrilled to announce a new 4-year $1M partnership with @BankofAmerica to support MORE early-stage startups in #STL pic.twitter.com/Pq3b9Lctqp
— Arch Grants (@ArchGrants) April 19, 2021
Arch Grants on Monday announced a four-year, $1 million partnership with Bank of America to fund businesses founded by Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. The nonprofit was established to attract startups to the St. Louis region and help them grow there by providing $50,000 grants to early-stage businesses. The $1 million contribution from Bank of America comes as part of a larger $1.25 billion initiative to help close the racial economic divide in the country, the St. Louis Business Journal reports.
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When Kansas City comic book creator Juaquan Herron kept missing conventions to share and sell his work, he decided to create VenBoo, an app that notifies vendors of events and allows them to book a spot in conventions, Startland News reports. The app, which is still under development, also aims to make it easier for comic creators to determine a profitable price for their product. Herron and his business partner, Rodney McDuffie, received backing from Digital Sandbox KC, which helps early-stage entrepreneurs vet their ideas. With some comic conventions expected to return this summer, Herron and McDuffie are planning a beta launch of their app in the next few months.