September 17, 2014

GMC adding 750 jobs to Wentzville plant

General Motors will add a third shift to its plant in Wentzville to make pickups and vans, adding 750 new jobs beginning early next year.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the new shift will bring employment at Wentzville to 3,350 workers. Plant manager Nancy Laubenthal says anticipated demand for two midsized pickups that will be made at Wentzville, the GMC Colorado and the GMC Canyon, played into the decision to increase production there.

This will be the first time the Wentzville plant has had three shifts.

Missouri workers’ comp costs projected to fall next year

Missouri businesses could pay less for workers’ compensation insurance premiums next year.

Missouri Department of Insurance Director John Huff

Missouri Department of Insurance Director John Huff

The Missouri Department of Insurance says insurers are likely to see a 3.7-percent drop in loss costs for claims in 2015. That’s based on a report by the National Council on Compensation Insurance.

Those loss projections are used in the setting of rates by insurers.

Department Director John Huff says that’s good news for Missouri businesses.

“The workers’ compensation market continues to be very competitive in Missouri,” says Huff.

He says the largest driver behind the predicted decline is a reduction in overall medical costs.

“We had some larger claims the last couple of years that cycled into the data and those large claims are coming off of the data,” says Huff. “The good news is, Missouri businesses are continuing to see a decline in the number of claims – the frequency, if you will – is continuing to reduce for businesses, so employees and employers are working together to create safer workplaces.”

Record harvests mean big problems (AUDIO)

In some ways, many Missouri farmers are going to have to deal with too much of a good thing in a few weeks.  But they might soon get some help.

A moist spring, a mild summer, some heat—-they’re adding up to record corn and bean crops, the kind that the phrase “bin buster” was created to describe, not just in Missouri but in the 17 other states that produce 91 percent of the nation’s corn.

Soybean farmers are in the same fix.  The corn and bean harvests are expected to be so large there won’t be room to put them. Prices generally go the opposite way of the harvest.  High harvests, low prices.

University of Missouri Agronomist Bill Wiebold says farmers will store millions of bushels, somehow and somewhere, until prices go up. “We’re going to have to find ways to store it outside.  And outside grain has some limitations in terms of trying to keep the grain quality,” he says.                                 Whatever choice farmers make, they’ll have to worry about keeping bugs and rodents out of their stored grains, and worry about controlling the moisture level of the stored gain.  Wiebold says some of his colleagues in agriculture and engineering hope to have some recommendations  soon.  But time is getting short. Some harvesting already is underway in the Bootheel.

AUDIO: wiebold interview 12:27





Loan program announced to bolster Ferguson businesses impacted by riots, looting

Businesses that have been impacted by unrest following the shooting death of Michael Brown August 9 are being offered no-interest loans. $1-million dollars is being committed to the program, divided evenly among the state’s small business loan program, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and a coalition of St. Louis region banks.

Businesses in a specified area that were affected by looting and vandalism will be eligible for the loans.

“Over the past few weeks some businesses were looted or damaged and there have been dozens of others who have taken a financial hit because of lost customers and lost business,” says Nixon.

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a North St. Louis County native, has been placed in charge of distributing the loans. He says the owners of businesses in the region where looting and rioting occurred are facing challenges they’ve never faced before, but they haven’t backed down.

“With all these businesses not one had said, ‘We don’t think we can make it. We’re giving up,’” says Zweifel. “There’s a sense of optimism and resolve, I think, for most small business owners that we have.”

Governor Nixon says the program is only a first step toward helping spur economic, as well as emotional, recovery in the region.

Chamber applauds bill that redefines ‘misconduct’ becoming law

The state Chamber says a bill that will make it harder to get unemployment benefits will benefit both employees and employers.

The bill changes the definition of “misconduct” in relation to employment, so that it is harder for people to get unemployment benefits after doing things like violating an employer’s rules or even state standards that could get an employer in trouble.

Lawmakers backing the bill gave examples during debate including employees who urinated off of buildings or fell asleep on the job, yet were still able to draw benefits, and said the bill is needed to keep such things from happening again.

Vice President of Governmental Affairs with the Missouri Chamber, Tracy King, says fewer people getting benefits takes pressure off the unemployment trust fund.

“I think this is a common sense first step in what we need to do to try to shore up the unemployment trust fund and the system that’s out there,” says King, “so that it is out there for the people who truly need it.”

King says it was a series of compromises that led to Governor Jay Nixon (D) allowing the bill to become law this year, after vetoing similar legislation the past three years.

“There was some opposition with the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys last year. We worked with them on trying to compromise on this legislation, as well as the unions,” says King. “We felt like we found common ground.

She says the bill also includes language Governor Nixon wanted.

“The Governor vetoed a similar provision last year and in that veto message he stated that he needed some additional language in order for us to be in compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor. We included that this year.”

The bill takes effect August 28.