Maria Altman

Reporter

Maria is a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio, specializing in business and economic issues. Previously, she was a newscaster during All Things Considered and has been with the station since 2004. Maria's stories have been featured nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on Marketplace.

Maria has won numerous awards, including from the Illinois Associated Press, the Missouri Broadcasters Association, the Missouri Bar Association, and the Missouri State Teachers Association.

She came to St. Louis from Dallas, where she worked at KERA. Maria has also worked at WUIS in Springfield, and WSIU in Carbondale, Ill. She received her M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Illinois-Springfield and a B.A. in journalism from the University of Iowa.

In her spare time she serves as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Maria lives in St. Louis with her husband and two kids.

Ways to Connect

A view of the National Ploughing Championships in Ireland.
Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

In a glass-encased room under a white tent, ag tech startups took to a stage in a pitch competition on Tuesday. It was just a small part of the National Ploughing Championships in Ireland, what is now the largest ag trade show in Europe.

The competition between startups in that small room, not tractors out in the fields, was the reason two St. Louis organizations made the trip to Tullamore, Ireland this week. Both BioSTL and the Yield Lab are looking to plug into the Irish ag tech startup community.

"It turns out that Ireland is jam-packed with innovation," said Donn Rubin, CEO and president of BioSTL.

The Yield Lab, a St. Louis-based food and ag tech accelerator, is planning to expand into Galway, Ireland.

The incubator launched in 2014, investing $100,000 in startups and providing mentorship over a nine-month program. Managing director Thad Simons said part of the reason to create Yield Lab Galway is to gain access to both European startups and markets.

(courtesy Monsanto and Bayer)

Bayer and Monsanto executives are working to calm nerves in St. Louis regarding the planned $66 billion acquisition.

In Wednesday's announcement, Bayer said it will keep the combined company’s seeds and traits business in St. Louis, as well as its North American headquarters.

Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

Developer Paul McKee owns quite a bit of land within the Old North neighborhood on St. Louis’ north side.

But a deal between McKee, the Old North Restoration Group, and the city’s land bank could soon change that.

Earlier this summer the Old North Restoration Group asked an aldermanic committee that McKee release about 65 parcels to the neighborhood before receiving tax incentives for a grocery store and gas station.

Within days McKee and the neighborhood group met.

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

Women are getting more involved in ag tech.

It’s evident at the Ag Innovation Showcase, a conference of agricultural innovators, scientists and investors that takes place annually at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

ChrisYunker | via Flickr

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is planning to fill more than 200 positions over the next two years.

Most of the new positions are due to additional services the St. Louis Fed is taking on for the U.S. Treasury. Kathy Paese, executive vice president over the St. Louis Fed’s Treasury Division, said it’s something most people aren’t aware of.

"We maintain 22 different systems for them and perform a lot of different business operations for them, so much of our growth has been the result of Treasury moving additional functions to St. Louis," Paese said.

(St. Louis Public Radio)

St. Louis-based Peabody Energy will set aside part of the funding it promised toward future mine reclamation in Illinois.

The coal giant reached a settlement with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources this week. The agreement puts “super-priority” status on $12.9 million for mine reclamation in Illinois, placing that funding ahead of other entities with claims in Peabody’s bankruptcy suit.

The motion for the agreement will be heard by a federal judge on Sept. 15.

Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

This story was updated at 4 p.m. Aug. 23 with new comments from St. Louis Development Corporation executive director Otis Williams.

The head of the St. Louis Development Corporation said he will work to keep a business that must move to make way for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's new campus, in business.

SLDC executive director Otis Williams told St. Louis Public Radio on Tuesday that he wants to see Adrienne Harris' adult day care successfully moved into a new building. 

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or one of its many predecessors, has been in St. Louis for more than 70 years and has about 3,000 employees in the city.

Earlier this summer the federal spy agency announced it had chosen a north St. Louis site for its new $1.75 billion campus.

St. Louis Public Radio's Maria Altman sat down with NGA director Robert Cardillo to talk about his vision for the new facility. (The conversation has been edited for length and clarity):

The  $100 million complex has about 1,000 employees responsible for keeping the U.S. Department of Defense's computer network safe.
Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

There's a new, $100 million dollar building at Scott Air Force Base that is keeping the U.S. Department of Defense's computer network out of trouble.

Military and political dignitaries gathered on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the 164,000- square-foot complex that houses the Defense Information Systems Agency's Global Operations Command. It’s the largest cyber operations center in the United States.

Paul Sabelman | Flickr

Property owners filled the courtroom in the old St. Louis Civil Courts Building on Thursday.

It had taken a long time to get to this day.

Several of the residents who lived or owned property within the site of what will be the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new $1.75 billion facility fought to get more money. Others were simply tied up with title issues or liens.

"I’ve been waiting for this day and dreading it," Adrienne Harris said.

Harris runs an adult daycare business out of 2525 Benton St., in the home her mother bought more than 40 years ago.

Brenda Nelson plays a card game with friends on Mullanphy Street during the street's last annual block party on Saturday.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the third Saturday of July neighbors and former residents gathered in the 2300 block of Mullanphy Street in north St. Louis.

That’s when the annual block party always takes place.

But this would be the last one.

courtesy NewLeaf Symbiotics

NewLeaf Symbiotics is growing fast.

Formed in 2012, the startup has nearly 40 employees and has hired four executives in the last year.

The latest executive to come on board is Dr. Janne Kerovuo, the head of Monsanto’s Microbial Discovery Strategy since 2013. He’ll now be NewLeaf’s Vice President for Research and Discovery.

(From the Economic Development Incentives report from the PFM Group.)

Each month the commissioners of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of St. Louis hear request after request from developers and even residents for tax abatements that usually last five to 10 years. 

It's just one of the tools the city uses to spur economic development, but St. Louis officials are taking a look at how those tax incentives are distributed. 

A crew member with Matt's Health Woods & Wildlife plants hybrid poplar trees in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood of St. Louis. Fresh Coast Capital is leasing 42 parcels from the city for an urban tree farm. July 13, 2016
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

A small crew spent Wednesday morning planting poplar trees on several parcels of vacant land in St. Louis’ Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood.

A company called Fresh Coast Capital is leasing 42 parcels from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority for $1 a year. The city will receive about 2 percent of the revenue when the company harvests and seels the hybrid poplar trees in 10 to 12 years.

courtesy of Northside Regeneration

Developer Paul McKee is finally using the Tax Increment Financing approved years ago by the city of St. Louis.

The Board of Aldermen approved a bill on Friday to release $2.8 million in TIF for infrastructure around a proposed grocery store and gas station McKee announced in March. It’s the first time McKee has sought to use any of the $390 million TIF first approved in 2009 for his massive Northside Regeneration project.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill Wednesday tightening laws around a popular economic development tool.

The law is aimed at the St. Louis region, naming St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Jefferson County. It limits the power of municipalities to approve tax increment financing if a county-wide TIF board rejects it.

Nixon signed the bill at a meeting of the regional East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which did a report on the issue.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

A 100-acre site in north St. Louis will be home to the sophisticated, high-tech National Geospatial Agency facility in few years.

At the moment, archeologists are trying to find out how people on the site once lived.

"The whole idea is to understand what people’s lives were in past and get a better feel for that," said Joe Harl, principal investigator for Archeological Research Center of St. Louis.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Land Reutilization Authority owns more than 11,000 parcels in the city of St. Louis.

It’s a land mass roughly the size of Forest Park.

St. Louis has the distinction of having the oldest land bank in the country, created by a Missouri state statute in 1971. It was a response to St. Louis’ quickly shrinking population after reaching a height of 856,000 people in 1950.

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Paul McKee’s Northside Regeneration is wasting little time now that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has officially chosen to build in St. Louis.

The developer announced on Tuesday he’s partnering with CRG Real Estate Solutions and Washington D.C.-based Telesis Corporation to build 500 residential units over the next five years.

Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis city officials told about 200 community members that they wanted to hear ideas and concerns about the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new facility that received the official green light just last week.

They got an earful.

St. Louis has won the effort to get the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new $1.75 billion facility.

The final decision was not a surprise, even as Illinois officials continued to push this week for a location near Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a law last year making it easier to register a home-based business.

It also lowered the business renewal license fee, due each year on June 1, to just $25 for those home-based businesses with annual revenue under $100,000.

It had been $200.

Many business owners have no idea the fee has dropped. 

Outside the old Buster Brown factory, party attendees hold up signs and pose for photos as part of the "This Place Matters" campaign, a social media project started by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Passers-by wondered what was going on.

There were food trucks, balloons, and music at the corner of Cass and Jefferson Avenues on Thursday afternoon.

It’s all part of Jim Osher’s effort to save the Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory. (You can read St. Louis Public Radio's previous story here.)

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro,
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

Illinois Congressman Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro< is asking for an investigation into the report that laid out the pros and cons for the proposed sites for a new $1.75 billion federal facility.

That’s after he and several other member of Illinois’ congressional delegation met with National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director Robert Cardillo on Thursday.

(Carolina Hidalgo, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory in north St. Louis is worth about $810,000.

That’s the figure that a three-member court-appointed commission determined in a filing on Wednesday. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is within the proposed footprint of a new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency building and among the properties facing eminent domain proceedings by the city.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

More than 100 people chant the tongue twister “Betty Botter bought some butter.”

Then they move on to dollar drills.

This is the Missouri Auction School, the world’s biggest and oldest school for would-be auctioneers. It was founded in 1905.

Twice a year students convene at a Route 66-themed Holiday Inn in Sunset Hills for the week-long class, where they start the day with the 30-minute warm-up. President Paul Dewees says students come from all over the U.S. and even travel from other countries to learn how to become auctioneers.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The city of St. Louis will likely pay more than $1.6 million to compensate property owners who faced eminent domain to make way for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new facility.

Mow to Own
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio)

The parcel next to Eltorean Hawkins’ home looks like his side yard.

He’s been mowing the grass and cutting the weeds since he bought his house two years ago, even though the land belongs to the city's Land Reutilization Authority.

Now all Hawkins has to do is pay $125 and keep mowing for another two years, and the deed goes to him.

It’s called Mow to Own.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

There’s no place like home, and for Sheila Rendon that’s especially true.

The two-story brick home on Mullanphy Street has been in her home since she was born. Her parents and grandparents bought the house back in 1963, when home ownership was just a dream for many African Americans.

Pages