Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

Melody Walker

Economic Development Reporter

Long-time public radio listeners may remember hearing Melody Walker sign off from Paris in the 1980’s where she covered arts, politics, gastronomy, exiled dictators, and terrorist attacks for six years. She returned to WNYC (where she had her first job as a reporter while a student at Barnard College) and became producer of the Leonard Lopate Show and a newsroom reporter. Soon after Marketplace launched, Melody was tapped to run the business show’s New York Bureau. She continued to work for Marketplace as a freelancer in Chicago and contributed to WBEZ community coverage before another stint in Paris just in time to report on the Euro’s debut and the French reaction to the events of 9/11. After more than a decade ensconced in academic ivory towers as a public affairs and communications director, Melody is thrilled to be back in the newsroom as the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Ways to Connect

healp wanted ads in newspaper
photo credit|Innov8social, Flickr, Creative Commons

Job skills are the focus of the 2018 State of the St. Louis Workforce study published Wednesday by the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College.

This year’s report is titled “Help Wanted: A Skilled Workforce. Addressing the Workforce Needs of the St. Louis Economy.

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The city’s Airport Advisory Working Group met for the first time Tuesday with a cadre of legal, financial and aviation experts. Together they will prepare to seek and review bids from private investors vying for a lease to manage operations at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The Lindbergh Conference Room overlooking the airport runways was the setting for a two-hour presentation by the outside experts. They laid out an 18-month timeline for hammering out the details of a potential public-private partnership for Lambert.

After many delays, the city's contract with consultants to explore the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport may be official soon.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Francis Slay, just weeks before leaving office as mayor in April of last year, initiated the process that could lead to the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

In June of this year, Slay was hired by Ferrovial Airports, a Madrid-based company with extensive experience in managing airports in Europe, and considered one of three top contenders in the bidding process for Lambert.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Missourians shopping for back-to-school supplies can take advantage of the state’s tax-free weekend this Friday through Sunday.

The tax holiday applies to clothing, school supplies and computers for the 4.22-percent state sales tax, as well as the local sales tax in participating jurisdictions.

But the Better Business Bureau recommends that consumers do some reading, writing and arithmetic before they start to shop in stores or online. Chris Thetford, vice president of communications at the BBB in St. Louis, said not everything sold in back-to-school sales may qualify.

Siteman Cancer Center breaks ground for new facility in Florissant
provided | Siteman Cancer Center

Siteman Cancer Center broke ground Tuesday on its fifth outpatient site. The $26.3-million, 37,000-square-foot facility will be located on the Northwest HealthCare campus of Christian Hospital in Florissant.

“This is the best medicine coming right here to north county,” said Rick Stevens, the president of Christian Hospital. “This is money being put back in the community right here.”

The new facility is a joint project of BJC HealthCare — which owns and operates Christian Hospital — and Washington University School of Medicine. It is expected to open in late 2019.

John Hope Bryant 072618 Operation Hope Finacial literacy offices in Regions Bank
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

Regions Bank and Operation HOPE on Thursday opened a HOPE Inside financial empowerment office in Belleville.

The office staffed by an Operation Hope financial counselor is located inside the Regions Bank branch at 4800 W. Main St.

Before and after its facelift: Milque Toast Bar, 2212 S. Jefferson Ave., received a Community Development Block Grant to improve its facade.
provided | Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program

Leonard Johnson admits many run-down storefronts in St. Louis could use a facelift. He’d like to help “polish up” each and every one. But, for now, the director of the Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program only has a $1-million Community Development Block Grant to improve small-business facades. So, he plans to “spread the love” to businesses in the most underserved areas of the city.

“We understand that development happens downtown and in the central corridor,” Johnson said. “And it rarely spreads into north St. Louis or north city and even deeper in south city. We want to address that and be intentional about that, because that’s where our program had some shortcomings before.”

After many delays, the city's contract with consultants to explore the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport may be official soon.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

When the Board of Estimate and Apportionment approved a contract with advisors to explore the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport last month, it appeared the process was ready to take off after months of delays.

The city’s working group held its first meeting.

The first meeting of all the consultants and advisors on the project was scheduled.

But, there was a problem. The contract between the city and the lead consultants had not been signed.

The technology startup incubator in downtown St. Louis is currently home to nearly 230 businesses. About 40 others got their start at T-REX and have moved to other locations throughout the region.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Arch Grants is only 6 years old, but to date it has awarded more than $6 million in cash grants that have helped launch more than 100 companies.

Arch Grants is a non-profit organization that attracts and supports startup companies to St. Louis with its Global Startup Competition. The group released its annual report Tuesday, full of testimonials from startup founders, graphs and lots of numbers.  

"When we’re developing strategies to tackle vacancy, we need good data as a base to guide those decisions," says Laura Ginn (right), who has helped develop a data-rich website on vacant property in St. Louis.
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

For the record, St. Louis is home to 20,187 vacant properties. More than half are vacant lots, totaling 1,565 acres. Over the past five years, it has cost the city more than $17 million to maintain the vacant property with services like mowing, removing dumped waste, and boarding up abandoned structures.

The total assessed value of all that property? $79,813,010.

Nan Palmero | Flickr Creative Commons

On July 14, 2008, Anheuser-Busch accepted a $52 billion takeover offer from InBev, a beer conglomerate based in Belgium. The deal marked the end of an era for the iconic American brewery established in 1852, and its hometown of St. Louis.

One local industry that had flourished for decades in the shadow of Anheuser-Busch was advertising. Think Jon Hamm in Mad Men. AB was the glamour account that everyone wanted a piece of and there was plenty of work to keep a small army of creative people very busy.

Commerical planes parked at a St. Louis Lambert International Airport terminal.
St. Louis Lambert International Airport

The Advisor Team hired by the city of St. Louis to explore the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport takes off next week, with its first official meeting on July 11.

The request for proposals, review and approval process is expected to take 18 to 24 months. The process has already been delayed by political maneuvers on the committee to select the advisors and it’s likely to hit more turbulence in the months ahead.

Friday is the deadline for U.S.-China trade talks. If they fail and China's 25-percent tariff on soybeans goes into effect, Missouri farmers will feel the impact.
jasonippolito | Flickr

Soybean farmers across the Midwest are on the frontlines of a looming trade war between the U.S. and China. The first shots could be fired this week if negotiations fail.

Each country is prepared to impose $34 billion in tariffs on the other’s exports if no agreement is reached by the July 6 deadline.

Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson outlined two priorities to drive the state’s economy during an appearance in St. Louis on Wednesday: workforce development and infrastructure.

The governor spoke at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center following an all-day summit convened to focus on the two issues. Parson urged the gathering of business and education officials from around the state to work together to prepare tomorrow’s workforce and to vote in November.

Flight board lambert airport
File photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Sun Country Airlines, a Minnesota-based low-cost carrier, will become the 11th major passenger airline at St. Louis Lambert International Airport this fall, with service to Tampa and Fort Myers.

Starting Oct. 3, the airline will begin nonstop service from St. Louis to Fort Myers, with flights departing on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On Nov. 1, it will begin service to Tampa, with flights departing on Thursdays and Sundays.

In addition to St. Louis, the airline also announced new routes from Dallas/Fort Worth and Madison, Wisconsin. Sun Country currently serves 37 markets in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.

Tony and Jack Erker are fifth-generation opticians who are challenging online vendors with a brick-and-mortar experience where customers can watch frames being made in a mini factory. June 2018
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

Brothers Jack and Tony Erker did not want to go into the family optical business.

They spent years pursuing other careers to take them far from the shop at Sixth and Olive streets in downtown St. Louis, where it all started in 1879. But it’s hard to resist five generations of history, not to mention the entrepreneurial DNA embedded in their genes.

This spring Jack and Tony opened Copper Hinge, a brick-and-mortar optical shop in the Delmar Loop.    The brothers envisioned a new way to sell eyeglasses, one that’s not available online or in other stores.

BriAsia Warren trains new employee Uraiesha Shelton at Beyond Sweet. Customers can order specialty shakes like The New Yorker, topped with a piece of cheesecake, and the Chocoholic. June 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

At Beyond Sweet, an ice cream and snack shop in the Delmar Loop, two teens are practicing the art of of building mountain peaks of whipped cream.

For now, they’re practicing on pieces of paper, but soon they’ll move onto topping real sundaes and shakes for customers.

St. Louis Lambert International Airport
Michael R. Allen | Flickr

A proposal to explore privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport has finally been cleared for takeoff.

The City’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment voted Wednesday to approve a contract with an advisory team charged with soliciting proposals from private firms to manage and oversee the operations of the airport.

The board is made up of Mayor Lyda Krewson, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed and Comptroller Darlene Green. Krewson and Reed voted to approve the contract, while Green voted no.

Missouri Bontanical Garden

Bayer’s $60 billion-plus acquisition of Monsanto has many non-profit organizations in St. Louis wondering what the future holds in terms of funding from one of the city’s oldest and most generous benefactors.

Monsanto has donated nearly $10 million each year since 2000 to a wide variety of organizations in the region. The company estimates it has invested at least half a billion dollars in the St. Louis community since it was founded in 1901.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto, a company based in St. Louis for more than 100 years, is now part of Bayer.

The roughly $63-billion acquisition closed Thursday, nearly two years after the companies first announced the deal. Regulators in Canada and Mexico were among the last international watchdogs to approve the combination.

The U.S. Department of Justice signed off on it late last month after Bayer committed to shedding about $9 billion in several areas to chemical giant BASF.

That includes Bayer's Liberty-brand herbicides, which compete with Monsanto's Roundup.

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