Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Wayne Pratt

Reporter / Newscaster

Wayne Pratt is a veteran journalist who has made stops at radio stations, wire services and websites throughout North America. He comes to St. Louis Public Radio from Indianapolis, where he was Assistant Managing Editor at www.insideindianabusiness.com. Wayne also launched a local news operation at NPR member station WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana and spent time as a correspondent for a network of more than 800 stations. His career has included positions in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Toronto, Ontario and Phoenix, Arizona. Wayne grew up near Ottawa, Ontario and moved to the United States in the mid-90s on a dare. Soon after, he met his wife and has been in the U.S. ever since.

The Minner Arena fan cave is in the basement of O'Fallon photographer Dennis Minner.
Dennis Minner

An O’Fallon, Missouri, resident might have the coolest basement around — especially if you are a hockey fan. Dennis Minner has converted the space into a mini-Scottrade Center, with much of it devoted to his love of the St. Louis Blues hockey team.

The Missouri Farm Bureau says roughly 60 percent of the soybeans grown in the state are sent to China.
The United Soybean Board | Flickr

Denny Mertz lost $12,000 on his soybeans last week when China proposed tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.

The Chesterfield resident grows soybeans and corn on his 500-acre farm in Elsberry. He said he'll be able to weather the loss, as he owns his land and doesn't have much overhead. Yet Mertz worries that younger farmers could take a significant hit if China and the U.S. don't settle their trade differences, especially because many don't own their land.

"They do not have a lot of equity built up and there's not much reserves to fall back on," he said.

HCI Alternatives in Collinsville is one of 53 medical cannabis dispensaries licensed by the State of Illinois
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

The owners of a Metro East medical marijuana dispensary are trying to ease concerns in the banking industry. HCI Alternatives won't be able to make any deposits at the end of next month if it doesn't find a new financial partner. The company's current bank is severing ties with the industry.

NGA West Executive and Deputy Associate Director Brett Markham spoke with St. Louis Public Radio's Wayne Pratt.
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has a new executive for its NGA West headquarters in St. Louis.

Brett Markham was recently named deputy associate director and west executive. He has been with the agency since 2012 and now oversees the current NGA West headquarters in Soulard, an operation in Arnold, as well as some employees at Scott Air Force Base. The total workforce in all three locations is about 3,600.

Monsanto is expected to keep a large operation in the St. Louis region after the Bayer buyout goes into effect.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A critical part of Bayer's multi-billion dollar buyout of Creve Coeur-based Monsanto has been approved. The European Union has signed off on the deal, but with conditions. 

The head of the St. Louis Regional Chamber is resigning, effective at the end of the month. Joe Reagan has been president and CEO of the organization since 2012. The chamber's board already has a replacement lined up — at least on a temporary basis.

Clayton resident Stacey Smith and her Olympic ice dance partner John Summers. The two finished ninth at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith is an Olympian.

The former figure skater competed for the U.S. at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. 

As the ice dance competition wraps up at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the Clayton resident is watching with a mix of pride, patriotism and accomplishment.

Smith recently spoke with St. Louis Public Radio about how she started in the sport, her memories of Lake Placid and the importance of embracing St. Louis' Olympic legacy.

HCI Alternatives in Collinsville is one of 53 medical cannabis dispensaries licensed by the State of Illinois
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Regulators and dispensary operators are taking stock of medical marijuana in Illinois as the state's program hits the two-year mark. The Illinois Department of Public Health says it has approved approximately 31,500 patients for the program, compared to more than 36,000 who have completed the application process. It has also approved more than 50 dispensaries throughout the state, including HCI Alternatives in Collinsville.

Gov. Eric Greitens delivers the 2018 State of the State address in Jefferson City.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

Gov. Eric Greitens talks often about growing jobs in Missouri.

It was one of the major themes in the Republican governor’s State of the State address last month. He told members of the state House and Senate that he would continue to focus on several areas to create jobs:

“Making sure that we have the right laws on the books to be fair to family businesses, and making strategic investments in education, infrastructure, and workforce development,” Greitens said.

Yet just a few days later, the governor proposed a roughly $68 million reduction for public colleges and universities. The suggested cuts to higher education for the second year in a row drew criticism almost immediately, including from Greiten’s own party.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A bill moving through the Missouri General Assembly calls for mapping the state's more than 2,200 special tax districts. 

The number of such districts has exploded over the last 10 years, according to the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters. He said in some areas the layering of districts has pushed sales tax rates up in "a considerable way."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has provided NAFTA-related estimates for all states. It has concluded that doing away with the agreement would have a significant impact on Missouri's economy.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The fate of tens of thousands of Missouri jobs could hinge on trade talks set to resume this week in Montreal. Negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico will gather for another round of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. The U.S. wants to rework the deal, or possibly withdraw altogether.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says roughly 250,000 jobs in Missouri could be affected if the Trump administration decides to leave NAFTA.

Casinos in the region employ thousands and pay millions in taxes every year.
Ian Murphy | Flickr

A major shift in the national gaming industry will impact at least four casinos in the St. Louis region. Penn National is acquiring Pinnacle Entertainment in a nearly $3 billion deal.

Regulators still need to approve what would be the combination of two of the nation's largest casino operators outside Las Vegas. The companies employ thousands in the area and pay millions in taxes every year.

Many homeowners are using services like Airbnb to make some extra cash, while the option is becoming more popular among travelers
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The internet economy is a new challenge for communities throughout the region - how to deal with online home and room rental companies like Airbnb. For some property owners, listing vacancies online is an attractive way to make a buck or two. But several cities and towns are worried about the impact that attracting strangers will have on neighborhoods. 

The head of a developer with strong St. Louis ties is hoping his commitment to the Loop Trolley will help lift a cloud that has been hanging over the project.

ClayCo Chief Executive Officer Bob Clark says his company decided to make a $750,000 commitment after sensing the initiative was getting a "toxic" reputation.

"It's indicative of a place that is kind of stuck. All of this negativity all of a sudden becomes reality if somebody doesn't do something about it. So, I felt very strongly that it can be exciting," Clark said. "It can be a winning thing."

Opponents to an expansion plan have launched a petition drive and put up signs in yards in the neighborhood around Aberdeen Heights in Kirkwood.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

The debate in a west St. Louis County suburb over the proposed expansion of a senior living community could be over early in the new year. That's when the Kirkwood City Council could make a decision on whether the owners of Aberdeen Heights can move forward with plans to add a multi-story apartment building on its 20-acre complex.

Owners say the expansion is needed to keep up with demand, while a group of neighbors has several concerns about the project.

St. Louis soccer fans will have to wait for the next round of MLS expansion to see if the city can secure a team in the nation's top-level professional league.
Victor Araiza | Flickr

St. Louis is no longer being considered as an option for the current round of Major League Soccer expansion. League Commissioner Don Garber announced Wednesday that Sacramento, Detroit, Nashville, and Cincinnati are the only cities still in contention to land the two new franchises. The revelation did not surprise some St. Louis soccer supporters. 

(via Flickr/Tracy O)

There will be another attempt to pass a payday loan bill during next year's legislative session in Jefferson City. State Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, is planning to refile a proposal he submitted earlier this year but did not receive a hearing. It would place limits on how often a payday loan can be renewed and how much money a person is allowed to take out at one time.

File Photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis could become one of the next fronts in the battle between large and small beer companies.

A nonprofit group representing independent brewers is trying to slow acquisitions by larger corporations, like Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has been on a purchasing binge of the past few years, buying several prominent craft beer companies including Goose Island, Breckenridge and Wicked Weed.

Although the payday loan industry has come under fire for high interest rates and other business practices, supporters say the operations fill a need for people who might not have easy access to money to help pay bills and cover other expenses.
taberandrew | Flickr

The recommendations of the Ferguson Commission are being touted as a potential roadmap to move forward in the St. Louis region after this year's protests stemming from the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of a former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer.  Some of the proposals deal with predatory lending, which often traps low-income earners with very high-interest loans.

Food trucks usually stop at businesses and other locations throughout the St. Louis area. Many operators are hoping a more permanent location will help create more stable business.
Frankly Sausages | Facebook

The effort to establish a regular spot for many of St. Louis' food trucks is back in the search phase. Supporters are looking for another potential location after a deal announced last year involving property on south Vandeventer Avenue fell through. They have been meeting to examine options, with the goal of having a new spot selected by spring.

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