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 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.

The Missouri Capitol building.
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.

An artist's rendition of what a solar roadway could look like.
Solar Roadways | http://bit.ly/29OOZKM

Updated Nov. 5, 2017 with a statement from Solar Roadways - The Idaho vendor that planned to work with the Missouri Department of Transportation on a solar road initiative is disappointed the pilot project did not work out. In an email, Scott Brusaw with Solar Roadways said it was a complicated contract.

There are still some traces of the Jamestown Mall in north St. Louis County. A deal to put all the property under control of the county port authority could help speed up the long-delayed redevelopment of the site.
Provided | St. Louis County

The entire site of the former Jamestown Mall is now under the control of St. Louis County. The county Port Authority has contracts for the final two sections of the property, which has become an eyesore since the mall closed in 2014.

MidAmerica Airport was created to handle overflow from St. Louis Lambert International. But that never materialized after Lambert lost its hub status for a major airline.
Wayne Pratt|St. Louis Public Radio

An airport in the Metro East that has long been considered by some as a drain on taxpayers is taking a significant step to increase revenue. After years of promoting free parking, MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, about 25 miles east of downtown St. Louis on I-64, will start charging a fee in 2018. It's a decision airport leaders do not take lightly.

Amazon's shipping operation, known as a "wish fulfillment center,'' in Edwardsville.
File photo | Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 1:15 p.m. with St. Louis's regional bid - St. Louis area leaders are taking a regional approach to attracting Amazon's second North American headquarters. They submitted a bid Thursday, which was the deadline set by the online retailer.  Financial details have not been released. Officials cite a non-disclosure agreement among Amazon, local governments, and states hoping to land the $5 billion investment.

File photo | St. Louis Public Radio
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

If you've been waiting to walk around the gate areas of St. Louis Lambert International Airport with a beer or cocktail, you need to continue to exercise patience. The process to revise alcohol permits allowing new state regulations to go into effect is not yet complete.

Flight board lambert airport
Katelyn Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio intern

Passengers at St. Louis Lambert International Airport are on the verge of getting more time to surf the internet for free. A plan to increase the cap on daily Wi-Fi access is expected to go into effect next month, pending approval by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

The bill making its way through City Hall increases the free daily limit to an hour, instead of the current 20 minutes. The change has been prompted by travelers, who want more time online before they have to start paying.

Barge traffic along the Mississippi plays a key role in the U.S. economy.
File photo

Some heavy equipment is pounding away this week at the rock in a section of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the removal is essential to keeping cargo moving along the river. Crews are working this week at Thebes, Illinois, near Cape Girardeau.

Shipping on the Mississippi is vital to the U.S. economy. A Corps spokesman said more than 100 million tons of cargo, including 60 percent of the nation's agricultural exports, move along the river every year. And the engineers have a responsibility to keep the shipping channel at least 9-feet deep and 300-feet wide.

Amazon is searching for a second corporate headquarters to go along with its operation in Seattle. The current headquarters campus in that city includes 33 buidlings covering 8.1 million square feet.
Amazon.com/pr

Updated Jan. 18 with Amazon decision — Amazon will not consider St. Louis as one of the 20 finalists for the company's new headquarters.

Amazon will consider Toronto, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, Los Angeles, Dallas, Austin, Boston, New York City, Newark, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Washington, D.C., Raleigh, Northern Virginia, Atlanta and Miami. Those cities beat 218 others for their finalist spots. The second headquarters will bring more than $5 billion in construction investment and more than 50,000 jobs to its eventual home city, according to a statement on Amazon's website.

The Mississippi River as seen Sept. 13, 2017, from the Four Seasons Hotel in Laclede's Landing at St. Louis.
Chelsea Hoye | St. Louis Public Radio

Leaders of Mississippi River communities want to update and upgrade their infrastructure, but said Wednesday they’ll need outside financial help.

The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative held its annual meeting in St. Louis. About 30 mayors were there to talk about how their communities can survive natural disasters like hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The mayors also discussed strategies for attracting private investments for city improvements.

The Fashion Incubator takes up 7,500 square-feet of a Washington Avenue building on what used to be known as Shoe Street USA.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Aug. 28 with resignation of Fashion Fund's executive director - The St. Louis Fashion Fund is looking for a new executive director. Eric Johnson has resigned after roughly a year-and-a-half on the job. A statement from the nonprofit says Johnson is leaving to pursue other entrepreneurial opportunities.

The Wanamaker Trophy outside the gates of Bellerive Country Club in Town and Country. The trophy goes to the winner of the annual PGA Championship. The 100th edition of the tournament is next year at Bellerive.
100th PGA Championship.

A major sporting event in St. Louis next summer will give the region worldwide attention. The 100th PGA Championship will take place at Bellerive Country Club in Town and Country.

The PGA's tournament director, Barry Deach, has set up office at the club. He recently spoke about the potential impact, preparations, partnerships and how the event goes beyond the course, thanks to initiatives that will benefit the community for several years.

WOW air, which will start flights in St. Louis next year, was launched in 2011by Icelandic entrepreneur Skúli Mogensen.
BriYYZ | Flickr

The St. Louis region is about to get a direct link to Reykjavik. Iceland-based WOW air will begin four flights a week between St. Louis Lambert International Airport and Keflavik International Airport in May. From there, passengers can go on to European cities including Berlin, Paris, and London.

The city of St. Clair, Missouri, is issuing permits to help keep some order when it comes to parking as thousands arrive for the eclipse.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Jason Alexander's family has owned the Budget Lodging Hotel in St. Clair, Missouri, for nearly three decades. During that time, only one event has sparked a customer to book a room years in advance.

File photo | St. Louis Public Radio
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8:45 p.m. Aug. 16 with a statement from Uber — Uber and Lyft will now be able to pick up passengers at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Comptroller Darlene Green and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed all voted on Wednesday to authorize permits for ride-hailing companies, which cost $15,000 for two years.

Metro's newly-renovated downtown transit center will include round-the-clock security inside the new commuter waiting area.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Safety improvements and better bus access are some of the key components of the newly-renovated Civic Center Transit facility across from Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis.

Metro is taking the wraps off the $10.5 million project this week. The center had been home to nine MetroBus bays for a total of 16 routes. The renovation increases the number of buses that will converge at 14th and Spruce.

"18 total bays, 23 bus routes. The opportunity for para-transit - the Call-A-Ride vans- to come in and out," Metro Executive Director Ray Friem told St. Louis Public Radio.

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