Economy & Innovation | St. Louis Public Radio

Economy & Innovation

News about the economy, business, and innovation happening in the St. Louis region.

This interview will be on "St. Louis on the Air" during the noon hour Monday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

Monday marks the five-year anniversary of the merger between St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon.

Collectively known as St. Louis Public Radio, the alliance of the two organizations was a bold move that increased the capacity for more journalists to tell more local and regional news stories.

How is it working five years later?

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

A bill that calls for a city-wide vote on any future deal to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport is stuck in committee. The bill’s sponsor, Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, presented Board Bill #93 to the Transportation and Commerce committee Thursday, but the chair announced at the outset that she would not call for a vote.

Emerging trends in real estate report presented Dec. 5, 2018 at COrtex
photo credit | ULI and PwC

Members of the St. Louis real estate industry are celebrating a banner year and looking forward to 2019.

Developers, investors, builders and housing advocates gathered today for a presentation of the 2019 Emerging Trends in Real Estate survey, published annually by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and PwC US.

This Northside Regeneration property photographed in September was assessed with a $650 fine in August for unresolved building code violations. The case, one of four of its kind filed against the developer this fall, went to court in October.
File photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5 p.m. to include comment from Paul McKee — St. Louis–area government agencies have begun fining Northside Regeneration developer Paul McKee.

Since October, the City of St. Louis’ Department of Public Safety has filed four liens against Northside Regeneration-owned properties, leveling fines of between $500 and $1,150 per property for unresolved building code violations.

While the fines are low, the citations have gone unaddressed for long enough that the city has filed cases in court.

Provided | The Vandiver Group

Save-A-Lot’s corporate headquarters is the latest tenant at The Crossings at Northwest.

The grocery retailer made the decision to move its headquarters from Earth City to St. Ann in April. Kevin Proctor, the chief investment officer at Save-A-Lot, said the purpose was to create space that better fit the company’s needs.

“We had outgrown the existing office,” Proctor said, “but we also lack in the existing offices a lot of the facilities that we have here in the new office, which we need as a business going forward.”

Opening of the Metrolink station in the Cortex Innovation Center marked the first time for a privately funded transit project.
Bi-State Development

John Nations is stepping down after eight years as president and CEO of Bi-State Development — the agency that operates the Metrolink public transit system among other regional services.

Taulby Roach, a longtime transportation consultant for St. Clair County, is expected to succeed Nations as Bi-State’s next president and CEO, although the board has not made an official announcement.

Jared Boyd is chief of staff and counsel for the City of St. Louis Treasurer's Office, which opened its Office of Financial Empowerment in 2014.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The median credit score in St. Louis is 665, a few points beneath the national median. But a closer look at ZIP-code-level data shows a median score of just 532 in areas of the city that are predominantly non-white, whereas the median credit score for predominantly white areas is 732.

“That’s a very large gap, and we are here to do something about that,” Jared Boyd, chief of staff and counsel for the City of St. Louis Treasurer's Office, said Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air.

Salesman Danny Murphy assists customer Betsy Murphy at Summit Produce at Kirkwood Farmer'  Market on Nov. 27, 2018.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Christmas tree buyers may find fewer trees to choose from this year, and it largely depends on whether your tree is grown in the state or elsewhere.

Tree farmers in some states are blaming the Great Recession of 2008 for a shortage. At that time, financial woes prompted farmers to scale back planting and even put some farms out of business. Weather and growing conditions around the country have also had an impact.

It can take about eight years for a tree to reach the typical Christmas tree height of 6 to 8 feet, according to Teresa Meier, a spokesperson for the Missouri Christmas Tree Association.

This rendering shows Hannibal's marina, docking area and green space, now under construction.
Hannibal Parks and Recreation

The boyhood home of Mark Twain is getting a makeover along its riverfront.

The changes will include a new river wall, event space and docking sites for three riverboats, including the Mark Twain. The improvements, in the works since the 1990s, will address a number of longstanding problems, according to Parks and Recreation director Andy Dorian.

“Failing river walls, old parking lots, dilapidated bathrooms,” Dorian said. “Our fountains were broken.”

Cruise destination and bicentennial

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

A global online company will start collecting two taxes in St. Louis next month.

Vacation rental website Airbnb and the city have reached a deal involving the Convention and Sports Tax and the Tourism Tax. The company will automatically collect the taxes and transfer that money to St. Louis officials.

The St. Clair County Transit District will extend a trail system by 3.5 miles to provide greater pedestrian and cycling access to MetroLink stations.
St. Clair County Transit District

The St. Clair County Transit District will extend a trail system to provide metro-east pedestrians and cyclists with greater access to MetroLink stations.

The 3.5-mile extension will weave through Dutch Hollow, a township in the county that was historically a mining area. The trail is set to open in 2019.

Nov. 19, 2018 at Operation Food Search: Andrew Glantz, CEO GiftAMeal and food bank manager Mark Taylor check bags for weekend meal program.
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

As many families prepare for the annual Thanksgiving feast, not everyone has the opportunity to sit down to a traditional meal on Thursday, or any other day of the week. The statistics about food insecurity — hunger — in our region are stark.

“Missouri is one of the hungriest states in the country,” said Mark Taylor at Operation Food Search, a food bank that distributes 200,000 meals a month in St. Louis and 31 surrounding counties in Missouri and Illinois.

Pat Westhoff (at left), director of the University of Missouri's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, and Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, joined Monday's program.
Pat Westhoff & Missouri Farm Bureau

Recent trade disputes between the Trump administration and China have had a heavy impact on farmers in Missouri, where the soybean industry dwarfs other crops in terms of acreage and production value.

“[China accounts] for something like 60 percent of total U.S. soybean sales in a typical year,” Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “So losing a chunk of that market’s a very big deal.”

Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, told host Don Marsh that he and fellow farmers have been directly experiencing the fiscal consequences this year, including a 20 percent drop in soybean prices.

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

Roadways and airports are expected to be busier than usual this Thanksgiving holiday.

The AAA Club of Missouri anticipate more than 1.1 million residents to travel over a 10-day period covering Thanksgiving. That’s an increase of roughly 5 percent from last year.

The St. Louis Development Corporation has awarded a contract to Refab to deconstruct an 1884 warehouse on Martin Luther King Junior Drive in St. Louis.
Laura Ginn | SLDC

For Eric Schwarz, a vacant building is more than a culmination of neglect and decay; it’s a treasure trove.

“Some of these materials will never be produced again,” said Schwarz, executive director of the St. Louis salvage nonprofit Refab. “Those handmade bricks, we’re not going to see those anymore.”

Refab has “deconstructed” more than 100 buildings in St. Louis, a process that involves carefully dismantling a property and reselling the materials for new projects. The nonprofit recently received a first-of-its-kind contract from the St. Louis Development Corporation as part of a new push to deconstruct more buildings slated for demolition.

Nov. 16, 2018 MADE makerspace opens on Delmar with Jim McKelvey leading effort.
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

Jim McKelvey has come to the rescue of the St. Louis maker movement.

Today, the serial entrepreneur officially opened MADE, a 32,000-square-foot building at 5127 Delmar Blvd., with tools and machines for makers, artists, designers and entrepreneurs.

Dedication Ceremony for Loop Trolley at Delmar Hall.  Nov. 15, 2018
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

The Delmar Loop Trolley was scheduled to welcome riders today for the first time. But the storm that dumped several inches of snow across the region Wednesday night put the breaks on the long awaited launch.

“We’ve waited this long,” said Loop Trolley Company executive director Kevin Barbeau, “What’s one more day?”

Barbeau said the trolley cars will be able to function in any kind weather. But the safety committee didn’t think it was prudent to begin service undersuch inclement conditions.

Jas Thomas of Girls With Goals (left) is the lead organizer of Saturday's Black Business Expo in St. Louis.
Jas Thomas | Girls With Goals

A St. Louis woman saw a need: Black business owners struggling to connect with potential customers. So, she decided to do something about it. Jas Thomas and her organization, Girls With Goals, established the Black Business Expo, which is being held Saturday at Legacy Cafe in St. Louis.

Thomas says the goal of the event is to promote local black-owned businesses among consumers who might not be aware of them.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is suspending construction of the eastbound bridge on Interstate 44 at Shrewsbury on Nov. 13, 2018. Inspectors found cracks in westbound bridge, which was finished a year ago.
The Missouri Department of Transportation

Residents in the Shrewsbury area will have to wait a bit longer for their ramp on Interstate 44 to reopen.

The Missouri Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it has suspended construction on the eastbound bridge of I-44 over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad by Shrewsbury.

The halt comes after inspectors found a "greater-than-normal" amount of cracking on the westbound bridge on I-44 that just wrapped up construction last year.

Businesses woo voters with freebies after they cast ballots. Nov. 6, 2018
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

There were discounts and free rides to help get people to the polls this Election Day, and then there were the rewards waiting for voters after ballots were cast.

Local merchants and national chains jumped on the get-out-the-vote bandwagon by offering price cuts and freebies to voters wearing the “I Voted” sticker.

At the local outpost of Shake Shack in the Central West End, customers were surprised to hear order takers say, “Your Election Day fries will be free!”