Economy & Innovation | St. Louis Public Radio

Economy & Innovation

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

St. Louis store owners (from left) Vincent Hromadka, Maddie Earnest and Chris Goodson are each familiar with the challenges - and the joys - of running a smaller grocery store in the city.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The small Soulard grocery store that Vincent Hromadka’s grandfather first opened in 1912, shortly after emigrating from Bohemia, has seen its share of challenges over the past century.

From dealing with an influx of much larger competitors, to moving locations in order to make way for a highway, to maintaining customer loyalty, it’s a substantive list of struggles to overcome. But Hromadka also has many reasons for continuing his grandfather’s legacy – and for why their now-106-year-old family business has persisted as long as it has.

“I enjoy what I do,” he told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Tuesday. “My two sons work for me full time, and I’ve got a third son who also comes in, and we try to communicate with our customers and supply them with their needs – if they need something special and we can get it, we will do it.”

Julie Smith (left) and Marialice Curran (right) encourage adults to embrace social media and help children process what they are consuming.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

More parents and educators are pushing to involve children in media literacy discussions to encourage “humanizing the screen,” Marialice Curran, founder and executive director of the Digital Citizenship Institute, told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh.

On Friday’s program, Curran joined Julie Smith, media and communications instructor at Webster University, to discuss how adults can use social media and online information to help children better connect to the world, develop authentic relationships and model acceptable behavior.

Microsoft Technology Center opens in Cortex Innovation Community
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

There have been many ribbon cuttings in the Cortex district this year. The debut of a new MetroLink station, a new building called Innovation Hall and the Aloft Hotel groundbreaking were big events, to name a few. But Wednesday's ribbon cutting at the Microsoft Technology Center had politicians, entrepreneurs and techies buzzing more than usual.

The $50 million, 30,000-square-foot center occupies the entire fifth floor of the new Innovation Hall on Duncan Avenue.  The software giant chose St. Louis to join an elite group of 50 cities around the world to lay claim to one of its tech centers. There are only 15 located in the U.S.

Activists rally outside a McDonald's in St. John. Sept. 18, 2018.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Over 50 McDonald’s workers and advocates rallied outside of the McDonald’s at St. Charles Rock Road and Brown Road in St. John on Tuesday as a part of a one-day national strike to protest on-the-job sexual harassment at the restaurant chain.

The national strike was first proposed by women’s groups within Fight for $15, a workers’ rights advocacy organization. It was later approved after a nationwide vote by Fight for $15 members Sept. 11.

Shop 'n Save stores sold to Schnucks in St. Louis region
photo credit|Paul Sableman, Flickr, Creative Commons

Shop ‘n Save is checking out of the grocery-store business in the St. Louis region.

Schnucks Markets is purchasing 19 area Shop 'n Save groceries owned by parent company SuperValu and will rebrand them as Schnucks stores. The remaining 17 Shop 'n Save locations will close if SuperValu is unable to find a buyer by the end of the year.

The acquisition will boost the number of Schnucks grocery stores by 20 percent. Fifteen of the stores include pharmacies, which will also be purchased and run by Schnucks.

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Denver-based Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator is expanding its program to St. Louis to support startups doing research in food, water and energy shortages.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will partner with the incubator, called IN2, to provide research labs and support for early stage startups.

IN2 was created in 2014 to support the development and commercialization of energy-related technology through early stage startups.

STL Not for Sale, grassroots group hold press conference at City Hall Sept. 13, 2018
photo credit | Melody Walker

A grassroots group called STL Not For Sale is criticizing an outreach campaign conducted by a team exploring privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The group held a press conference Thursday on the steps of City Hall to protest what it says is a push for privatization. Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, said she learned about the door-to-door effort from her constituents.

The Women's Bakery opened three years ago in Kigali, Rwanda. Founded by St. Louis native Markey Culver, it's a social-enterprise business focused on training and employing women.
Provided | The Women's Bakery

A St. Louisan starts a bakery. It’s a plotline that may make some think instantly of St. Louis Bread Co.

But Markey Culver’s chain of bakeries doesn’t mark suburban shopping centers throughout the region. Hers is much farther away.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

More than 400 researchers, entrepreneurs and investors are expected to attend Ag Innovation Showcase this week, the 10th year it’s been hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The three-day event has been described as part research conference, part Shark Tank competition, where startups pitch the latest technology to improve crop yields that are safe for farmers, consumers and the environment.

Festivalgoers explore LouFest 2017.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Local businesses are stepping up to lend a hand to LouFest vendors after the event was canceled unexpectedly this week.

Festival organizers called off the event early Wednesday morning, citing “financial hurdles” and a rainy weekend forecast. Vendors and musicians, many of whom had paid hefty registration fees, were left wondering if they would be able to recoup their costs.

From left, Clint Dougherty and SJ Morrison discussed the services of Madison County Transit and RideFinders Thursday with host Don Marsh.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

For many morning commuters, the Martin Luther King Bridge served as their connection to St. Louis from the metro-east; however, as of Aug. 27, the bridge is closed for 12 months.

“There are about 13,000 commuters who use the MLK Bridge to get to downtown St. Louis every day to work,” SJ Morrison said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air.

This composite photo taken on April 10, 2018, shows the planned new site of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. McKee owned nearly 60 percent of the land in the 97-acre site.
File Photo | Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5 p.m. with comments from St. Louis Development Corporation Executive Director Otis Williams.

The city of St. Louis is working to show it controls the 97 acres slated for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new headquarters — a $1.75 billion development project.

Alderman Brandon Bosley is sponsoring a bill that would allow the city to use eminent domain on land it already owns. Bosley’s 3rd ward comprises just under half of the NGA project footprint, as well as some of its surrounding neighborhoods in north St. Louis.

The tanker drone is also known as the MQ-25 Stingray.
Boeing

Boeing has won a bid to produce test drones for the U.S. Navy. The $805-million deal involves four unmanned aircraft and could balloon into a $13-billion program. The Navy says most of the design and production work in the test phase will take place at Boeing’s operation in St. Louis.

SLCD proposes SUD for NGA.
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

Residents gathered Wednesday night at Vashon High School to hear about a proposal for a Special Use District surrounding the future site of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis.

It was the second of two public meetings organized this month by the St. Louis Development Corporation’s Project Connect to discuss the proposal.

Granite City steel plant on July 20, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Steel is facing a labor issue in Granite City just months after restarting production at the Metro East plant. The company’s current national contract with the United Steelworkers is set to expire Saturday, and workers are holding a rally Thursday to draw attention to the negotiations.

SLU students conduct archeological dig on campus before new center for science and engineering is built.
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

In a race against the bulldozers and cranes, a Saint Louis University history professor and a handful of students are conducting an archeological dig in the middle of campus.

It’s unlikely they will be able to excavate deep or wide enough to find evidence of an early Civil War encampment that once occupied the site, but Tom Finan, assistant professor of history and archeologist, doesn’t like to give up hope.  

“I can’t help but think with 800 men living here for a month and using the Mill Creek that ran through here, that something wouldn’t be left behind,” he said.

From Left, Alyce Herndon and Reona Wise are affiliated with Grace Hill Women’s Business Center, which has a new location at 6722 Page Ave.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The road for small business owners is often a challenging one, especially when there is limited access to information or resources. However, one local organization has a mission to empower women with knowledge to help them succeed.

“Often you have women business owners that endeavor to start a business, [but] they actually do things a little bit out of order,” Alyce Herndon explained on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “What I mean by that is they may have a website or an EIN number, but they fail to register their name.”

Talks with Canada are underway following a trade deal announcment between the U.S. and Mexico.
Bigstock Images

Trade experts are poring through documents related to this week's agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, but a professor at Washington University in St. Louis cautions more information is needed before a full assessment can be made. Even so, he said there are some positive signs emerging from the deal.

Left, Calvin Lai and David Karandish joined host Don Marsh on Monday’s “St. Louis on the Air” to discuss bias in artificial intelligence.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

From Siri and Alexa to algorithms on Facebook and beyond, artificial intelligence is becoming more commonplace in our daily routines than ever before. However, a general understanding of its implications is not as widespread.

“Artificial intelligence, you can think of it as software that continues to learn without being explicitly programmed,” David Karandish said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “With AI you have algorithms that are designed to learn and continue to take on new data in order to make better decisions over time.”

Express Scripts headquarters
Express Scripts

The merger between Express Scripts and Cigna won approval from shareholders of both companies on Friday.

The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of combining Express Scripts, the St. Louis-based pharmacy benefit management company, and the Connecticut-based health service corporation.

Cigna made its $67 billion cash and stock offer in March. Following shareholder approval, the merger agreement will be reviewed by the Department of Justice, and barring any anti-trust complications, could be approved by the end of this year.

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