Economy & Innovation | St. Louis Public Radio

Economy & Innovation

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

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!”

St. Louis Lambert International Airport privatization is subject of city wide survey
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

In the midst of this political season, there’s another campaign underway in St. Louis. But it’s not on the ballot for the midterm election.

It’s the communication and outreach effort sponsored by FLY 314, the group charged with exploring the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Grow Missouri, Inc., the organization funded by billionaire Rex Sinquefield, funds FLY 314 and is paying for project advisors’ expenses. Grow Missouri will be reimbursed by the city if and when a deal is done.

The high-desert town of Palisade, Colorado, is synonymous with fresh, locally grown peaches. Years ago, thousands of migrant workers would flock here each year in August to harvest the fuzzy fruit. But today, on its narrow dirt roads, Bruce Talbott drives a truck loaded down with 9 tons of wine grapes.

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

The 4-year-old St. Louis Fashion Fund is shutting down its fashion incubator. The first class of six designers in the program will graduate next month. Executive director Kathleen Bibbins said the organization has received good feedback about the incubator, but it’s time for the fashion startup to “pivot.”

“We’re transitioning to a design co-op,” she said. “We will have six fashion-related businesses reside here in a collaborative workspace.”

The Loop Trolley during a test drive on June 13, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials of the Loop Trolley Company say there will be a “soft opening” of the Delmar Loop Trolley soon with a big celebration and official launch to follow.

Sound familiar?

The 2.2 mile project has been delayed repeatedly by lack of equipment, lack of training and lack of money.

Ag tech firm Benson Hill and Mars Inc. team up to save chocolate production by breeding stronger variety of cacao trees.
Benson Hill

Rising temperatures in tropical forests along the equator are threatening cacao trees -— the source of beans used in making chocolate. Benson Hill, a St. Louis-based agricultural technology company is partnering with the world’s leading candy manufacturer, Mars Inc., to research the genome of the cacao tree. The goal is to improve the productivity and climate resiliency of the cacao crop.

For many out-of-state visitors driving to St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is their first glimpse of Missouri.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

An area nonprofit and a prominent private investment firm are launching a partnership to boost the startup climate in St. Louis.

A new pitch competition — think of the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ with a strong St. Louis flavor — will have early stage companies battling for an investment of up to $1 million from the Chaifetz Group.

(from left) Anna Crosslin, Eduardo Hernandez Sequeira and Amanda Bergson-Schilcock discussed the possibilities and limitations for immigrants seeking employment in the United States.

Despite bipartisan consensus over the economic importance of immigrant and refugee labor, many immigrants struggle to find their footing when first attempting to find work in the United States.

Specifically, immigrants with specialized training or higher education degrees in their countries of origin often find it difficult to find comparable work in their new home.

Assistant Children's Librarian LaRita Wright uses the library's video studio to record a storytime session.
Patrick Wall

The University City Public Library is using grant money to offer free film production classes, hire a part-time coding instructor and purchase film equipment.

The $68,000 grant from the University City Commission on Access and Local Original Programming is aimed at funding technology and filmmaking classes at the library.

Hazy photo of the Mississippi River with a tugboat and the Gateway Arch in the distance.
Paul Sableman | Wikimedia Commons

The St. Louis Port Authority oversees 19 miles of riverbank including six thousand acres of land available for commercial and industrial development. But it wants more.

A bill that proposes expanding the Port Authority’s district to include the entire city of St. Louis could come up for a vote by the Board of Aldermen as early as tomorrow.

But several aldermen have said they will block the vote because they have been kept in the dark about the purpose and consequences of the bill.

(L-R) Emily Lohse-Busch, Natalie DiNicola and Sam Fiorello share their experiences with the local STEM startup scene.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis has established itself as an attractive city for those with fresh ideas who are ready to take risks. Companies in the science, technology, engineering and math fields are now encouraging entrepreneurs to make their mark in the city’s startup scene.

Benson Hill Biosystems is an example of a local company that began small but has seen tremendous growth over the years. Natalie DiNicola, the company’s chief communications officer, told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh that St. Louis’ “healthy, vibrant ecosystem” gives it a key advantage when recruiting entrepreneurs in the STEM fields.

Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer at Danforth Plant Science Center, and Emily Lohse-Busch, executive director of Arch Grants, joined DiNicola and Marsh on Thursday’s talk show to discuss how and why STEM entrepreneurs are coming to St. Louis..

Square launches new payment processing device.
Square Inc.

Square, the startup that revolutionized credit card payments for small businesses, plans to start adding engineers to its workforce in St. Louis. The company this year pledged to create 300 jobs here over the next five years.

Founded by St. Louis natives Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey in 2009, the San Francisco-based company launched the latest version of its credit card and mobile payment processing system, called Square Terminal, on Thursday.

A feasibility study on the proposed hyperloop between St. Louis and Kansas City found that each ride would be cheaper than the cost of gas.
Virgin Hyperloop One

The company behind a hyperloop transportation system between St. Louis and Kansas City is touting a new feasibility study.

The study, released on Wednesday, was done by the Kansas City-based engineering, consulting and construction company Black & Veatch. It found the hyperloop would be an economic boon for the state, saving Missourians $410 million a year.

Washington University Provost Holden Thorp is the co-author of "Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership between America and Its Colleges and Universities."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Is the purpose of college to prepare for a career or to pursue learning and knowledge as inherently worthwhile endeavors?

That question isn’t a simple one to answer, and its tensions thoroughly inform a new book, co-authored by Washington University Provost Holden Thorp, titled “Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership between America and Its Colleges and Universities.”

“Part of what we are advocating is that we do a better job of telling sort of both sides – the folks on either side of this tightrope – what’s really going on,” Thorp said in a conversation with producer Evie Hemphill on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

WOW Air will discontinue service from St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Jan. 7, 2019
St. Louis Lambert International Airport

WOW Air announced Monday that it will suspend its service out of St. Louis Lambert International Airport to Iceland starting Jan. 7.

The Icelandic airline began offering non-stop flights from Lambert to Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport in May.

Airport officials said in a statement Monday that demand had been strong for the flights.

Coffee Cartel, Central West End, St. Louis, CWE
Rachel Heidenry

The Coffee Cartel will close Tuesday after 22 years in the Central West End.

After a 36 percent drop in sales over the past two years, owner Dennis Gorg said Monday it wasn’t feasible for the business to stay open.

“There are a lot of small businesses in St. Louis and what a proud community we have to have such great small businesses, but you gotta get out and support them,” Gorg said.

The International Institute in St. Louis helps immigrants to get settled, find housing and find jobs. Feb 2017
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

The International Institute of St. Louis has received a grant from the U.S. Justice Department to fund initiatives to address problems of labor and sex trafficking in the St. Louis region.

The grant will provide the institute with $250,000 annually for three years.

“The services available to victims includes everything from housing, supportive services, access to health care and general case management,” said Blake Hamilton, the International Institute’s vice president of programs.