Economy & Innovation

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

Economist Art Laffer talks to 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on Jan. 13, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

What would happen if you no longer had to pay income taxes?

Retired financial executive Rex Sinquefield and economist Art Laffer believe it would lead to economic growth and wealth.

“Sometimes when you lower taxes, you get less money. But sometimes you create enough economic activity to actually get more revenues,” Laffer told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday. “If you start lowering taxes from very high levels, you can actually sometimes actually increase revenues. Not all the time, but sometimes that happens.”

Construction around the Poplar Street Bridge will lead to closures on much of the interstates downtown this weekend. MoDOT suggests using detours.
Courtesy MoDOT

The Missouri Department of Transportation is urging drivers to avoid the area around the Poplar Street Bridge this weekend because portions of Interstates 44 and 55 will be closed downtown.

From Friday at 8 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m., lanes in both directions will be closed from 7th and Park to the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. One ramp off eastbound I-44 near the Old Cathedral downtown will stay closed until January 21. 

(Wayne Pratt, St. Louis Public Radio)

Realtors in the St. Louis area say they are fighting a negative perception of the region in the aftermath of last summer’s violence in Ferguson.

Many in the market, especially in North St. Louis County, are concerned about low re-sale value, said St. Louis Association of Realtors President Janet Judd.

“The perception is that values tumbled, plummeted.”

About 200 realtors gathered at the association’s headquarters Friday to examine how the unrest and its aftermath have affected the area’s housing market.

Little Caesars
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

At least two funds are helping Ferguson-area businesses get back on their feet following the violence and unrest that has affected the area since August.

kevindooley via Flickr

In an environment where companies hold a lot of power, can you make a difference by buying just one share in a company?

Yes, said Brian Reavey, Marianist Province’s director for justice, peace and integrity of creation. Reavey will speak about shareholder advocacy on Thursday at a Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice program.

“There’s a lot of power in owning shares or just even being aware of what companies we’re buying our products from,” he told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Thursday.

Shell gas station
(via Flickr/dno1967b)

A new forecast is suggesting gasoline prices in St. Louis will continue to be among the lowest in the nation for 2015.

GasBuddy.com's annual outlook predicts the peak price in the region will range from $2.65 to $2.95 cents a gallon, thanks in part to a decision by Saudi Arabia to continue production even as global oil prices fall.

via Wikimedia Commons

Amid reports that the team’s owner plans to build a stadium close to Los Angeles, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said a plan should be revealed this week that aims to keep the Rams in St. Louis. 

Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson Aug. 20.
Office of U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay

The message to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder from Ferguson: hurry up.

In an open letter to Holder sent late last month, several Ferguson business owners, residents and even the mayor urged Holder to quickly release findings from his office’s federal investigation into Michael Brown’s death.

electric lines
Tom Taker via Flickr

St. Louisans wishing to comment on the possibility of an increase in their electric bill will have two chances to speak with the Missouri agency that regulates investor-owned utilities Monday.

The Missouri Public Service Commission is holding a public hearing at noon at the Holiday Inn on Watson Road near Kirkwood and another at 6 p.m. at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley.

Workers demonstrate in support of a higher minimum wage.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Missouri’s minimum wage will go up 15 cents as of New Year’s Day.

The increase from the current $7.50 to $7.65 is the result of a 2006 ballot referendum tying the state’s minimum wage to the Midwest Consumer Price Index. It’s the second 15 cent increase in as many years.

/ Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered the Missouri Department of Agriculture to explore business opportunities in Cuba.

The move follows President Barack Obama's decision to normalize relations with the communist island nation. 

In a written statement released Tuesday, Nixon said that Missouri's agricultural exports are already up by 14 percent this year.

Kristi Luther | St. Louis Public Radio

Community organizing pays off.

That’s the message in a report released Tuesday by Gamaliel, a national faith-based network with affiliates in 16 states, including Metropolitan Congregations United in the St. Louis region and United Congregations of Metro East.

utility wires, Ameren
(Flickr, sciondriver)

Ameren Missouri officials say the utility will invest $135 million in a three-year energy efficiency plan to begin in 2016.  

Ameren filed the plan with the Missouri Public Service Commission Monday. The utility said it's expected to provide more than $260 million in customer benefits over 20 years.

Ameren’s director of energy efficiency, Dan Laurent, said the plan also is expected to save about 426,000 megawatt hours.

Eastern Missouri and southern Illinois saw the unemployment rate drop significantly to 6.3 percent - the lowest level since mid-2008.
BLS, courtesy of Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows two-thirds of businesses surveyed are moderately optimistic about the St. Louis region's economic outlook in 2015.

Greetabl, St. Louis startups, gift ideas
(courtesy greetable)

The clock is ticking on the holiday shopping season.

If you’ve still got a few people on your list, here are some unique items from young companies right here in St. Louis.

Greetabl produces colorful gift boxes that allow you to write a message, put in a small gift and either mail it or give it in person. The company, launched just last year, is among this year’s Arch Grants recipients.

Venture Cafe is not a typical cafe. Visitors will find coffee, beer and wine, but replace the typical pastries with entrepreneurs.

“I talk about serendipitous collisions,” Venture Cafe’s executive director Travis Sheridan told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday. “It’s about getting the right people at the right place at the right time, and then miraculously the right things happen.”

gas prices, Missouri's gas prices
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s sticker shock turned upside down.

Filling up your gas tank is almost pleasant as prices at the pump continue to fall. In St. Louis on Monday, a gallon of gas averaged $2.22, but it could be found for as low as $2.07.

While the entire country is seeing lower gas prices, Missouri has averaged the lowest. The American Automobile Association listed the state’s average as $2.25 a gallon on Monday. Meanwhile the average in Illinois was $2.57; in California it was $2.87 and a whopping $2.98 in New York.

Angela Mayfield picks out toys for her three children at the Belleville VFW on Sunday, December 14, 2014.
Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

Military parents in southwest Illinois and the surrounding area were given some help putting gifts under the Christmas tree Sunday.

About 400 toys, plus stocking stuffers and school supplies were distributed to military families at the Belleville VFW hall, just outside Scott Air Force Base.

Parents were able to select one large toy for each of their children from a variety of items donated by individuals and corporations.

#FergusonRebuild, Cathy's Kitchen
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s Secretary of State has begun a new initiative to help businesses in the Ferguson area get back on their feet.

Jason Kander, a Democrat, is donating $25,000 from his campaign fund to kick off #FergusonRebuild. He said the campaign will also seek donations through the crowdfunding site, GoFundMe.com.

Geneva Moran moved into National Church Residences this summer. She said she's had a great experience, even though the facility was often mired in controversy.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

On Tuesday afternoon, residents of a newly-minted senior living facility in south St. Louis County were ready for a party.

After officially opening in June, officials with the South County Chamber of Commerce helped cut the ribbon on National Church Residences Telegraph Road.  Inside a room with shiny wooden floors and hip artwork and decor, the $5.2 million building was officially welcomed into the unincorporated St. Louis County township of Oakville.

Jerome Jenkins business, Ferguson
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

A private relief fund for businesses affected by the looting and violence in Ferguson will be announced Thursday.

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander will be in Ferguson Thursday morning for the announcement of #FergusonRebuild. The initiative is in partnership with the Regional Business Council and North County Incorporated.

The non-governmental grants will help businesses in Ferguson, Dellwood and Jennings.

Swiish Bar and Grill
(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The owners of Swiish Bar and Grill in Jennings didn’t suffer broken glass or looting during the unrest following Michael Brown’s death, but they still took a big loss.

That’s because state and local law enforcement ordered the business closed so that the police command center could be staged just outside the bar. Swiish Bar and Grill at 8021 West Florissant Ave., is just down the street from where protests were taking place in Ferguson. It remained closed for 17 days.

Eads Wide View Over the Mississippi
Metro Transit

The massive rehabilitation of the landmark Eads Bridge should be complete by early 2016. Officials say they are at the half-way point and the $40 million project remains on budget.

Crews have been blasting away at 140 years of paint and corrosion on the span over the Mississippi River linking St. Louis and East St. Louis.

"So much of it that I will tell you it looks brand new," said John Nations, president of the Bi-State Development Agency, which operates Metro Transit and is overseeing bridge maintenance.

former MetLife/Sigma site with 101 acres
courtesy National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

If you’ve got an opinion on where the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency should move, or shouldn’t move, now is the time to speak up.

The secretive federal agency is looking at four sites around the St. Louis metropolitan area as it plans a move from its current historic campus south of downtown. A public comment period began this week and will run until January 19, including three public hearings.

(Courtesy Zimmerman Campaign)

The tax status of a high-end retirement home in Kirkwood is no longer in limbo. St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman announced Friday that he has reached a settlement with Ashfield Active Living & Wellness Communities, which owns Aberdeen Heights.

The assessor’s office and the retirement home operator have agreed that 78.8 percent of Aberdeen Heights will be taxed—netting about $1 million a year for schools, fire departments and public works.

Zimmerman said $700,000 to $800,000 of that will go to schools.

Sign painted on boarded-up window on South Grand
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Around 100 youth started new jobs this week as part of the Emerson funded, “Ferguson Forward Program.” Announced in September, "Ferguson Forward" will support early childhood education, business development, scholarships for students and youth job training.

Ameren Missouri

 Updated 12/4/14

Ameren's solar energy center in O'Fallon is now in service. The 19-acre operation includes 19,000 solar panels and is currently generating six megawatts of power to the company's electrical grid.

Max Starkloff
Courtesy of the Missouri History Museum

In 1959, at age 21, Max Starkloff broke his neck in a car accident, becoming a quadriplegic.

“I think most people see disability as the worst thing that could ever happen to you and that it’s the end of your life,” said Colleen Starkloff, his widow and co-director of the Starkloff Disability Institute. “When I met Max, I realized it was the beginning of life.”

Max Starkloff, who died in 2010, became an advocate for people with disabilities.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis at Locust St. and N. Broadway, circa 1924-1925 just after the building went up.
Courtesy of the St. Louis Fed

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis celebrates its centennial anniversary this year.

St. Louis was one of 12 Reserve Banks that opened for business on November 16, 1914. They were all part of the Federal Reserve System created when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law in December 1913.

The Fashions R Boutique was one of 13 businesses in Dellwood that burned down during Monday's riots following the announcement of the Darren Wilson grand jury decision.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

 

Echoing the mayor of neighboring city Ferguson, the mayor of Dellwood is adding his voice to the criticism of Gov. Jay Nixon and demanding answers in the aftermath of Monday's riots.

Mayor Reggie Jones said Dellwood was promised its business district would be protected by National Guard troopers, but he said "they failed to arrive."

While Ferguson has "gotten more attention," Jones said, his city saw the most damage and he wants to make sure his city also gets the resources it needs to recover. 

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