Economy & Innovation

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

(via Flickr/KellyB)

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says unemployment dropped during April in 11 of the state's 12 metro areas.

The department said Thursday the biggest decrease was in the Rockford area where unemployment decreased from 12.1 percent in April 2011 to 10.7 percent. The Kankakee-Bradley area wasn't far behind. The jobless rate there fell from 11.8 percent to 10.5 percent. Only the Metro East had an increase - a small jump from 8.3 to 8.4 percent.

Unemployment in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metro area decreased from 9.5 percent to 9 percent.

General Motors expanding production at Wentzville plant

May 21, 2012

General Motors broke ground on Monday for a new $380 million expansion to its Wentzville Assembly Plant.

When GM declared Chapter 11 in 2009 the Wentzville plant was subject to talks of being shut down. Few people envisioned a day like today when the company would be adding 500,000 square feet to Wentzville.

The company says the move will create some 1,000 new jobs, with priority given to workers from the soon-to-be closed plant in Shreveport, La.

Illinois exports rose more than 17 percent in the first quarter to their highest level in more than a decade.

The increase was driven by sales of industrial machinery, petroleum and coal products, automobiles and chemicals. The export of products to build roads and factories in China and Brazil also helped boost the numbers.

An announcement from Gov. Pat Quinn's office says exports for January through March reached $17.2 billion. That's compared with $14.7 billion from the same period last year.

The governor has set a goal of doubling the state's exports by 2014.

(via Flickr/KellyB)

Updated at 3:23 p.m. with Associated Press correction. Government hiring was not down in April.

Unemployment across Illinois dropped in April for an eighth straight month, but job growth all but stalled.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday that statewide unemployment fell to 8.7 percent. That's down a tenth of a percentage point from 8.8 in March. The national jobless rate was 8.1 percent.

(via Flickr/s_falkow)

A civil lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in St. Louis accuses the therapy provider RehabCare Group Inc. of paying more than $10 million in kickbacks to gain access to nursing home Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that suburban St. Louis-based RehabCare is accused of a revenue-sharing agreement with nursing home chain owner Health Systems Inc. that defrauded Medicare and Medicaid programs.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is asking the city’s Convention and Visitors Commission to reject the Rams’ request for $700 million in upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the team is on its way out of town.

Speaking on St. Louis on the Air, Slay said the Ram’s requests was a “best-case scenario” for the team, and did not reflect a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

The city’s plan calls for upgrades totaling $124 million—a figure which Slays says is a starting point for further negotiations.

State transport panel hears from St. Louis metro region

May 14, 2012
Missouri Department of Transportation | Flickr

Missouri state and local officials are looking for ways to maintain the state’s transportation infrastructure during a climate of limited funds.

The so-called "Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri Transportation Needs" met in Chesterfield and will hold similar meetings around the state this spring and summer. 

MoDOT District Engineer Ed Hassinger says the agency has roughly half the money to spend that it did just several years ago.

(Released by Mo. Atty. Gen. Chris Koster)

The details of proposals to improve or change the Edward Jones Dome have been kept secret - until today.

Last week, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said he would release the details of the proposals, in response to an open records request, and he's done so.

Carnahan says changes coming for Postal Service

May 11, 2012
(Official Photo)

The U.S. Postal Service is on track to run out of cash as early as October.

The agency has temporarily shelved plans to close some 3,700 underperforming post offices. 

The Postal Service has been hurt by the drop in first-class mail as more people switch to the Internet to communicate and pay bills.

But St. Louis Congressman Russ Carnahan says the agencies’ biggest problem stems from a requirement to prepay health benefits for future retirees.

(Véronique LaCapra)

The minority business advocacy group MOKAN says the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is not doing enough to include local minority and female workers in its sewer upgrade projects.

MOKAN executive director Yaphett El-Amin says her group wants MSD to increase the transparency of its hiring practices and invest at least $23.5 million in worker training programs.

(via Flickr/Hakan Dahlstrom)

Caesars Entertainment Corp. says it will sell its Harrah's hotel-casino outside St. Louis to rival Penn National Gaming for $610 million.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Caesars and Penn National gave different reasons for the all-cash transaction that could close later this year.

Caesars Entertainment Chairman Gary Loveman says the company is looking at other growth markets. Caesars is opening the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland next week and Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati next year.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

The new Fortune 500 list has been released. Fortune Magazine has released its annual ranking of the top U.S. companies by revenue Monday.

Last year, St. Louis had ten companies on the list. It’s down to nine this year, as Smurfit Stone Container dropped off because it was purchased by Rock-Tenn in 2011. The companies are:

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

Fifteen start-up companies are getting a boost from St. Louis business accelerator Arch Grants. The winners of Arch Grant’s global business plan competition will each receive $50,000 to help them get started in the city.

Arch Grants co-founder and president Jerry Schlichter says the recipients were selected from more than 400 applicants.

“Arch Grants will be working hard to make these entrepreneurs a success," he said.  "And, we’re going to be working equally hard to try to continue to build Arch Grants to make it a true game-changing program for St. Louis."

(via Flickr/KellyB)

Illinois' unemployment rate fell below 9 percent in March in what continues to be a slow, sometimes unsteady recovery from recession.

The state Department of Employment Security said Thursday that unemployment fell to 8.8 percent in March. It was the first time the jobless rate was below 9 percent since February 2009 and the seventh straight decrease. February unemployment in Illinois was 9.1 percent.

Illinois unemployment still remains higher that the nation as a whole. The U.S. rate in March was 8.2 percent.

(via Flickr/KellyB.)

Missouri added about 4,800 jobs in March as its unemployment rate remained steady.

Figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Economic Development show that Missouri's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in March - the same level as in February. That remained below the national unemployment rate of 8.2 percent in March.

(St. Louis Public Radio photo)

Residents can weigh in starting today on proposed fare increases for mass transit in St. Louis. The Metro transit agency is considering three options for raising fares this year – one would increase only the costs of weekly, monthly and university semester passes; the second would raise the cost of all passes except day passes; and the third would spread the increase to all fares, including buses and Metrolink. 

(via Flickr/KellyB)

Missouri's 7.4 percent jobless rate is the lowest it's been in more than three years - but that's bad news for about 9,000 of the state's 112,000 people receiving unemployment benefits.

State lawmakers last year outlasted a determined filibuster by Republican Senator Jim Lembke to approve an additional 20 weeks in benefits - funded entirely by the federal government - for Missouri residents who had been out of work for 79 weeks, or more than a year and a half.

(St. Charles County Dept. of Corrections)

One of two brothers who owned the auto services contract giant US Fidelis has pleaded guilty to federal charges - just four days after admitting to a series of state charges.

Darain Atkinson, 47, pleaded guilty today to one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and one felony count of filing false tax returns. 

(St. Charles County Department of Corrections)

Updated at 4:08 with comments from Attorney General Koster and Darain Atkinson's attorney.

Updated 3:58 with statement from the Better Business Bureau:

“US Fidelis left a trail of dissatisfied consumers from across the United States.  Today’s guilty plea by Darain Atkinson in St. Charles County illustrates the risks of unethical business behavior and the importance of the work of groups like the Better Business Bureau in exposing the underhanded practices in our marketplace,” Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO said.

(CIA World Factbook)

Reporting from KSMU's Jennifer Moore used in this report.

As we mentioned this morning, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will travel to Brazil this month on a trade mission. The trip comes on the heels of the news that Missouri saw its strongest year ever for exports in 2011.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 4:26 p.m. to correct name of Jennifer Mallon's association. It is the National Community Pharmacists Association, not the National Association of Community Pharmacies.

Federal regulators have approved the $29.1 billion merger between pharmacy benefit managers Express Scripts and Medco.

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The Doe Run Co. says production of primary lead at its smelter in the eastern Missouri town of Herculaneum will be suspended for four to six weeks following a fire.

The fire on March 20 occurred at the smelter's electric substation. Doe Run Primary Smelting Division general manager Gary Hughes says damage to the substation is significant.

KellyB. | Flickr

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the state's unemployment rate dropped in February for the sixth-straight month. 

The department says the February jobless rate fell to 9.1 percent from 9.4 percent in January. That's still much higher than the national 8.3 percent rate.

Department Director Jay Rowell calls the drop a sign that the state continues its steady recovery from recession.

Illinois added 6,500 jobs in February. That's almost double the 3,800 jobs added in January.

(via Flickr/KellyB)

Missouri's unemployment rate fell slightly last month while the state's overall payroll increased by a couple thousand jobs.

The state Department of Economic Development reported Tuesday that Missouri's jobless rate in February dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 7.4 percent, which is its lowest mark since late 2008.

Economic development officials also say Missouri's net nonfarm payroll increased by 2,300 jobs in February.

This is the second straight month that Missouri's payrolls have expanded. More than 21,000 jobs were added last month.

 

(via Flickr/KellyB.)

Illinois added 3,800 jobs in January, and the state unemployment rate fell for the fifth straight month to 9.4 percent.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the 0.3 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate was the largest decline since September 1992.

The agency says the number of unemployed people dropped by 18,100 in January to 620,300.

Illinois has added 122,900 private sector jobs since January 2010, the first month that numbers increased after 23 consecutive months of declines. The state unemployment rate peaked that month at 11.4 percent.

Joseph Leahy, St. Louis Public Radio

Consumer advocates are pressing Enterprise Rent-a-Car to support a bill to keep rental cars that are subject to federal recall off the road.

Joan Bray of the Consumers Council of Missouri says while the St. Louis-based company has agreed in principle, it should endorse a Congressional amendment named for two sisters who were killed while driving a PT Cruiser under recall.

(via Flickr/KellyB.)

Missouri's unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent while the state's overall payroll increased by thousands of jobs.

The state Department of Economic Development reported Tuesday that Missouri's net nonfarm payroll increased by 21,100 jobs in January. Officials reported that Missouri had a net of loss of 11,800 jobs in December and a loss of 3,300 jobs in November.

Besides expanding payrolls for the first time in three months, Missouri's unemployment rate in January dropped by half a point to 7.5 percent. That is Missouri's lowest jobless rate since November 2008.

Shell gas station
(via Flickr/dno1967b)

Shell Oil Co. plans to close its oil blending and packaging plant in Roxana, where Shell began operations in 1918.

A company spokeswoman says the Wood River Blending Plant is closing because it needs major upgrades and because it is on property Shell doesn't own.

The closure of the Shell Lubricants site will result in the loss of more than 80 jobs in Roxana, just east of St. Louis. The company says it will also close its regional distribution center in O'Fallon, Mo., which employs more than a dozen people.

Panera Bread plans to add two more pay-what-you-want cafes later this year, part of the company's effort to help feed the hungry in a dignified way.

Panera spokeswoman Kate Antonacci said Thursday that the specific locations won't be announced until spring.

One could open by summer, the other in the fall. A third site is also being considered for later this year.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Following a back-and-forth in which the St. Louis Rams and the St.

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