Economy & Innovation

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

The troubled Jamestown Mall may have a hard time attracting customers, but there is no shortage of suggestions from the public on how its 142 acres could be redone.

How about:

The Federal Reserve reported economic growth at a "modest pace" in its five western districts since mid-July, including St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco, according to the Fed's Beige Book released Wednesday.

The Fed said that reports from all 12 districts suggested continued growth in national economic activity, but noted mixed conditions or "a deceleration" compared with previous periods in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond and Atlanta.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Since his election in 2005, Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer has helped steer his community of about 30,000 through some trying times.

In July 2006, severe storms battered Granite City, downing trees and power lines and leaving hundreds of residents without electricity for a week. An ice storm the following November again left many in the community in the dark. But no one was injured or killed, and the city worked with Granite City Township officials to set up emergency generators in cooling and heating shelters.

U.S. Steel in Granite City
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

Dan Simmons, president of Local 1899 of the United Steelworkers, said he never forgets his own mantra -- to buy American-made products -- even when it turns out to be a real challenge.

Simmons said that he and a fellow union official spent hours scouring the warehouse of a St. Louis candy wholesaler recently searching for union-made -- or even American-made -- candy to toss to kids at Monday's annual Labor Day parade in Granite City.

"We had to really work at it," Simmons said. "We spent way longer than we should have to make sure it was American-made."

Granite City used TIF funds to build a new movie theater.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

There is a glowing sign of changing times in downtown Granite City: a stylish marquee on a just-completed state-of-the-art cinema, within eyeshot of an old landmark steel mill that's up and running again.

Granite City used $4.6 million in tax-increment financing funds to pay for the theater, in hopes that it will draw people downtown.

The St. Louis area could create more jobs if a greater portion of its transportation funding went to mass transit rather than to building roads and highways, a new study by the Public Policy Research Center of the University of Missouri-St. Louis shows.

File photo

When Chesterfield mayor John Nations took on the job earlier this of running the campaign for Proposition A to help an ailing Metro, he had no idea that a few months later he would become the agency's new CEO.

"It was the furthest thing from my mind," he says.

If current political advertising is a sign of the finger-pointing to come, it appears that some candidates -- most notably the non-incumbents -- are taking a page from Bill Clinton's now infamous campaign dogma about the importance of the ailing economy, but with a twist.

With all due respect, it's the bailout, stupid.

Does the figure $700 billion come to mind?

300 pixels wide Kiel to Peabody constrruction
Rachel Heidenry | 2010 | St. Louis Beacon

If you want to take a break from the economic dirge of the past few weeks, here's a number to ponder:

$929 million.

As some of you likely encountered, last weekend construction wreaked havoc on Interstate 55/70 between Missouri and Illinois. Though I did my best to listen closely on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning as KMOX gave us repeated fair warning, all I retained was a 90 percent certainty that it was going to be a mess, and it was going to start at 8 p.m. on Friday.

Expectations play a significant role in explaining human behavior. Expect a slight chance of rain and you may not take an umbrella. Expect that the hurricane gaining strength off the coast is going to hit your town and you are likely to take precautions. Expectations also are important in explaining the current economic situation.

On Aug. 14, I attended a first-of-its kind event in St. Louis. The result was about six hours of conversation among people who live in the St. Louis area and people who work in public media. We talked about things ranging from empowering young women and non-accredited schools to how the Internet is changing local news and what media literacy means in the age of the Internet.

The news that China has surpassed Japan as the world's second largest economy sent a shiver through the collective soul of economic pundits. It needn't have.

During the late 1980s, we were warned of Japan's expanding economic machine. The Japanese economy was then expanding at a rate that made ours look puny. Everyone looked to Japan as the source for economic inspiration and guidance: Recall the movement to adopt their management techniques or face economic defeat?

The following is adapted from a presentation earlier this summer by Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University, to the Shanghai Forum.

I think everyone can agree that the challenges we face in providing abundant energy at an affordable cost without adverse consequences on the environment is one of the largest, and arguably, most expensive challenges we face as a global community.

Just as there is no magic pill to cure a hangover, it will take time -- at least two more years -- for the United States to recover from the economic binging of the last decade, says a local economist who was sounding the alarm about over-leveraging and cash-out home refinancing, even while the housing market was still bubbling along in 2005 and 2006.

new look for thomas coffee on right
File photo | Rachel Heidenry | 2010

The morning's last batch of coffee beans was out of the roaster and still cooling, as Bob Betz, the president and CEO of Thomas Coffee, guided visitors through his refurbished plant at 922 South Boyle Ave.

Betz and his partners cut the ribbon in April on a new beginning for an old St. Louis brand, known for the little Scottish terrier on the bright blue can. They bought the plant for $1.2 million and spent 14 months putting their new business in order.

True confessions: I'm a technology evangelist.

I get really, really excited when technology is used to take an everyday need, habit, task or interest and make it somehow easier, better, indispensable, more accessible. Often, this takes things to the next level, creating space for new thoughts, new habits, new norms. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Friday's employment news from the U.S. Department of Labor was sobering: Even though the nation's unemployment rate for July remained unchanged at 9.5 percent, the nation gained just 12,000 jobs overall for the month -- a drop in the economic recovery bucket.

According to the report, private employers added a net total of 71,000 jobs in July, but that was offset by government cuts at the local, state and federal levels, analysts said.

Missouri's monthly income numbers continued their decline in July, but state Budget Director Linda Luebbering says the 4.2 percent drop -- compared to July 2009 -- was not unexpected.

"We're actually about right on track," Luebbering said in an interview today.

The current state budget, for the fiscal year that began on July 1, is based on an annual income increase of 2.3 percent. But Luebbering said said that budget crafters "knew we were going to start the year in the negative."

Peter Raven at work in China
Provided by the Missouri Botanical Gardens

Descriptions of Peter Raven's tenure as president of the Missouri Botanical Garden range from superlative to superlative.

"Since he put down roots here in 1971, Dr. Raven has been one of St. Louis' favorite exotics. He is a generous civic leader, consummate showman, wise counsel and world expert on biodiversity. I expect him to continue in all those roles," said St. Louis mayor Francis Slay in a statement to the Beacon.

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