Economy & Innovation | St. Louis Public Radio

Economy & Innovation

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

Crown Square rehabbed 2010
File Photo | Rachel Heidenry | Beacon

Odessa Willis had been hearing about the redevelopment of a two-block section of North 14th Street where she once shopped on Saturday evenings, during a heyday that had become a memory, in a place that had become a symbol of failed urban renewal. She came to the party for the new Crown Square development Thursday afternoon to see for herself these historic buildings that have been reclaimed, rebuilt and reborn -- once again.

Odessa Willis comes home.

provided

One year after the NACA "Save the Dream Tour'' stopped in Cleveland, a local nonprofit advocacy group that offers foreclosure counseling in Ohio has posted a note on the front page of its website "reaching out to homeowners who've had difficulty with Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America."

Provided by Saint Louis Coworking

There’s something to be said for a traditional work routine of commuting downtown, entering a high-rise office building and chatting with coworkers before settling in for the day. That’s a new possibility for the people who will occupy a 10,000-square-foot room inside the Shell Building beginning Aug. 2.

On a miserably hot and steamy weekend last summer, struggling homeowners seeking mortgage salvation turned out by the thousands at the Chaifetz Arena for an event called "Save the Dream," a highly publicized multi-city foreclosure-prevention tour put on by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), a Boston-based nonprofit that touts "same-day permanent solutions."

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - While it can be argued that all levels of the lending industry played some part in the sub-prime mortgage collapse, economist William Emmons of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis adds another factor: household financial behavior.

Emmons believes the sub-prime mortgage meltdown was a long time coming and is linked to the downward trend in both U.S. personal and national saving.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 5, 2009 - Opportunity is knocking, say area Realtors who are pinning their hopes on first-time homebuyers willing to take advantage of bargain prices, low-interest mortgages and a temporary federal tax credit.

"That first-time buyer really needs to come out," said St. Louis Realtor Marty Ribaudo of RE/MAX Associates Plus, echoing a sentiment shared by the region's housing industry that it's going to take motivated first-time homebuyers to jumpstart the slumping market.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 6, 2009 - Gov.-elect Jay Nixon chose a visit to City Sprouts, a children's shop in the Loop, to announce his plan to appoint Linda M. Martinez to head the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Martinez is a member of the Bryan Cave law firm and specializes in financial and development issues. In a statement at the store, she said tough economic times required Missouri to "take bold steps to create and retain good-paying jobs."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 2, 2009 - When economic times get tough, the wise get going -- to the public library, that is. As the economy squeezes many St. Louisans' budgets, area libraries are reporting increases in usage: More people are visiting and more material is circulating.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 27, 2008 - Recessions don't take a holiday, and Tuesday's numbers on home sales were more proof of what economists have been warning: This is far from over.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 27, 2008 - Heat-Up St. Louis knows the drill.

Requests for energy assistance tend to spike following snowy and icy conditions such as those that swept through the area recently. This year, though, has been different. Many households were desperate for help long before the start of winter.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 24, 2008 - What do MetroLink, a child-care facility in Wellston and the Danforth Plant Science Center have in common?

They are all -- in some form or other -- on St. Louis County's "wish list" for President-elect Barack Obama's national economic recovery program.

This article first appeared in th St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 24, 2008 - Christmas might come early in 2009 -- or at least that's what local and state government officials are hoping, and planning, for.

Many of them have been busy putting together what St. Louis County Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls laughingly called a "Christmas wish list," a compilation of projects they hope they can get funded from the federal recovery program.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 22, 2008 - WASHINGTON - Now that an assistance package is finally on the way to Detroit's automakers, after weeks of pleading from the Big Three and plenty of heated political rhetoric from both sides of the congressional aisle, a fundamental question remains:

Will this save the U.S. auto industry?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 19, 2008 - As details of financial shenanigans perpetrated by fallen Wall Street gurus become public, the blame game is revving up. The Madoff scandal is quickly engulfing others. From his family to his cronies on Wall Street to Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, there is plenty of blame going around. And why not? After all, it appears that the losses stemming from Madoff's Ponzi scheme will surpass the GDP of many countries.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 19, 2008 - Here's what the great auto industry meltdown of 2008 looks like to Darin Gilley, president of Local 1760 of the United Auto Workers: His local has gone from 650 to 15 current active members and is on the verge of dissolving; he is unemployed.

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