Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Corinne Ruff

Economic Development Reporter

Corinne Ruff joined St. Louis Public Radio as the economic development reporter in April, 2019. She grew up among the cornfields in Northern Illinois and later earned degrees in Journalism and French at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has since reported at the international, national and local level on business, education and social justice issues.
 

Her written work has appeared in a variety of publications including: Retail Dive, The Chronicle of Higher Education, U.S. News & World Report, C-U Citizen Access and The News-Gazette. Before moving to St. Louis to join the public radio family, she worked in Washington D.C. for more than three years. There, she founded the business podcast Conversational Commerce and co-hosted a weekly show on the public radio station WPFW about the intersection of higher education and social justice. When she’s not on the hunt for a good story, you can find her scoping out the local music scene and looking for good eats that don't involve whatever Provel "cheese" is.

 

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 6 with more information about the bidders — 

The Airport Advisory Working Group on Wednesday released additional information about each of the 18 companies and groups interested in bidding on a potential long-term lease of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

(Scroll below to see a detailed list of the companies.)

Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County NAACP announced Friday that John Bowman Sr. is its newest president.

Bowman has served as interim president since April, following the suspension of former president John Gaskin III. He came under fire for supporting a bill to change Title IX law and his paid consulting work for Better Together. 

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 13 to reflect the film is no longer being distributed. 

First Rule Films pulled its documentary “Hard Landing at Lambert” from all streaming platforms Tuesday at the request of the Airport Advisory Working Group. 

Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

About 20 residents gathered at an event Tuesday evening to ask questions regarding the city’s exploration of whether to lease St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

Consultants and members of the Airport Advisory Working Group, including Deputy Mayor for Development Linda Martinez, gave a presentation at Carpenter Library in south St. Louis about the process so far. 

The group also explained the potential benefit of a private deal — saying a cash influx could help pay down the airport’s debt and help alleviate problems like blight and crime in the city.

Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Oct. 28 with an update from First Rule

A representative from First Rule on Monday noted the media company has postponed a private screening of a new documentary about St. Louis Lambert International Airport. She did not provide a reason for the delayed event or a rescheduled date.

Original story from Oct. 25:

There’s a new documentary about St. Louis Lambert International Airport — and members of the working group considering whether to lease the airport aren’t happy about it.

The company that produced the documentary, First Rule, this week emailed invitations for a private viewing of the film, as well as a presentation about the airport privatization process so far. First Rule is a subsidiary of media advocacy organization Pelopidas, founded by Travis Brown, who also leads Grow Missouri.

Grow Missouri is one of several consultants for FLY314, the group hired by the city of St. Louis to consider whether to privatize the airport.

Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 4 with letter and complete list of signatures.

Mayors of municipalities surrounding St. Louis Lambert International Airport sent a letter Monday to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson asking for a briefing about airport privatization. The letter is signed by the mayors of the following cities: Woodson Terrace, Berkeley, Hazelwood, Edmundson, St. Ann, Overland, St. John, Bridgeton and Breckenridge Hills.

(Scroll down to read the letter.)

Original story from Oct. 23:

On a cool October morning, Woodson Terrace Mayor Lawrence Besmer stands on a construction site eyeing the progress of a new hotel going up off Interstate 70, across from St. Louis Lambert International Airport. 

But Besmer worries that the success of this hotel and another planned for his city of 4,000 residents hinges on what ultimately happens across the street — where officials are discussing whether to lease the airport to a private operator.

“It would just be nice to know what’s going on,” he said. “We can’t plan without knowing what they’re doing. So, it’s hard.”

Auto workers stand outside the Wentzville GM plant on Tuesday morning. They've been on strike since Sept. 15. (Oct. 15, 2019)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

WENTZVILLE — The United Auto Workers announced Wednesday it has reached a tentative agreement with General Motors. 

The details of the tentative agreement, which GM confirmed, will not be made public until at the earliest after a meeting of the union’s National General Motors Council in Detroit. 

Drawings by a joint venture between McCarthy Building Companies and HITT Contracting show an aerial view of the new western headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis.
Provided | McCarthy-HITT

Business, academic and civic leaders are coming together to plot the future of the geospatial industry in St. Louis. 

A new initiative announced Thursday — GeoFutures — is intended to provide a framework for how to drive investment in location intelligence technology and the workforce to support it.

“We want St. Louis to be seen as the international hub of innovation and expertise in the geospatial industry, period,” said Patty Hagen, executive director of startup incubator T-Rex.

Taken on 10/08/19 at Norwood hills country club
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

The PGA Tour Champions on Tuesday announced plans to bring an annual golf tournament to St. Louis. 

During a press event, the PGA said the Norwood Hills Country Club in north St. Louis County will host the Ascension Charity Classic.

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4 p.m. with details within the Request For Qualifications.

The St. Louis Airport Advisory Working Group voted Friday to put out an official call for companies interested in a potential long-term lease of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

With little public discussion, the group voted 3-1 to release a request for qualifications. That asks for interested parties to detail their performance history and financial ability to operate the airport. 

The head of the working group, Paul Payne, said this is the first benchmark indicating the city is moving forward with the process of considering leasing the airport.

Bills sponsored by Ald. Dionne Flowers, D-2nd Ward, would boost the age to purchase tobacco products in the city to 21
Drongowski | Flickr

Grocery chain Schnucks announced Thursday it will stop selling tobacco products beginning Jan. 1. The company plans to sell existing inventory of cigarettes, chewing tobacco and similar products through the end of the year.

Spokesman Paul Simon said the announcement falls in line with the Maryland Heights-based company’s increasing focus on health and wellness.

Taken at Denver International Airport on 9.17.19
Corinne Ruff / St. Louis Public Radio

DENVER — For Paula Gallegos, who flies out of Denver International Airport weekly on business trips, a 15-minute detour through construction is understandable for a few months. But a few years?

“Two or three years with this is a little much,” she said, pointing to the white paneling guarding exposed concrete and iron beams. “But, I mean, what do you do?”

She’s one of many Denver residents frustrated that a construction project halted last month is blocking a third of the airport’s main terminal. That’s after Denver’s mayor pulled the plug on the nearly $2 billion construction and privatization deal with Great Hall Partners, a group led by Spanish company Ferrovial Airports.

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A new plan for civil service employees at St. Louis Lambert International Airport aims to alleviate fears about what will happen to jobs if the city leases the airport to a private operator.

The preliminary program, developed by the St. Louis Airport Advisory Working Group, lays out three options for the 550 city employees at the airport: They could stay on with a five-year job guarantee under the private operator, apply with preference for another city job or stay in their current position during a two-year transition period.

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis alderwoman is questioning why the city has pivoted away from a public vote on the potential privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, has been pushing for a public vote for more than a year through her proposed legislation in the Board of Aldermen. So she was surprised to see a public vote had been suggested when the process first got off the ground.

Upon a closer look at the preliminary application submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration in 2017, Spencer said she recently realized a process involving a public vote was outlined as the preferred method for granting the city the authority to lease the airport. 

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Denver International Airport last month pulled the plug on a nearly $2 billion deal with a Spanish company leading a public-private partnership.

That’s of interest in St. Louis, where the company — Ferrovial Airports — may bid to lease St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Some city officials are taking a wait-and-see approach, while others hear alarm bells.

Taken at Bishop Du Bourg High School on 06/27/19
File photo | Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 1 p.m., Sept. 11, with confirmation from the St. Louis Airport Advisory Working Group

Douglass Petty, the communications manager of the St. Louis Airport Advisory Working Group, has been fired, the head of the group confirmed Wednesday. 

Paul Payne, who is also the St. Louis budget director, said Petty is no longer a spokesman for the group, nor is he employed by the St. Louis Development Corporation. Beyond that, Payne said the issue is a personnel matter.

St. Charles convention center
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

ST. CHARLES — U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt wants to increase job training programs in the state and seek more foreign trade partners.

The Republican Missouri senator spoke about jobs and the economy Friday at the 61st annual Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in St. Charles.

Taken at Bishop Du Bourg High School on 06/27/19
File photo | Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Late last month, a person who identified himself as Dominique called St. Louis on the Air to weigh in on a discussion about airport privatization.

“I think that right now it might be premature one way or the other to try to draw some conclusions simply because it’s a process that’s not been concluded,” Dominique said on the air. “There is no decision at this point.”

Even as Dominique spoke, questions arose about whether the caller was really Douglass Petty, the communications manager for the St. Louis airport advisory working group. While St. Louis Public Radio so far has been unable to obtain its call log from AT&T, the radio station did have a forensic audio analysis performed that shows Dominique was “very likely” Petty.

St. Louis University plans to build new houses on 43 empty parcels near its medical campus in the Gate District neighborhood.
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis University is planning to build homes for sale on 43 grassy lots scattered among existing houses just east of its medical campus on Grand Avenue.

The university acquired the properties in the Gate District neighborhood over the course of decades. In some cases it tore down deteriorating structures. Now, its development arm is working closely with the neighborhood association to build the homes. 

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber drapes an MLS scarf that reads "St. Louis" over Carolyn Kindle Betz, who leads the ownership group for St. Louis' new professional soccer team. Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5 p.m., Aug. 20 with stadium details and comments from ownership.

St. Louis soon will be home to a top-tier professional soccer team. Major League Soccer officially awarded St. Louis an expansion team on Tuesday. 

The team will begin play in spring 2022 in a new stadium to be built just west of Union Station. Construction could begin in January, according to team officials. The team’s name, logo and colors have not yet been finalized. 

“It is with great pride that we welcome St. Louis to Major League Soccer,” league Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday morning.

Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly 30 Irish businesses have a presence in Missouri, but local government and business leaders in the state want to see more.

The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and the Missouri Partnership on Monday released a handbook on investing in Missouri. They want to provide Irish businesses with resources and mentors so more will consider expansion in the region.

Taken on July 22 at BioSTL building in cortex during rehab construction.
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

A historic building in the Cortex innovation district is being transformed into a focal point for the St. Louis bioscience industry. At least that’s the intention of BioSTL President and CEO Donn Rubin.

“It’s part of my vision that when a guest to St. Louis comes for a meeting in the biosciences, they will be exposed to not just one company or one entrepreneur, but see an entire community of entrepreneurs — a beehive of startup activity.”

A construction workers examines a cast iron face piece on a window frame that is being removed as disassembly continues at the Clemens House in St. Louis on February 14, 2018. The Clemens house, which burned in July, was once owned by James Clemens, a rel
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

For the fourth year in a row, St. Louis businesses say their biggest barrier to expanding employment is a lack of skilled workers. That’s according to St. Louis Community College’s annual State of the St. Louis Workforce report released Wednesday. 

The new report, which surveyed over a thousand local employers, found that 1 in 3 is still having a hard time finding skilled workers. 

Robert Cardillo poses for photo taken at St. Louis University
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Robert Cardillo has spent much of the past 25 years in St. Louis, though he’s never lived here.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is what first brought him to the city, where more than 3,000 NGA employees work on a campus south of downtown. But it’s the budding geospatial industry that’s kept him involved on a broader level after stepping down from the agency earlier this year. 

Members of the REAL Cannabis Co. ownership team (from left) Justin Gage, Cheryl Watkins-Moore and Derek Mays stand in what they hope will be their flagship medical marijuana dispensary. They are one of few minority-owned businesses seeking a license. 7/29
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Cheryl Watkins-Moore has a vision.

Even though the building she’s standing in is empty, she points to spots where she can see a trendy coffee bar beneath a vaulted ceiling, retail shopping in the window front ⁠— and a medical marijuana dispensary in the back.

“People can come into the dispensary, take care of what they need to take care of and then be able to go on about their business,” said Watkins-Moore, the chief strategy and marketing officer of REAL Cannabis Co.

During an open house event at Vashon High School, Elaine Laura, a resident of the St. Louis Place neighborhood, places markers on a sheet indicating what barriers she has faced in the workplace. 07/23/19 at Vashon High School
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis residents had a chance Tuesday to weigh in on the city’s new economic development strategy.

Timetria Murphy-Watson was one of a few dozen people to cycle through an open house at Vashon High School in the near north JeffVanderLou neighborhood.

The St. Louis Development Corporation and a team of consultants set up six stations for residents to provide targeted feedback on matters such as the barriers they face in the job market and what equitable development means to them.

Provided on 07/18/19
St. Louis Development Corporation

St. Louis development officials are taking public comments as they plan the first of many projects around the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s future western headquarters on the near north side. 

The initial projects will involve road and pedestrian improvements along Jefferson Avenue and Parnell Street and will cost $25-$30 million. 

It’s the first step toward improving accessibility in the area — something St. Louis Development Corporation Executive Director Otis Williams said the city promised the NGA.

A Build-A-Bear employee sets out a display bear after dressing it in a new Blues uniform at at a store in the St. Louis Galleria. With the approval of a tax incentive package, the company is expected to move its headquarters to downtown St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a tax incentive package Friday, sweetening a plan for Build-A-Bear to move its headquarters ⁠— and 200 employees ⁠— to downtown St. Louis from its current location in Overland. 

After passing on a 22-3 vote, the bill now moves on to Mayor Lyda Krewson for a final signature, which a spokesman said she will provide.

POWERplex

Like many malls around the country, the St. Louis Outlet Mall in Hazelwood has been declining for a while. Today, it’s roughly 92% vacant — but Big Sports Properties has a plan to turn it around. It’s called POWERplex. 

By the end of next month, the developer plans to close on a $63 million deal to create a youth sports-focused venue. The plan is to convert the 1.5 million-square-foot mall structure into six sports venues that will host more than 180 sports tournaments, camps and events. 

Taken at SEIU Local 1 union on 06/25
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Keyahnna Jackson has a lot of questions about the potential lease of St. Louis Lambert International Airport to a private company.

“Will I still have a job? Are they bringing new people in? Would our rate of pay change? What’s going to be the difference?” she asked. 

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