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.

 

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. 

Taken on 06-28-19
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen Friday passed a $1.1 billion annual spending plan that includes more money for vacant building demolition and crime reduction.

After passing the board on a 20-5 vote, the budget proposal will be sent to Mayor Lyda Krewson for her signature before going into effect Monday. The total amount is the same as last year’s budget.

St. Louis-based Hoy Shoe Company manufactures 97% of its sandals in China. If new tariffs go into effect, President Scott Downs says the company would have no choice but to raise prices.
Helen | Flickr

President Donald Trump’s proposed 25% tariff on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods will have a big impact on the footwear industry, which relies on the country for a majority of its products.

Such tariffs would hit home in St. Louis, where shoe manufacturing and sales have a long history. Caleres, formerly Brown Shoe Company, is based in Clayton, and many smaller independent companies call the region home.

On June 24, 2019 Ameren CEO Warner Baxter addresses the judges of this year's Ameren Accelerator, a 12-week mentorship program that will kick off in August.
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Twelve energy companies pitched their businesses "Shark Tank"-style at Ameren’s headquarters in St. Louis on Monday. 

The companies, from around the world, are all vying for a spot in the 12-week Ameren Accelerator, which this year focuses on smart cities. The winning companies — up to nine — will also each receive a $100,000 check.

Representatives from organizations receiving funding from the Regional Business Council and Civic Progress pose for a photo. The Concil and Civic Progress announced more than $2 million in funding for these organizations on June 18.
Regional Business Council and Civic Progress

The Regional Business Council and Civic Progress on Tuesday announced more than $1 million in funding for eight St. Louis community organizations working to increase education and economic opportunities.

And the Business Council said it was giving an additional $1.2 million to a neighborhood cleanup program.

Taken on 06-10-19 at The Magic House on Delmar
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Through the doors of the Magic House at MADE, kids are testing rocket launchers, designing video game characters and learning how to use 3D printers.

This new satellite location on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis is a recent expansion from the children’s museum’s flagship in Kirkwood. What’s different is the focus on entrepreneurship.

“MADE stands for makers, artists, designers and entrepreneurs, so we’ve divided our space into those four areas,” says Beth Fitzgerald, president of The Magic House.

Trees along Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard are seen surrounded by rising water on Tuesday as the Mississippi River reaches a near-record height.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While water levels are beginning to drop along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, heavy flooding has led to the closure of many roads leading into small river towns and nearly 100 miles of the Katy Trail.

This time of year, John Benz’s campground along Highway 94 in Rhineland is normally packed with Katy Trail bike riders. But, flooding from the Missouri River led to the cancellation of the annual Katy Trail Ride and the closure of the highway. As a result, Benz said business has been down about 90%.

James Hillis uses geospatial technology to figure out where his company should plot more urban gardens to reduce food insecurity in north St. Louis. May 29, 2019
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Inside Good Life Growing’s newest urban garden, co-founder James Hillis is using an iPad to pull up maps of the city. The urban agriculture organization is trying to reduce food insecurity in north St. Louis, and mapping tools help him figure out where to plot new grow spaces.

Hillis’ maps look fairly simple, but they’re powered by Geographic Information Systems data that pulls in all kinds of factors about the local community.

May 31, 2019 - The Mississippi River reaches 36 feet, its highest level in Alton since 1993. The river is forecast to rise about three more feet before cresting above the 39-foot mark on June 5, about three feet below the record.
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Yet again in communities along the Mississippi River, residents and business owners are filling sandbags and holding their breath as the water creeps higher.

On Friday, the river was expected to crest in Quincy at just over 31 feet, less than a foot from the historic record set in 1993.

Mayor Kyle Moore said volunteers have helped fill 45,000 sandbags, some of which have gone to neighboring areas. He said while most homes are far above the reach of the river, the longer the water remains high the more damage it could do, including to the city’s water-treatment plant near the river.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 4:57 p.m. May 29 with comment from Pam Boyd, D-27th ward — A plan to implement the voter mandate to reduce the number of wards in St. Louis is underway. Exactly how it will be done, though, is still up in the air.

Alderwoman Heather Navarro, D-28th ward, chairs a yet-to-be-formed advisory committee that will design a transition plan to go from 28 wards to 14 by 2023. While the redrawing of ward lines will be left up to the Board of Aldermen, Navarro’s advisory committee aims to study how the smaller group of aldermen would equitably deliver city services, among other things.

That committee was meant to deliver a report on ward reduction by the end of May. The committee, however, has not yet been assembled. Navarro says that’s because she wanted the process to be as inclusive and transparent as possible.

Taken at T-Rex on May 23, 2019.
Corinne Ruff| St. Louis Public Radio

The growth of the geospatial industry in St. Louis is catching national attention. The city has been selected to host the GEOINT Symposium in 2023 and 2025.

The event, held annually by the United States Geospatial-Intelligence Foundation, is the largest gathering of geospatial-intelligence stakeholders. It brings in roughly 4,000 attendees each year.

St. Louis currently has more than 10,500 jobs in the geospatial sector, according to figures calculated by the St. Louis Development Corporation. The agency says the total economic impact is $4.9 billion.

Outside the Enterprise Center on 05/22/19 , the day after The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks to go to the Stanley Cup Final.
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

So far this year, the St. Louis Blues have generated nearly $4 million in city revenue. And now that the hockey team is headed to the Stanley Cup Final, the city expects an extra financial bump.

That’s according to estimates from St. Louis Budget Director Paul Payne. He said the city will predominantly benefit from direct revenue brought in from sales taxes on tickets. Indirect money from spending on things like concessions, parking, restaurants and hotels will also contribute to the city’s budget.

“I’d estimated back at the beginning of the playoffs you’d see the three games would probably be somewhere in the area of $300,000, which would go up with each succeeding series,” he said.

Alderwoman Megan Green, the sponsor of the St. Louis ordinance, said lawmakers in special session are spending "taxpayer money to do essentially nothing."
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

A series of bills introduced at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen meeting on Friday aim to hold elected officials accountable to stricter ethics standards.

Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, is one of six sponsors of the bills. Two of the proposals mirror state-level ethics legislation Clean Missouri. The constitutional amendment limits lobbying gifts to $5, among other things. Last November, it passed with 62% voter approval state-wide and 80% approval in St. Louis.  

Green said that shows St. Louis residents want to see more accountability from their local government officials.

Provided on 05-08-19
Evolution St. Louis

When consumers hear the words, “Made in the USA,” Jon Lewis wants them to think, “Made in St. Louis.”

That’s the broader mission of the construction of a new $5 million garment-manufacturing facility in St. Louis’ Grand Center neighborhood, which was announced at a media event on Thursday.

Lewis is the CEO of Evolution St. Louis, which he co-founded with fellow fashion veteran John Elmuccio. The 32,000-square-foot facility will bring in more than 50 jobs over the next three years.

Alderman Brandon Bosley, April 2017
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Brandon Bosley doesn’t want anything to do with the St. Louis Port Authority. He’s been vocal about that fact. Last week, the 3rd ward St. Louis alderman introduced a bill putting that into writing.

If passed, the bill would exempt his northside ward from any possible expansion of the Port Authority. It’s a preemptive measure that comes just a month after a bill that would have broadened the Port Authority’s jurisdiction on the matter stalled. It would have expanded the power of the Port Authority from just 19 miles along the Mississippi River front to the entire city.

Many homeowners are using services like Airbnb to make some extra cash, while the option is becoming more popular among travelers
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis assessor’s office on Friday sent out letters to the owners of 235 properties listed on Airbnb, informing them that their property value — and taxes — are going up.

The properties have been reclassified from residential to commercial, taking their property tax rate from 19% to 32%.

St. Louis Assessor Michael Dauphin said his office combed through hundreds of properties listed on Airbnb to find ones they believe are commercial enterprises, where the owner lives off-site. They found that the owners of more than half of the reclassified properties live outside of St. Louis, in states as far as California, Colorado and Arizona.

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The Better Together plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County was polarizing, but there was one aspect that many acknowledged would have been a big win for the region — a single vision for economic development.

Now the question for many economic development leaders is how to move forward with that vision with Better Together being put on hiatus this week.

Experts say that under the status quo, the regional economy has lagged for more than a decade, in part because economic development groups have spun in circles using tax incentives to compete for the same business.

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

Alderwoman Cara Spencer is trying again to force a public vote on the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

Spencer, D-20th Ward, on Friday introduced Board Bill 19, which largely resembles one she co-sponsored that stalled in the transportation committee last session. Then-chair of the committee Marlene Davis, D-19th Ward, at the time said it was too early to consider the bill and added that she feared a vote would discourage bidders.

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

The St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment quickly passed a measure to refinance bonds for the city’s airport on Tuesday.

The 15-minute meeting stood in stark contrast to a long, heated meeting two weeks ago.

At that meeting Mayor Lyda Krewson and Lewis Reed, the president of the Board of Aldermen, grilled Comptroller Darlene Green about a bill aimed to refinance $93 million in bonds for St. Louis Lambert International Airport at a lower interest rate from when they were first issued in 2009.

The proposed stadium would seat up to 22,500 for soccer. It could also be a site for concerts and other events.
HOK

St. Louis is edging toward a win for local soccer fans who have long hoped the city would score a Major League Soccer team.

For Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, this is the second attempt he’s been part of to bring MLS to the region. Kavanaugh is part of the ownership group along with Carolyn Kindle Betz, president of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, and other members of the Taylor family.