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

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. 

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.

Pages