Corinne Ruff | KBIA

Corinne Ruff

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 lot has changed at Cortex since Dennis Lower took the reins as CEO a decade ago.

Back then, he was tasked with designing an innovation community — a place where people from big corporations, small startups and academic research institutions could break out of their silos and bounce ideas off each other.

“We call them serendipitous collisions, and that truly is what does happen,” Lower said of the mixed-use business and retail area in midtown St. Louis.

But as Cortex grows — a new hotel, apartments and office space are under construction or in the planning stages — Lower is preparing to transition from his full-time role. That move will take place in the first quarter of 2020 when his successor will be named.

A lawsuit filed Friday aims to open closed-door meetings and obtain documents held by a city working group considering leasing St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The plaintiffs allege members of the Airport Advisory Working Group knowingly violated the Missouri Sunshine Act in eight instances.

As companies vie for a potential lease on St. Louis Lambert International Airport, a big focus is on the land around it — and how it could be developed.

But a private operator would also take on the risk involving the current state of the land.

Consultants presented parts of an environmental report Thursday on the condition of that land to the Airport Advisory Working Group considering airport privatization.

This story was updated at 1 p.m. with comments from local leaders

Local and state leaders on Tuesday heralded construction of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's new western headquarters as the linchpin for a neighborhood turnaround in north St. Louis.

The $1.75 billion campus — dubbed Next NGA West — will go up on the corner of Jefferson and Cass avenues in the St. Louis Place neighborhood. The NGA is a federal agency under the Department of Defense that gathers geospatial intelligence.

After counting out the last in a series of chest compressions, Harry Painter Jr. sets up a nebulizer and begins piping oxygen into his patient’s lungs.

“Mr. Jones, you scared us there. How are you feeling?” he asks. The lifelike mannequin blinks back. 

Everything around Painter looks exactly as it would in a hospital, but this is a simulation room at St. Louis Community College’s new health care facility on the Forest Park campus.

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.)

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.”

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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 — 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.

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 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. 

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.

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.”

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 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. 

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.

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.

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