Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

Melody Walker

Economic Development Reporter

Long-time public radio listeners may remember hearing Melody Walker sign off from Paris in the 1980’s where she covered arts, politics, gastronomy, exiled dictators, and terrorist attacks for six years. She returned to WNYC (where she had her first job as a reporter while a student at Barnard College) and became producer of the Leonard Lopate Show and a newsroom reporter. Soon after Marketplace launched, Melody was tapped to run the business show’s New York Bureau. She continued to work for Marketplace as a freelancer in Chicago and contributed to WBEZ community coverage before another stint in Paris just in time to report on the Euro’s debut and the French reaction to the events of 9/11. After more than a decade ensconced in academic ivory towers as a public affairs and communications director, Melody is thrilled to be back in the newsroom as the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Ways to Connect

Microsoft Technology Center opens in Cortex Innovation Community
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

There have been many ribbon cuttings in the Cortex district this year. The debut of a new MetroLink station, a new building called Innovation Hall and the Aloft Hotel groundbreaking were big events, to name a few. But Wednesday's ribbon cutting at the Microsoft Technology Center had politicians, entrepreneurs and techies buzzing more than usual.

Shop 'n Save stores sold to Schnucks in St. Louis region
photo credit|Paul Sableman, Flickr, Creative Commons

Shop ‘n Save is checking out of the grocery-store business in the St. Louis region.

Schnucks Markets is purchasing 19 area Shop 'n Save groceries owned by parent company SuperValu and will rebrand them as Schnucks stores. The remaining 17 Shop 'n Save locations will close if SuperValu is unable to find a buyer by the end of the year.

The acquisition will boost the number of Schnucks grocery stores by 20 percent. Fifteen of the stores include pharmacies, which will also be purchased and run by Schnucks.

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Denver-based Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator is expanding its program to St. Louis to support startups doing research in food, water and energy shortages.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will partner with the incubator, called IN2, to provide research labs and support for early stage startups.

IN2 was created in 2014 to support the development and commercialization of energy-related technology through early stage startups.

STL Not for Sale, grassroots group hold press conference at City Hall Sept. 13, 2018
photo credit | Melody Walker

A grassroots group called STL Not For Sale is criticizing an outreach campaign conducted by a team exploring privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The group held a press conference Thursday on the steps of City Hall to protest what it says is a push for privatization. Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, said she learned about the door-to-door effort from her constituents.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

More than 400 researchers, entrepreneurs and investors are expected to attend Ag Innovation Showcase this week, the 10th year it’s been hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The three-day event has been described as part research conference, part Shark Tank competition, where startups pitch the latest technology to improve crop yields that are safe for farmers, consumers and the environment.

SLCD proposes SUD for NGA.
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

Residents gathered Wednesday night at Vashon High School to hear about a proposal for a Special Use District surrounding the future site of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis.

It was the second of two public meetings organized this month by the St. Louis Development Corporation’s Project Connect to discuss the proposal.

SLU students conduct archeological dig on campus before new center for science and engineering is built.
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

In a race against the bulldozers and cranes, a Saint Louis University history professor and a handful of students are conducting an archeological dig in the middle of campus.

It’s unlikely they will be able to excavate deep or wide enough to find evidence of an early Civil War encampment that once occupied the site, but Tom Finan, assistant professor of history and archeologist, doesn’t like to give up hope.  

“I can’t help but think with 800 men living here for a month and using the Mill Creek that ran through here, that something wouldn’t be left behind,” he said.

Express Scripts headquarters
Express Scripts

The merger between Express Scripts and Cigna won approval from shareholders of both companies on Friday.

The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of combining Express Scripts, the St. Louis-based pharmacy benefit management company, and the Connecticut-based health service corporation.

Cigna made its $67 billion cash and stock offer in March. Following shareholder approval, the merger agreement will be reviewed by the Department of Justice, and barring any anti-trust complications, could be approved by the end of this year.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway releases audit of state's 400 Community Improvement Districts CIDs
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway was in St. Louis Thursday to present her report on more than 400 Community Improvement Districts around the state.

The first-ever audit of the special tax districts, better known as CIDs, found a general lack of accountability and failure to comply with state laws regarding budget preparation, annual financial and performance reporting, annual meetings and the Sunshine Law.

Sign at the main entrance to the old Monsanto headquarters reads Bayer Crop Sciences as of August 21, 2018
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The sign at Monsanto’s former headquarters now says Bayer.

This week, Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto officially got underway. While the $66-billion deal was completed in June, the companies had to clear some antitrust hurdles before they could integrate and get down to business.

The North American Crop Science Division of Bayer is now headquartered in St. Louis.

“I’ll be the first to tell you, there will be changes,” said Brett Begemann, a 35-year Monsanto veteran and newly named chief operating officer of the Crop Science Division of Bayer.

Construction continues on the 802,000-square-foot replacement hospital and outpatient care center for SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. Aug 16, 2018
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

The construction industry is booming. Nationally, employment in the sector increased by 303,000 over the past year, reaching a 10-year high, according to an analysis of the latest government data by the Associated General Contractors of America Association.

In the St. Louis region, contractors and unions report they are near full-employment, but a shortage of next generation tradesmen and women is making recruitment a top priority for many local construction companies.

SLDC launches town hall meetings on August 14, 2018
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Development Corporation has kicked off a campaign of town hall meetings aimed at improving its public image.

SLDC executive director Otis Williams on Tuesday told an audience at the LaunchCode headquarters on Delmar Boulevard, in the Fountain Park neighborhood, “We want to become more transparent.”

Missouri rice farmers to export rice to Egypt
Southeast Missouri State University

It takes a lot of water to grow rice.

Farmers in Missouri’s bootheel have plenty from underground aquifers, replenished by the Mississippi River. But in Egypt, the government has slashed rice planting in half to conserve water.

A new dam near the Nile River’s source in Ethiopia is threatening to stem the flow to Egypt’s rice paddies.

healp wanted ads in newspaper
photo credit|Innov8social, Flickr, Creative Commons

Job skills are the focus of the 2018 State of the St. Louis Workforce study published Wednesday by the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College.

This year’s report is titled “Help Wanted: A Skilled Workforce. Addressing the Workforce Needs of the St. Louis Economy.

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

The city’s Airport Advisory Working Group met for the first time Tuesday with a cadre of legal, financial and aviation experts. Together they will prepare to seek and review bids from private investors vying for a lease to manage operations at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The Lindbergh Conference Room overlooking the airport runways was the setting for a two-hour presentation by the outside experts. They laid out an 18-month timeline for hammering out the details of a potential public-private partnership for Lambert.

After many delays, the city’s contract with consultants to explore the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport may be official soon.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Francis Slay, just weeks before leaving office as mayor in April of last year, initiated the process that could lead to the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

In June of this year, Slay was hired by Ferrovial Airports, a Madrid-based company with extensive experience in managing airports in Europe, and considered one of three top contenders in the bidding process for Lambert.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Missourians shopping for back-to-school supplies can take advantage of the state’s tax-free weekend this Friday through Sunday.

The tax holiday applies to clothing, school supplies and computers for the 4.22-percent state sales tax, as well as the local sales tax in participating jurisdictions.

But the Better Business Bureau recommends that consumers do some reading, writing and arithmetic before they start to shop in stores or online. Chris Thetford, vice president of communications at the BBB in St. Louis, said not everything sold in back-to-school sales may qualify.

Siteman Cancer Center breaks ground for new facility in Florissant
provided | Siteman Cancer Center

Siteman Cancer Center broke ground Tuesday on its fifth outpatient site. The $26.3-million, 37,000-square-foot facility will be located on the Northwest HealthCare campus of Christian Hospital in Florissant.

“This is the best medicine coming right here to north county,” said Rick Stevens, the president of Christian Hospital. “This is money being put back in the community right here.”

The new facility is a joint project of BJC HealthCare — which owns and operates Christian Hospital — and Washington University School of Medicine. It is expected to open in late 2019.

John Hope Bryant 072618 Operation Hope Finacial literacy offices in Regions Bank
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

Regions Bank and Operation HOPE on Thursday opened a HOPE Inside financial empowerment office in Belleville.

The office staffed by an Operation Hope financial counselor is located inside the Regions Bank branch at 4800 W. Main St.

Before and after its facelift: Milque Toast Bar, 2212 S. Jefferson Ave., received a Community Development Block Grant to improve its facade.
provided | Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program

Leonard Johnson admits many run-down storefronts in St. Louis could use a facelift. He’d like to help “polish up” each and every one. But, for now, the director of the Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program only has a $1-million Community Development Block Grant to improve small-business facades. So, he plans to “spread the love” to businesses in the most underserved areas of the city.

“We understand that development happens downtown and in the central corridor,” Johnson said. “And it rarely spreads into north St. Louis or north city and even deeper in south city. We want to address that and be intentional about that, because that’s where our program had some shortcomings before.”

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