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The St. Louis Region Needs To Let Go of Fragmentation

October 22, 2018 Featured, STL Region Comments Off on The St. Louis Region Needs To Let Go of Fragmentation
A 2011 list of municipalities in St. Louis County

On August 22, 1876 voters in St. Louis County, which included the City of St. Louis, voted on separation. It failed.

The vote took place 22 Aug 1876, and the initial count indicated that the separation question had failed by just over 100 votes. Supporters of separation then brought charges, including fraud, and a recount was ordered. The recount took four months so it was late 1876 before it was determined that the vote for separation had passed. The story of the split is really much more complex than that, so consult the reading list below for more in-depth material. (St. Louis County Library)

Other sources, including St. Louis Day by Day by Frances Hurd Stadler indicates the recount was finalized two months later on October 22, 1876 — 142 years ago today. Regardless of when the recount determined the measure had passed, it was in 1877 when the parties went their separate ways.

This was one of the worst things to happen to the entire St. Louis region. The City of St. Louis has suffered the most, but St. Louis County is now experiencing increased poverty, population loss, etc.

Earlier this year the St. Louis region dropped one spot to 21st:

Overall, the St. Louis metropolitan area, which comprises 14 counties and the city of St. Louis, grew slightly but at a much slower rate than other parts of the U.S., based on population estimates taken from July 1, 2016, to July 1 of last year.

The Baltimore area, which had been ranked 21st, swapped spots on the population list with the St. Louis region. The city of Baltimore saw a numeric population drop greater than St. Louis city, but Baltimore’s loss represented a 0.9 percent decrease, compared with a 1.4 percent loss in St. Louis. (Post-Dispatch)

On October 11th St. Louis Alderman Scott Ogilvie made a surprise announcement that he wouldn’t seek a third term next Spring. In his announcement he said this:

Government in the region needs to be completely remade from the ground up. It does not work in St. Louis City, it does not work in the poorer areas of St. Louis County. We accept that rich people get excellent services because they wall themselves into suburban enclaves and avoid engaging with the rest of the region, and we accept that poor people will have poor services because they are poor. We accept that the middle class will endure a series of choices driven by anxiety and fear rather than love and optimism.

In 2000, a year after moving here, I was riding my bike on a weekend as I often do in Forest Park. A driver began a confrontation with me that ended in an assault near Skinker and Forsyth. Afterwards, angry and annoyed but not particularly hurt, I called the police. The response I got was not, “Are you ok?” but “What side of Skinker were you on?” This is our regional government in a nutshell. It first asks not what someone needs, but where they live. What you get is determined by your address.

We largely got here by accident. But with decades of perspective on this dynamic, we all know it’s the central problem in the St. Louis region. It’s time to do something about it. My parting shot in my role as alderman is this: We need to erase all the artificial boundaries of City and County and Municipalities. The only way this region will ever work is if we are governed as one region, where everyone pays into the same pot, everyone has a seat at the same table to determine the regional direction, and resources are distributed equitably. Tinkering around the edges is metaphorically the same as rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. People are literally dying because of the way this region’s government is structured.

After 8 years in government, my wish is we stop tinkering around the edges of an obviously un-salvageable and routinely harmful regional dynamic – We should be the St. Louis of 1.3 million people we want to be. (Ward 24 St Louis)

I agree completely! I’m also hugely suspicious of anything funded by Rex Sinquefield, including Better Together.

I don’t know what the solution looks like, but I strongly believe doing nothing will continue to hurt the entire region.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: St. Louis Region Should Stop Chasing Big Conventions, Should Instead Invest in Improving the Quality of Life for Residents & Tourists

October 10, 2018 Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Opinion: St. Louis Region Should Stop Chasing Big Conventions, Should Instead Invest in Improving the Quality of Life for Residents & Tourists

Every region has an entity responsible for getting people from other regions to visit…and spend money.

The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (DBA Explore St. Louis) is the official destination marketing organization responsible for selling St. Louis City and St. Louis County as a convention and meeting site and as a leisure travel destination. Explore St. Louis works to attract citywide conventions, one-hotel meetings, sporting events, group tours and individual leisure travelers to St. Louis. More than 700 local and regional businesses are partners with Explore St. Louis.

The St. Louis Tourism Bureau was founded in 1909 by a group of local business leaders, after seeing the success of the 1904 World’s Fair. In 1984, the Bureau was restructured and combined with the St. Louis County Office of Tourism to form the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (SLCVC), a regional commission of the State of Missouri. Dedicated funding for the SLCVC and the Regional Arts Commission through a new tax on hotel rooms was implemented. The SLCVC’s board was reorganized in 1991 to reflect the organization’s new role in managing the expanded America’s Center Convention Complex including the 67,000-seat Dome at America’s Center, 1,400- seat Ferrara Theatre, a 28,000 square-foot ballroom and the St. Louis Executive Conference Center. (Prior to the expansion, the convention center had been operated by the City of St. Louis.)

The SLCVC’s 11-member Board of Commissioners is headed by a chairman appointed by the Governor of Missouri. Five Board members are appointed by the Mayor of the City of St. Louis and five are appointed by the St. Louis County Executive. According to the organization’s enabling legislation, three of each official’s appointees must be actively engaged in the St. Louis hotel industry. (Explore St. Louis)

Their name includes ‘convention’, which comes before ‘visitors’. So, like nearly every other region in the country, they chase conventions. It takes a lot of vacationing families of four to equal one convention with 6,000 attendees, so conventions are typically how cities/regions try to fill hotel rooms.

Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

The choices for small conventions/conferences in the St. Louis region are numerous. Collinsville IL and St. Charles MO each have facilities, as do many hotels throughout the region. Events that would book these venues are too small for our downtown convention center, marketed as America’s Center. There are events that have been held here that have outgrown our current facilities, they’ve moved on to larger venues.

The meeting/convention market, like many others, is shrinking. Even big shows are having to change.

The Detroit auto show is moving from its traditional slot in January to June, seeking to reinvent itself after many automakers decamped for the week-earlier Consumer Electronics Show or lost interest in auto shows altogether.

The shift will take place in 2020. That means 2019’s show will be the last one in January.

The overhauled event aims to create a festival-like air with vehicle debuts, concerts, splashy displays and food trucks stretching along Detroit’s riverfront and into the city’s downtown when it begins June 8, 2020. (USA Today)

Every year my husband and I attend the annual Chicago Auto Show, held at the largest US convention center, McCormack Place — in 2020 we hope to check out the show in Detroit. I’ve been through Detroit only once — returning to St. Louis from Toronto on a bus in 2006.  I have many areas of interest in Detroit, including middle eastern food highlighted by Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef Marcus Samuelsson the first episode of No Passport Required on PBS. Food, architecture, etc is often why I want to visit other regions.

Those who host the big events have many choices already, with more regions spending millions annually to try to get their event to their newly built or expanded facility. It’s a buyer’s market.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was deliberately used the word ‘visitors’ instead of ‘conventioneers.’

Q: Agree or disagree: We need to invest $175 million in our convention center to be able to attract visitors to the St. Louis region.

  • Strongly agree: 11 [34.38%]
  • Agree: 4: [12.5%]
  • Somewhat agree: 4 [12.5%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 3 [9.38%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [6.25%]
  • Disagree: 3 [9.38%]
  • Strongly disagree: 4 [12.5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [3.13%]

Nearly 60% agreed, but I disagree. If our goal is to attract the shrinking convention business we need to spend a lot to do so.  However, if our goal is to attract visitors we still need to spend a lot — but in different ways.  Besides further blocking off the Near Northside from downtown, expanding the existing facility is wasting money that could, potentially, have a much greater impact if spent elsewhere. The city & county each contribute $6 million annually in hotel taxes. The current bonds will be paid off in a few years.

Now is the time to rethink our strategy for getting people to the region — visitors spend money and it takes money to get them here. I have no problem spending money on attracting visitors to our region, I just question spending ALL on chasing conventions being chased by every other region in the country. Maybe the focus shifts from conventions to culture (food, music, etc.)? Maybe I’m just pissed that 9th Street will also be closed now that I’m planning to move North of the already massive complex. Maybe it’s just upsetting one group has been working on getting rail transit on 9th/10th without knowing another was planning to close 9th.

If only we could turn our fragmentation into an attraction.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Split On Schnucks’ Purchase Of 19 Shop ‘n Save Locations

September 26, 2018 Big Box, Featured, Retail, STL Region Comments Off on Readers Split On Schnucks’ Purchase Of 19 Shop ‘n Save Locations

Shop ‘n Save’s parent company, Minneapolis-based SuperValu, is selling/closing all locations — St. Louis & Springfield IL. This has been known for months, from July:

Supervalu is exiting the food retail business via a deal to sell itself to United Natural Foods Inc. for $2.9 billion.

The news comes on the same day that Supervalu announced its Q1 2019 earnings.

UNFI said it will sell off Supervalu’s retail business, which comprises 3,000 stores. The company has spent more than two years executing a transformation plan aimed at returning to its wholesale roots. (Retail Leader)

From February 2016:

United Natural Foods, a primary distributor for Whole Foods, distributes natural, organic and specialty food to a variety of grocery and natural product stores. It works with brands including Clif Bar, Annie’s, Bob’s Red Mill and Horizon Organic. The Providence, R.I. -based company also reported preliminary second quarter results Monday that fell below analyst expectations, as competition in the organic and natural food space continues to grow. (USA Today)

Shop ‘n Save has been headquartered in Kirkwood for years, but has been owned by out of state interests for more than a quarter century:

Shop ’n Save was founded in 1979 as a grocery store in Belleville, Illinois, near St. Louis, Missouri. The chain now includes 33 stores in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and 3 additional stores in Springfield, Illinois.

In 1983, the retail chain was acquired by Wetterau, Inc. Nine years later, in 1992, Wetterau was acquired by SuperValu, and Shop ’n Save has been a subsidiary of SuperValu since. (Wikipedia)

Wetterau was based in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood. The Wetterau family has a long history in St. Louis:

George Wetterau moved to St. Louis in 1867 at the age of 17 to join his brother in a small retail grocery business. In 1868, he began working for J. F. Lauman & company, a local wholesale grocery company and he bought the company a year later, with a partner, Frank Goebel. They formed Goebel and Wetterau Grocery Company with their wholesale office located at 712 South Second Street. In 1899, the two dissolved their partnership and George formed G. H. Wetterau & Sons Grocer Company. In 1923, Otto Wetterau, one of his sons, took over the company. He changed the name to Wetterau Grocer Company and took advantage of new forms of transportation and warehouse equipment to expand rapidly. He was one of the first to provide wholesale warehousing of produce. During the Depression, when many grocery stores went out of business, Wetterau became affiliated with the Independent Grocer’s Alliance (IGA). In 1953, Theodore C. Wetterau succeeded his brother Otto as president and added other independent supermarket chains to the organization. The company then became involved in non-food items, added a bakery division, printing division, trucking division and developed its own finance, insurance and construction companies. Wetterau was supplying food to stores in 29 states, when in 1993, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based SUPERVALU, Inc. acquired it to become the nation´s largest food wholesaler. At this time Ted Wetterau, Theodore’s son was president. Before the deal, Supervalu was the second-largest distributor and Wetterau ranked third. Ted Wetterau and his sons, Mark and Conrad then started Wetterau Associates, a holding company in Brentwood to buy and manage food-related companies. (St. Louis)

As a result of the consolidation in both the wholesale & retail grocery markets, Shop ‘n Save locations here and elsewhere will be sold or closed. Unless some other grocery chain enters the St. Louis market, others will pick up market share lost when Shop ‘n Save closes. The biggest gain will be St. Louis-based Schnucks Markets — they’re buying 19 suburban Shop ‘n Save locations. This Summer Schnucks bought the Maplewood Shop ‘n Save on Manchester, quickly reopening it as a Schnucks.

This Sho ‘n Save at 4660 Chippewa is not among the locations bought by Schnucks, it’ll close by the end of 2018 if a buyer doesn’t come forward soon.

Here are other grocery stores with at least a few locations:

  • Save-A-Lot, once also owned by Wetterau/Supervalu is now owned by Toronto-based Onex Corporation — a private equity firm.
  • Lucky’s Markets, still pretty new to the St. Louis market, is based in Boulder Colorado. A large investor is Cincinnati-based Kroeger.
  • Whole Foods is owned by Amazon.
  • Our old Food 4 Less locations became Ruler Foods locations a few years ago, Ruler is owned by Kroeger.
  • ALDI is a German company. The business was split into two separate groups in 1960, that later became Aldi Nord, headquartered in Essen, and Aldi Süd, headquartered in Mülheim. The latter is the group that operates ALDI stores in the U.S.
  • Trader Joe’s is owned by a private family trust associated with Aldi Nord (not the Aldi that operates ALDI in the U.S.).
  • Fields Foods has one location right now, but will soon open others in Dogtown and Downtown West.
  • Privately-owned local grocer Straub’s Markets has 4 locations.  Straub’s had a short-lived 5th location in suburban Ellisville, but in closed in October 2009.
  • Dierbergs Markets, also locally/privately owned, has 25 stores in Missouri & Illinois.

Readers were split on the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Adding 19 Shop ‘n Save locations will make Schnucks too dominant in the St. Louis regional grocery market.

  • Strongly agree 4 [11.76%]
  • Agree 5 [14.71%]
  • Somewhat agree 5 [14.71%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 4 [11.76%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [8.82%]
  • Disagree 8 [23.53%]
  • Strongly disagree 5 [14.71%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

The agree votes total 41.18% with the disagree side totaling 47.06%.  I voted for “slightly disagree” because while I’m not big fan of Schnucks (their development arm, DESCO, is awful about ADA accessibility) but I know that being the biggest grocery store in the region will keep outside chains in a subordinate role. My hometown of Oklahoma City is now dominated by Walmart’s Neighborhood Market chain of stand-alone grocery stores. Local chains have been reduced to rubble.

Having strong locally-owned grocery store chains, even flawed ones, is better than being at the mercy of non-local corporate interests. Just hoping the Schnucks family doesn’t decide to cash out at some point.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: What Impact Will The PGA Championship Have On Our Regional Economy?

August 12, 2018 Economy, Featured, STL Region, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: What Impact Will The PGA Championship Have On Our Regional Economy?
Please vote below

With the exception of Tuesday’s primary the news last week was dominated by the 100th PGA Championship held at Bellerive Country Club in suburban St. Louis County.

I’m not a golf fan, so my thoughts turned to economics:

The 100th PGA Championship Aug. 9-12 is expected to have an economic impact felt well beyond Bellerive Country Club’s picturesque course, up to $100 million, according to some estimates.

Hotels are filling up downtown, nearly 20 miles from the course that’s situated in a mostly residential area with few hotels nearby. (Post-Dispatch)

For today’s poll I’d like you to think about the economic impact on the regional economy.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Region Needs A Major Restructuring

April 4, 2018 Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Opinion: Region Needs A Major Restructuring
The last time anyone looked at the region was Harland Bartholomew’s 1947 plan, which called for 25 airports un the St, Louis region!

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about a statewide vote to change the Missouri constitution to let the City of St. Louis back into St. Louis County. If you didn’t figure it out, it was an April Fool’s Day joke. The issue, however, is no joke.

Given the St. Louis metropolitan area is falling behind other regions in growth I don’t think doing nothing is a sound strategy.The entire region needs to act quickly or we’ll continue dropping in rankings of metropolitan areas. We’re good at lip service and doing little things that don’t change the big picture — just give us the illusion we’re progressing.

It’s time to end the fragmentation that exists on both sides of the river. Redraw political boundaries so the region can compete. We’ve got to attract immigrates and others to the region — not just get people to leave St. Louis City & County for St. Charles County.

Politicians must give up their little fiefdoms, which is why the needed change probably won’t happen.

Here are the results from the AFD poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri voters will approve Constitutional Amendment A on August 7th, placing St. Louis back inside St. Louis County

  • Strongly agree 4 [12.5%]
  • Agree 3 [9.38%]
  • Somewhat agree 8 [25%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [9.38%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [3.13%]
  • Disagree 3 [9.38%]
  • Strongly disagree 6 [18.75%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 4 [12.5%]

Please…someone prove me wrong.

— Steve Patterson

 

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