Friday, January 02, 2009

St. Louis burned by corporate takeovers; sale of A-B, mergers and layoffs hurt city

From on January 2, 2009:
Over the last decade or so, St. Louis has seen the loss of many major corporate headquarters to buyouts and mergers -- McDonnell Douglas, TWA, May Department Stores Co., A.G. Edwards, Pulitzer Publishing.
But none stung as bad as 2008. Budweiser is now in Belgian hands.
The $52 billion sale of iconic St. Louis brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. to InBev SA highlighted what was an overall difficult year for business in Missouri. InBev agreed to make St. Louis its North American headquarters, but the merger has already taken a toll -- 1,400 Anheuser-Busch workers, about 1,000 of them in St. Louis, saw their jobs eliminated 2 1/2 weeks before Christmas.
The merger makes Anheuser-Busch InBev the world's largest beer-maker. The Brussels-based company promised to continue Anheuser-Busch's long tradition of community involvement and corporate giving. Budweiser, Bud Light and other beers still pour from taps around the city. The Cardinals still play at the ballpark known as Busch Stadium.
But it just isn't the same in St. Louis.
The job cuts at Anheuser-Busch were part of an effort to streamline costs and eliminate duplication of post-merger jobs. The company said the job losses will help it save at least $1.5 billion a year by 2011 and cope with a "challenging economy."
Around the state, many firms are dealing with similar challenges.
The state's unemployment rate reached 6.5 percent. In suburban St. Louis, Chrysler shut down one of its two plants, citing decreasing sales of minivans. The plant employed 3,000 people in 2007. Now, it employs about 100.
The auto industry cuts have rippled through suppliers and other businesses. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said 225,000 jobs in Missouri alone are connected to the auto industry.
Anheuser-Busch-InBev wasn't the only company cutting jobs in the weeks before Christmas. St. Louis-based Furniture Brands International Inc. said it would eliminate 1,400 jobs, or 15 percent of its work force. Another St. Louis company, electronics component maker Belden Inc., announced 1,800 job cuts worldwide, or 20 percent of its total, citing softening demand.
Jobs were being slashed at places where layoffs are infrequent. In January 20008, H&R Block Inc. announced plans to eliminate more than 500 corporate positions, most of them at its headquarters in Kansas City. In October, the nation's largest car rental company, St. Louis-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car, laid off 200 workers, the first mass layoff ever for the 51-year-old company.
The sour economy and declining advertising revenue continued to haunt media companies. The Kansas City Star cut 120 jobs in June and 50 more in November. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch laid off 31 workers in March and 20 more in September. Layoffs also hit newspapers in Kansas City, Springfield and Joplin.
Small towns weren't immune. Tiny Clarksville in northeast Missouri, with fewer than 500 people, is taking a big hit with the loss of 180 jobs at the Holcim Inc. cement plant. In the Bootheel region, Noranda Aluminum is cutting 228 jobs by early next year at its New Madrid plant. Clothing-maker Thorngate Ltd. cut 250 jobs in Cape Girardeau.
St. Louis-based Ameristar Casinos Inc., cut its nationwide work force by 4.5 percent, including casino workers in St. Charles and Kansas City.
But there was good news for Missouri's 12 casinos. Revenue was up 9 percent overall in November compared to a year ago, despite the sluggish economy. And in November, voters passed Proposition A, ending the state's $500 loss limit. The measure also capped the number of new casinos allowed in the state and raised taxes on existing ones.
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