St. Louis Post-Dispatch Mound City Money column
Nov 30, 2012 (Menafn - St. Louis Post-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --ConAgra's purchase of Ralcorp has spurred a lot of discussion about how many jobs the Omaha food company will keep in downtown St. Louis. Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, talked hopefully about convincing ConAgra to consolidate all of its private-label food business in St. Louis.
A quarter-century ago, local leaders were talking to ConAgra about even higher stakes: They tried to lure its headquarters away from Omaha.
On May 19, 1987, the Post-Dispatch ran a story about high-level efforts to lure a 50 million investment that would involve the corporate headquarters and a food research laboratory. Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft reportedly had "several conversations" with ConAgra's chief executive.
The effort didn't turn out well. ConAgra decided to put its new offices right where the old ones were, in Omaha, and the St. Louis area lost 375 jobs when ConAgra's frozen-food division, which had been based in Ballwin, was consolidated into the new headquarters.
In hindsight, St. Louis appears to have been a bargaining chip in ConAgra's quest for tax concessions in Nebraska. The Legislature in Lincoln had failed to hand out some goodies the company wanted, including a tax exemption for corporate aircraft. Within a week of ConAgra's announcement that it might move the headquarters, the Legislature went along the tax breaks. The day after the bill passed, ConAgra announced that it would stay in Omaha.
ConAgra's current CEO, Gary Rodkin, said this week that he hadn't made a decision on the future of Ralcorp's 350 workers in the St. Louis area. If local officials do get involved in efforts to keep those jobs, let's hope they fare better than their predecessors did in 1987.
___ (c)2012 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at
www.stltoday.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
Copyright (C) 2012, St. Louis Post-Dispatch