Business Beat: August 31, 2011

This week: more on the impact of the University of Missouri’s agreement with the Missouri Theatre. Plus, young adults are having a hard time finding work.

Hosted by Nick Adams.

The Missouri Theatre has people in Columbia excited once again.  Just on the brink of closing down and faced with a $3.7 million debt, the University of Missouri reached an agreement to lease the Theatre for three years and possibly purchase it after that. The Theatre can’t be sold until 2014 because tax credits used for the Theater need to expire first.  Don Laird, the President of the Chamber of Commerce says this deal was not a surprise.

 “And so I think this movement in Missouri in cooperation with the current owners makes a lot of sense financially for everybody but it also gives us an opportunity to possibly bring in more events into the venues,” Laird said.

And Laird says those events, especially the big ones such as the True False Film Festival, can help bring in tourism to Columbia.

 “Depending upon what they are able to bring in, there are people that will travel some distance.  I don’t know if you have as many overnight type things, that could happen, but certainly people from the area that would come to Columbia to see some of the things that could take place there,” Laird said.

If people are coming to Columbia, Laird says that will help restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses bring in new revenue.

In addition to good publicity within the community, The University is also benefiting from the purchase of the Theatre.  Michael O’Brien, MU’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says the theatre helped the University in a financial sense.

 “And I got to thinking as did many other people on campus, including the chancellor, what if we substituted the Missouri Theatre for that twelve hundred seat concert hall.  Well, in my way of thinking, we probably could save somewhere on the order of $40 million perhaps,” O’Brien said.

Missouri Symphony Society board co-president, Carole Sue DeLaite, talks about how difficult it was to generate any sort of income for the theatre after it was renovated.

 “And so fundraising became difficult.  And then some of our local arts organizations couldn’t afford rent in the new theatre, which of course was much more expensive to operate,” DeLaite said.

Laird says even though the University and Missouri Theatre share close ties, MU will only buy the Theatre if it’s a good business decision.  I asked Laird what he thinks will happen in three years when the lease is up.

 “I think that hopefully after the three year lease agreement they have that they do purchase it and it makes sense for them,” Laird said.

For the time being, the University plans to use the Theater for some MU School of Music and University Concert Series events, as well as MU commencement ceremonies and traditions like Summer Welcome.

Young adults struggle to find work

A recent study came out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics saying over fifty percent of young adults aging from 16-24 do not have jobs this summer.  The country hasn’t seen the numbers this low ever since the government started keeping track in 1948. Michael Saltsman, a research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute, spoke with St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman, to discuss what the study means.