St. Louis is getting hammered by the economy like everywhere else, but this resilient city's economy doesn't swing as high or as low as other areas of the country. At a panel discussion, “2009-2012 — Where's the Growth?” held by The Electrical Board of Missouri and Illinois at the Ameren UE headquarters on Jan. 22 in St. Louis, Tom Finan, publisher, St. Louis Construction News & Review, said several area contractors have construction projects approved and are ready to build once banks release funding.

Thomas Garrett, assistant vice president for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and another panelist, said the city is doing better than other areas of the United States and that he expects economic conditions for the nation and St. Louis to pick up by year-end 2009. The educational and health-care markets were two of the strongest segments of the St. Louis economy, he said.

Panelists agreed the green market is another growth opportunity, but Richard Mark, a senior vice president with Ameren UE, said energy conservation can be a tough sell in the state because residents pay less than 8 cents per kilowatt-hour (40 percent less than the national average) and don't have a big financial incentive to save energy. Mark said that could change as the state's electricity consumption increases. His utility is under federal mandate to produce more of its power with clean energy sources and to diversify away from coal-fired power plants because of concerns over carbon emissions.

Because wind and solar are not viable short-term solutions for the state, Ameren UE is considering the expansion of its Callaway Nuclear Plant, which produces 19 percent of its power and does not emit any carbon emissions. If they don't meet the federal mandate, Mark said the carbon tax could have a “devastating” impact.

The Electrical Board of Missouri and Illinois panel discussion attracted approximately 100 attendees. Electrical Wholesaling Chief Editor Jim Lucy was one of the panelists.