Tomorrow I am driving from the East Coast to St. Louis and as I have been following the news in St. Louis there are two huge stories. One story is the Midwestern flooding and people in St. Louis are worried about a reoccurrence of the Great Flood of 1993 which took so much in terms of property damage, economic losses and of course human lives.
While a flood could be damaging to the low areas of St. Louis and the surrounding suburbs (particularly on the Illinois side) there is another story that has become much larger than the floods. St. Louis is famous for three things; beer, baseball and the Gateway Arch (and one may argue its reputation for being a dangerous city and the 1904 Worlds Fair of St. Louis and Olympic Games).
St. Louis is famous for beer because America’s largest brewer and what some believe is the largest brewery in the world is located in Da Lou. Of course I am referring to Anheuser-Busch brewery which makes all Budweiser, Busch, Michelob and other products I do not even know the names to.
The impact that AB has on the community is enormous. It pays tens of millions in taxes to a struggling city every year. It donates further millions to local charities on a yearly basis. Whenever the community water supply has had problems AB has quickly donated water to those who needed it, and it operates Grants Farm which is open and free to the public. The baseball stadium that is home to the Cardinals is Busch Stadium and until 15 years or so back AB owned the Cardinals and in the 1970’s and 80’s it was a famous site to see August Busch, the then owner of AB, drive his Clydesdales in a carriage on to the outfield.
St. Louis, being the blue-collar city it is, was hit hard after the general trend of closing American manufacturing sites down so that they can be moved to places with no environmental or labor standards. There are a handful of places where people without a college degree dream of getting hired; General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Boeing, the government and more than any of them AB. To put this into perspective GM moved way out to the St. Charles County suburbs years ago and laid off a lot of people, the Ford factory is scheduled for closure, Chrysler has laid off a lot of people and workers there are facing major cuts, Boeing in St. Louis was McDonnell Douglas at one time and a world headquarter and in my lifetime tens of thousands have lost their jobs their devastating the North St. Louis County economy. AB has been the only place to hire consistently and pay their workers well till this day.
I am saying all of this because a Belgium brewer is making a multi-billion dollar offer to buy the brewer. If this happens it would be devastating to the local economy and another example of the soulless and rootless nature of globalization. Someone may be able to regurgitate to me some theory they were taught in college and blindly accepted but there is no one who can tell me these kinds of things are good for the community.
No matter what they say a Belgian firm will not be the kind of good corporate citizen that AB has been. They simply do not have the kind of foundation and family ties to the city that AB and its executives have and hell I doubt anyone on the board knows the rules to baseball. That is if they stay in St. Louis and do not close down the brewery and corporate offices and move the North American headquarters to the coasts.
However, more than anything I have stated, the closure of AB would be damaging to the psyche of the city, You can no longer hear commercials on TV all day that end with “Anheuser-Busch St. Louis, MO” or go on a European or Latin American vacation and see a bottle or can with the name St. Louis at the bottom. It is equivalent to Coca-Cola leaving Atlanta, Coors leaving Denver, or the Pentagon leaving Northern Virginia. It would be one more blow to a once great city.
As a Muslim how do I look at this? We all know that beer is haram, that consumption of alcohol causes a great evil within society from violence to drunk driving and that it would be a good thing if no one ever drank or made beer. But people do, and it is a huge business, and St. Louis has always played a prominent role in the industry. If AB money leaves St. Louis there will be nothing to replace it and the drinking will go on just in a much broker city with a bad self-image.