A REVEALING VISIT HOME
RCGA'S 2005 LEADERSHIP TRIP
|By Linda F. Jarrett
Imagine strolling the Arch grounds, exploring Washington Avenue, attending a St. Louis Cardinal or Rams game, or flying into Lambert-St. Louis International Airport as a visitor.
| 130 St. Louis regional leaders toured St. Louis as a part of the eighth annual RCGA Leadership Trip.
That’s what 130 St. Louis regional leaders experienced at the Eighth Annual Regional Chamber and Growth Association Leadership Exchange Trip held in October. This time there was no “exchange with another city.” Usually held in other cities, this trip gave these leaders a fresh look at their own backyard.
| Mayor Slay adds to the Leadership Trip with impressive points about Downtown.
The group “landed” at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport the morning of October 9, and for the next three days, they viewed
St. Louis in the same way they viewed the cities of previous Leadership Trips. They took MetroLink to the U-City Loop, toured Missouri and Illinois neighborhoods by bus, walked the Downtown, visited City Museum, and the Danforth Plant Science Center, to name a few.
Their annual trips has brought business and civic leaders to St. Louis from
Richmond, New Orleans, Birmingham, Charlotte, Nashville, and Jacksonville to glean ideas from St. Louis. Previous RCGA annual leadership trips have ventured to Cleveland, Seattle, Baltimore, Denver, Toronto, San Diego and Boston. These exchanges serve to educate those who care about our city how best they can bring about needed changes.
Trip co-chairs Scott Schnuck and Doug Yaeger concluded, “The RCGA Board determined that so much has happened in our region over the past several years, it would be a good idea for our business, civic and political leadership to experience our region as if we were coming here for the first time and, in many ways, we will be.”
A NEW LOOK
Nationally-syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Neal Peirce, whose 1997 study all but sounded the death knell for downtown, gave the keynote address on his findings of the area. In what he termed one of the most dramatic turn arounds he had ever seen, much has changed since he and urban expert Curtis Johnson wrote their study. “The big visible headline of your change from eight years ago is your
He added that the region’s “appetite
for land remains large and needs a reduction. Development continues to outpace population growth and social and racial inequity persists.”
While he remained critical of the many independent governments and special districts that, he believes, hold the region back, he said that St. Louis has a “spirit, an energy here that didn’t exist in 1997.”
And he said, “One very big reason things are going so well for your downtown is, of course, state passage of Missouri’s aggressive historic preservation tax credit program, easing the way to resuscitation of your fantastic inventory of fine but so-long-neglected stock of historic buildings.”
Richard Ward, principal with Development Strategies, gave an overview of $18 billion in public and private development either just completed or underway in the metro area.
Trip delegates also learned that the BioBelt industry cluster in the St. Louis region currently has an annual economic impact of over $10.5 billion with approximately 17 million square feet of high tech research space.
Besides the tours, panel discussions dealing with issues confronting the region including infrastructure and transportation, urban revitalizing, biotechnology and the efforts in attracting talented people to the area were presented to the group. Topics ranged from “Perspectives of Recruits from St Louis,” and “St. Louis Aviation, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, Past, Present and Future” to “The Regional Imperative of Recruiting and Retaining Minority Talent.”
Senator Jack Danforth also challenged regional leaders to move forward with revitalizing the riverfront, an action needed for the continuing rebirth of Downtown St. Louis.
PERFECTLY CENTERED. REMARKABLY CONNECTED.
| On the last day of the Leadership Trip, the RCGA unveiled its regional branding campaign,
with the help of Rich McClure, UniGroup president (sitting) and Steve Johnson, RCGA’s senior
vice president of economic development, (standing).
On the last day of the Leadership Trip, the RCGA unveiled its regional branding campaign for economic development, which includes the tagline “St. Louis: Perfectly Centered. Remarkable Connected.”(See page 65 for the story behind the brand.) A major piece of this marketing effort is the new RCGA website, www.gottostlouis.org. The site features in-depth information about the St. Louis region and its economic and quality of life attributes.
| Scott Schnuck, RCGA Chairman, looks on as Fred Hanser describes the new Busch Stadium plan.
Changes in the face of St. Louis impressed Trip delegates. The volume of new housing and mixed-use development in the downtown area was something that many had not seen.The region’s emerging role in high tech industry was another facet new to some group members.
After the tours and taking part in panel discussions, the consensus among all attendees was that St. Louis was on the cusp of becoming a major break through.
They also realized that St. Louis faces some challenges, such as attracting and retaining minority talent and resolving the funding impasse on the proposed Mississippi River Bridge. The prevailing opinion, however, was that St. Louis has developed a sustainable momentum.
HOW DID WE DO?
Evaluations given to delegates asking how they would rate the Leadership Trip were overwhelmingly positive.
The evaluation asked questions such as what was the most valuable thing learned, what would be a good follow-up and what would they like to see included on the
The panel discussion on diversity and the efforts in hiring and retaining minorities earned very high marks. The commitment by civic leaders to the Downtown area was another comment made by many.
“Dollars being invested in Downtown
St. Louis—Wow!” wrote one delegate.
“I’ve lived here for 28 years,” said another. “I’ve never realized all that was going on. I think Downtown is one of the best kept secrets in the entire region.”
Addressing the needs of the public
school system to make city living attractive
for families was a topic suggested for
the next agenda. Connection between
higher education and regional development was another.
Possible destinations for next year’s trip included Chicago, New York and “any major city in China.” Wherever the RCGA chooses,
delegates can be rest assured that they will
leave far more knowledgeable than when
A VIEW FROM THE OUTSIDE
By Linda F. Jarrett
Our own region received kudos from a city that chose St. Louis for their Leadership Conference.
The Greater Columbus Georgia Cham-ber of Commerce held their 12th Annual Inter City Leadership Conference here in September, and gave the city high marks.
Former St. Louisan and now executive editor of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ben Holden wrote in a Ledger-Enquirer article that growing up in St. Louis in the 1970s “with apologies to Charles Dickens, was the best of times and worst of times. The city was segregated, but serene. It was developed but declining.”
During the trip, however, Holden found that the St. Louis of his youth had changed. He and the 94 other delegates saw what the RCGA delegates would see in October.
“It’s a little embarrassing that I didn’t already know how far the city had come
in tackling many of its ills,” he wrote. “Gone were the empty hulking buildings, replaced with lofts and condos.
Construction and newness were everywhere in downtown and midtown.”
How refreshing to be an example of growth and development instead of being at the other end of the spectrum.
St. Louis leaders should be proud that they are bringing the city back from its projected death throes.
“St. Louis is by no means perfect,” Holden concluded. “But I was proud of
my old home as I rode the bus with
colleagues from my new home and witnessed all that had changed. I am
optimistic that we in the Valley will follow St. Louis’ example of urban renewal and smartly planned development.”
Bruce Holland, president of Holland Construction Services, said that, at first, he was not “thrilled” with the idea of the Leadership Trip being in St. Louis. “I thought we could learn more going other places. But I was very impressed with what we had to look at here and what we discussed. Even though I’m in St. Louis almost every day, I hadn’t been in the Old Post Office, and hadn’t seen what was going on with the lofts.”
“I thought having the trip here was a good idea,” said Richard Baron, chairman and CEO, McCormack Baron Salazar Inc. “I think the most important thing was the fact that many were exposed to a lot of the activity going on in the city. For those of us who work in the city, it wasn’t anything new, but for those who don’t get down here much, it was good to see the development.”
Dr. Donald Suggs, owner and publisher of the St. Louis American Newspaper agreed “I think having a Leadership Trip in
St. Louis and showing assets of this community was a valuable and useful idea. It afforded an opportunity for St. Louisans who may not be familiar with some of the interesting things that are going on in sectors of our economy to see what is happening. We also honed in on some minority issues that probably wouldn’t have happened in some other settings.”
Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, managing director, St. Louis Hub for American Airlines, said that while she thought herself “versed” in St. Louis, “I was amazed at how unversed I was in terms of construction and some of the renovation projects going on downtown. It makes St. Louis feel more like a place to live than just a downtown area where people go to eat and attend a ballgame.”
Steven Cousins, partner with Armstrong Teasdale LLP, said, “This Leadership Trip enabled us to refamiliarize ourselves with the fact that we are a region rich with world-class assets that are too often under-appreciated and feed into an ill-based false sense of civic insecurity. We also honestly engaged in a dialogue on the troubling issue of race relations that hobbles our region. The discussion was enlightening, revelatory, unvarnished yet, not gratuitously polarizing.”
Looking at the region from the point of view of a businessperson and elected official was revealing to Mike Traviglini, president of the St. Louis Association of Realtors and member of the Shrewsbury Board of Aldermen. “It’s quite an impressive time to be a St. Louisan. We received many comments from out-of-town sources about the major turnaround in St. Louis. And we have the space to grow, which a lot of cities don’t have.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -