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Involved citizens, regional business leaders and young professionals from the St. Louis City and County met on Nov. 25 to discuss the economic future of the region.
Held at the Third Degree Glass Factory in the Central West End, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership (SLEDP) sought feedback from young business leaders from the county and city. Nearly 100 young professionals attended to share their perspectives.
As Missouri’s only accredited economic development organization, SLEDP has the goal of serving St. Louis City and County. In early August, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley officially established the collaboration between the economic development agencies of the city and county, which prompted meetings with businesses, elected officials and developers.
The partnership hopes that by 2020 St. Louis will have created a $1 million fund for St. Louis Startups; that St. Louis will be among the top 10 for entrepreneurs; and that The Wall Street Journal will ask ‘Will St. Louis be the next Silicon Valley?’ Feedback from the Nov. 25 meeting will shape the first-ever St. Louis City/County economic development strategic plan to help achieve these lofty goals.
SLEDP CEO Denny Coleman began the evening by explaining the reasoning behind gathering input from the young professional audience.
“We had one stakeholder meeting (Oct. 17 at Saint Louis University), which was a very good meeting,” Coleman said. “But as we looked around the room, we saw that most of the people were older and we needed the young leaders of St. Louis to weigh in, in more significant numbers.”
A poll of the audience revealed that the majority of the group fell within the age range of 22 to 34, with a nearly 50-50 divide in city and county residents.
Naretha Hopson, owner of Ever-Appropriate Etiquette Institute, based in St. Louis, said, “As a young business leader and entrepreneur, the decisions that are being made today will not only have an effect on my business, but my family and our region at large. As a stakeholder in the future of the St. Louis region, it is important for my voice to be heard.”
“We want to help grow little and big businesses, jobs, and create a vibrant community for all of you to want to stay and grow,” SLEDP President Rodney Crim said.
“We are here seeking a mission of collaboration and innovation. The economic partnership sees in St. Louis the idea of growing globally. St. Louis has the diverse talent, tools and drive to help you grow and prosper,” said Edward Bryant, vice president of the Economic Development Collaboration, talking to the young audience.
The overall message focused on a building consensus and presenting a unified voice of regional strengths.
“This is the ideal opportunity to investigate the best ways to identify and leverage resources in order to move the needle in the areas of expanding the region’s brand,” Hopson said.
Bryant said awareness is critical to what he sees as retaining and attracting new talent to the area.
“St. Louis offers the unique assets of a large city but with the affordability and sense of community found in a smaller one,”said Melanie Bernds, public relations manager at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur. “The culture, innovative businesses and higher education has strengthened the city and county to be an exceptional region with strong advantages.”
Next steps include development of a preliminary strategic plan, which will encapsulate the perspective of stakeholders and input from the young professionals, to be presented to the SLEDP Board. Once approved, the strategic plan will be revealed to the greater St. Louis community, slated for spring of 2014.
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