The River City welcomes visitors who want to pass through the famed Arch on the Mississippi and catch a glimpse of America's expansionist past. But the people and businesses of St. Louis are equally focused on the city's growth-marked future.
That focus is spearheaded by the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association, which in 2007 put up eye-popping numbers in corporate projects, jobs and capital investment. With 95 facility deals, St. Louis ranked third in the nation. The projects totaled $1.517 billion in investment and accounted for 3,555 new jobs throughout the bi-state region.
Topping the project list were Abengoa Bioenergy's $200-million ethanol plant in Madison, Ill., and VeraSun Energy's $150-million ethanol plant in Granite City, Ill. The biggest employment impacts came from Monsanto Corp., which announced 224 new jobs in Chesterfield, Mo., and American Family Insurance, which created 221 positions at a call center in Creve Coeur, Mo.
"Since we rolled out a $21-million economic development campaign in 2005 and launched a branding effort in the first quarter of 2006, we've seen our deal flow triple," says Dick Fleming, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association. "The only disappointment is to be behind Chicago in anything. We will strive to overtake Chicago."
If the first quarter of 2008 is any indication, Fleming may be on his way to getting his wish. Through the first three months of the year, the RCGA had made the short list on 90 facility projects. "Those represent 14,000 jobs and over $3 billion in potential new capital investment," says Fleming.
We will be behind Chicago forever if our metropolitan area continues to be considered a "doughnut" by potential investors.
Part of the solution, of course, is to attract local economic development, where money stays in the local economy. New jobs are great--but when we have municipalities with greater resources than the city fighting over jobs that will depart from the region in a decade anyway, something is wrong.