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Economic Development Partnership Charts Priorities For St. Louis And St. Louis County

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership unveiled its first strategic plan for St. Louis and St. Louis County. 

The 33-page document list the priorities for the agency, which was established last year, when portions of the city and the county economic development agencies merged. 

Among the goals outlined in the strategic plan are:

  • Supporting startups and the entrepreneurial community;
  • Increasing foreign trade and investment;
  • Advancing redevelopment of “strategic real estate assets,” such as the old Chrysler plant site or areas of north St. Louis County;
  • Attracting immigrants to the St. Louis region.
  • Retaining and expanding job opportunities, especially for young professionals.

(Click here to read the report.)

In an interview, Partnership CEO Denny Coleman said getting a strategic plan together was important, because it provides specific specific direction for what the agency should focus on for the foreseeable future.

“We think it is dynamic,” Coleman said. “We think that if we can implement this fully along with the rest of our partners in the region, it really has the potential to be very transformative for the St. Louis economy.”

For example: Included in those broad principles are specific goals, such as redeveloping commercial areas in north St. Louis County or building on St. Louis’ Mosaic Project, a program that encourages immigrants to relocate to the region. The report also points out specific tactics, including developing national and international marketing plans to attracting immigrant businesspeople and using certain pots of money — including the Port Reinvestment Fund— help speed up development projects. 

The plan emphasizes tracking minority and female participation in economic development. It also encourages broader collaboration with other organizations, including the St. Louis Regional Chamber, T-Rex and East-West Gateway.

“An example of that is the work that we intend to do in marketing and branding for the region,” Coleman said. “We’ve already begun conversations with the chamber and the Convention and Visitors Commission on how our partnership can join in an effort to really help market the region in ways that have never been done before.”

A key aspect of the strategic plan is “performance,” said Coleman, which means actually following through on the priorities.

“Each of our strategies has major task associated with it and each of them has measures,” Coleman said. “Those measures of success will then be delegated out to our key staff people, so that those measures are looked at quarterly to make sure that we’re on track and achieving our objectives.”

Both St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay strongly endorsed the strategic plan after it was unveiled Tuesday at the Cheshire Inn.  

Slay said it cemented the idea that the city and county can work together — as opposed to compete against each other — when it comes to economic development ventures.

"For too many years, the city and the county have been competing against other," Slay said. "There's too many political lines dividing us when it comes to economic development. We've long competed against ourselves in the region instead of competing together against the world."

Both Dooley and Slay said combing parts of the city and county economic development agencies has born fruit —-- even before the strategic plan came together. They pointed to the ability to get an incentive package together very quickly to lure Boeing's 777X was a concrete example of the agency's dexterity. 

"In three weeks, we presented a plan that was second to none," said Dooley, adding that St. Louis would have had a serious chance at getting some of the project if Boeing hadn't decided to stay in Washington State. "That put the St. Louis metropolitan area on the world stage and showed we are serious about advancing opportunities for St. Louis."

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.