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St. Louis, St. Louis County announce economic development partnership

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 22, 2013 - St. Louis and St. Louis County today unveiled a new joint venture that combines some economic development efforts of the two jurisdictions.

At a press conference at the Cheshire Inn near the city-county line, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley revealed the new St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

While both jurisdictions will still have their own economic development agencies, the partnership will combine programs to foster business development, job creation and entrepreneurship.

St. Louis County Economic Council President Denny Coleman will serve as chief executive officer of the new agency. Rodney Crim, executive director at St. Louis Development Corp., will serve as president. The new organization will be located in Clayton.

At the press conference, Dooley and Slay pitched the agency as a way to think regionally – as opposed to competing against each other.

“Boundaries will not define us. It will bring us closer together to make a difference in the St. Louis region. That’s what I’m excited about,” Dooley said. “When you combine friends working together, you enhance what you already have. So the municipalities in St. Louis County, they’re going to do even better than they’ve done before.”

Paraphrasing the film "Casablanca," Slay said, “We think this is the part of a beautiful partnership.”

“It’s not going to be about St. Louis County to attract to the county or St. Louis city trying to drive them to the city,” Slay said. “We’re going to work together to make sure that business lands in St. Louis. And whether its city or county, we all benefit. It’s a regional economy. And we have to stop competing against each other. We need to work together to make sure we land more businesses here.”

Asked how this partnership would stop individual municipalities from luring downtown business their way, Slay said, “A lot of the economic development activity goes through the county development agencies.”

“The municipalities are still going to be able to do what they do, but a lot of the real work will be done in the economic development agencies that are now formally closer together,” Slay said.

The ultimate goal of the partnership, Dooley said, is “to grow the St. Louis region, to create jobs and opportunity and to create entrepreneurship as one.”

“What we’re doing is about efficiency, but it’s also about creating jobs and branding the St. Louis area as one,” Dooley said.

Coleman said the goal is to get the new agency started on July 1. The partnership’s creation will need approval by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the St. Louis County Council.

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