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Nixon Backs Pursuit Of St. Louis-Area 'Promise Zone' Designation

Property owned by developer Paul McKee, Jr. in north St. Louis.
(Steve Patterson).
Property owned by developer Paul McKee, Jr. in north St. Louis.

  Governor Jay Nixon is lending his support for efforts by St. Louis and St. Louis County to land a federal Promise Zone designation.

Nixon has directed his Community Engagement office to coordinate any assistance state agencies may provide towards the effort.  Communities that receive a Promise Zone designation get preferential access and assistance in their revitalization efforts.  St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says he hopes the governor's involvement will give their efforts some momentum.

"This is really at the root of what a city should be in terms of providing a quality of life for all of its citizens – addressing poverty, addressing unemployment, addressing youth unemployment," Slay said.  "We have in North County and North city, based on our estimates, about 15,000 young people who are not only not employed, they're not in school…that's a huge challenge for all of us, (and that's) one of the things that this particular program is meant to address."

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley says the cooperation between city, county, and state officials to pursue Promise Zone designation is already paying off:

"(We've got) the business community, we've got government agencies, we've got our non-profit groups, we've got our media people…it's how we project ourselves, how we move forward," Dooley said.  "A lot of people that normally don't speak (to each other) are speaking to one another because they know their lives are gonna be impacted by this event."

President Barack Obama announced the creation of Promise Zones during his 2013 State of the Union Address.  Five zones have been created across the country so far, in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma.  Six more Promise Zones are scheduled to be designated in 2015.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.