St. Louis is in bad shape. And it's getting worse. How do we start to turn this ship around? I like the idea of withdrawing from the Midwest and looking more like a pro-business city like Atlanta or Dallas. Boosting small business since most new jobs are are generated by new and small companies.
I like making our economy more dynamic and pushing the entrepreneurship factor up a notch instead of being complacent with the status quo. But those have all been proposed before. I will support those until the days I'm forced out of St. Louis, but I've got one more theory to add to the conversation:
Let's stop pretending and tell the region and the country that we are in trouble. Let's publicize it. Let's swallow our pride and ask for help.
But in a smart way.
What do i mean by that? Well, let's look at Detroit for example. Mayor Bing has asked local businesses to invest and help with the recovery. There are recovery centers being set up. Small business is generating a recovery right alongside the auto industry. CNN Money has a special site and says "It's a city in crisis--but with potential for a big comeback. Despite an ailing auto industry and the highest jobless rate in the nation, Detroiters are determined to make their hometown thrive once again." There are entrepreneurial businesses that are taking advantage of a depressed economy and finding good, inexpensive facilities and a reinvigorated skilled work force to help them out.
In short, Detroit was not afraid to show its problems to the country, and the country responded. There is a pride in the city, but also in those not native to the city that are bringing their companies there. They know they are getting a good deal for their business, but also feel a pride in helping the recovery of one of America's great cities.
So… St. Louis may not be as desolate as the bleak pictures we've seen of Detroit, but we're moving in that direction. Why can't we take the same approach? St. Louis was a phenomenal city in the middle of America and, like Detroit, has the potential for a huge comeback. But with an attitude of "we're fine, thank you, now move on," we're never going to get the response Detroit got.
We need a focus on St. Louis. We need a dynamic leadership that doesn't continue to paint a rosy picture of St. Louis as a great place for families. We need a recovery effort. We need people from around the country feeling that they can bring their businesses and entrepreneurial spirit to a region that needs it and they can feel good about the move. We can't afford to keep sweeping the problems under the rug and putting on the stiff upper lip. It's time to ask for help.
There are St. Louisans who are determined to make their hometown thrive once again. Use us. But don't hedge our efforts and water them down with counter statement on how St. Louis is doing just fine. We're not. (And we CAN be pro-business AND pro-family-friendly, but that's another blog post).
So to my friend graduating from college in May and moving back to St. Louis: thank you. I hope more people follow your lead. And I hope MICDS (and other schools) add something to their curriculum: train and educate the best and the brightest St. Louis has to offer AND instill in them early a pride in St. Louis and instill in them a sense of duty to come back and fix this city.