St. Louis Economic Development

It’s been suggested that successful economic development is a marathon, not a sprint.  So the spate of very positive postings in the media on the St. Louis region’s emerging economic development successes are not the result of a single sprint, but rather a well planned marathon.

For example, the recent Kiplinger Top Ten ranking, the Dave Nicklaus columns in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled “All of a sudden, St. Louis is a lot more nurturing place for entrepreneurs” (1/27/12), “St. Louis draws entrepreneurs from across the country” (11/25/12), “On the cutting edge for growth, St. Louis beginning to make its mark:  study says our biopharma is 6th biggest n the nation” (2/19/12), and Lisa Brown’s recent Sunday feature article, “Financial industry leaders join to spur local growth” (2/19/12) — each are reflections of progress and results from well over a decade of hard work by many in the bistate St. Louis region.

To wit,

  1. the Kiplinger Top Ten ranking is the result of actions by an emerging set of engaged players both in our universities, along with entrepreneurial/business and civic communities  — dating back to the early efforts of area incubators such as the Center for Emerging Technologies and NIDUS Center for Scientific Enterprise, the Technology Gateway Alliance (later Innovate St. Louis), the candid half year analysis and assessment of the region’s economic development & entrepreneurial pluses and minuses by the Council on Competitiveness co-sponsored by Wash U and RCGA in 2004, and the decade-long civic efforts of Dr. Bill Danforth and the Coalition for Plant & Life Sciences (now BioSTL), and more recently, the ArchAngels, ITEN, Arch Grants, VECTIS, and T-REX.
  2. the pioneering work led by then-RCGA Chairman and Edward Jones managing Partner John Bachmann in the late 90s in focussing the region and the business leadership on a set of long term strategic initiatives, which included “Revitalizing the Region’s Central City” and “Developing the Region’s Distinctive Industry Clusters.”  In determining and pursuing the latter, collaborating with Dr. Michael Porter of Harvard and Dr. Walt Plosilla of the Battelle Memorial Institute, a decade-long pursuit of the region’s most promising industry clusters was undertaken; namely, Plant & Life Sciences, IT, Advanced Manufacturing, Financial Services, and Transportation/Distribution.  The 2012 ranking by the National Cluster Mapping Project ranked the St. louis BioBelt region as #6 in the nation for biopharma — ahead of Boston, Cleveland, and San Diego.  The decade=-long focus on these 5 distinctive industry clusters led the RCGA to update and calibrate going forward in the recently-completed MarketStreet Study led by Wells Fargo Advisors CEO and RCGA Chairman-elect Danny Ludeman.  [More on this work in a future blog]
  3. the announcement last week of the first of several new CEO-led Leadership Councils by RCGA reflects a refinement to the region’s industry cluster strategy.  The above mentioned P-D article by Lisa Brown announced that Danny Ludeman and his Edward Jones-CEO counterpart, Jim Weddle, will co-chair the first of several industry cluster Leadership Councils — this one on financial services — at the heart of RCGA’s 2011-2015 Regional Economic Development Strategy.  A 2007 national study noted that more financial brokers call St. Louis their HQs than anywhere in the United States other than Wall Street.
The good news is that St. Louis has prepared well for this “economic development marathon.”