Alliance CEO Sees ‘Blank Slate’ for Developing St. Louis’ Brand

By on April 22, 2019

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  Steve Johnson has some thoughts about how St. Louis is perceived by business decision makers, but he wants to know for sure.

That’s why one of the first things he plans to do as head of the new St. Louis Regional Economic Development Alliance is to commission a survey of site selection consultants and executives who make corporate location decisions.

Johnson’s hunch is that his intended audience simply doesn’t know much about St. Louis. “We all think everybody has got this negative opinion of us, but what’s more concerning is that they don’t have an opinion,” he said this week. “It’s a blank slate.”

The Alliance is a private-sector-led effort to rebuild the area’s business-attraction efforts. It’s taking over functions that were formerly part of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, but that had been de-emphasized as the Chamber suffered from leadership turmoil and staff turnover.

Johnson, a former Chamber executive who most recently had been running the Missouri Partnership, started March 1 as Alliance CEO. Six weeks into the job, he sat down to discuss plans for the new organization.

Some of the initial tasks are internal — setting strategic goals, hiring more staff and reorganizing the Alliance’s space within the Chamber’s downtown office — but Johnson wants to delve into the branding study quickly.

The pipeline of potential business expansion deals “is solid but it’s not where it needs to be,” he said. “We need to be out there telling the St. Louis story.”

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