Economic Alliance is Much-Needed Solution to a Regional Problem

By on February 12, 2019

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  When Steve Johnson explains why St. Louis needs a new private-sector economic development organization, he reads a dictionary definition of “alliance.”

The word, which appears in the name of the St. Louis Regional Economic Development Alliance, describes an association formed for mutual benefit. Johnson, who will be the alliance’s first chief executive beginning next month, says it’s something St. Louis has needed for some time.

“If we can hammer home the concept of mutual benefit, we can do much more than we could do individually,” Johnson said. He says the alliance will work for the mutual benefit of the three business groups that founded it — the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Regional Business Council and Civic Progress — and of the many cities and counties in the region that have their own economic development staffs.

The new organization will rebuild and expand the economic development function of the Regional Chamber, which suffered in recent years from leadership turmoil and staff departures. The alliance will be a subsidiary of the Chamber but will have its own staff, budget and 15-member board.

The budget will be $4 million a year, and corporate donors have made a three-year commitment.

St. Louis business leaders began studying economic development last summer. “Leadership in the private sector realized that, with economic growth in St. Louis being what it is, we can’t keep doing things the same way,” said Tom Minogue, chairman of the Regional Chamber and of law firm Thompson Coburn.

Between 2015 and 2017, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, metro St. Louis’ inflation-adjusted economic output grew just 0.5 percent a year, compared with 2.3 percent for the nation as a whole.

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