The following post was originally published in Community News.
I am a St. Louisan, born and raised. Even though this place produced much pain for me as a foster child, my love for the region and its people was sealed.
My profession allows me broad exposure to both those who have long been rooted in the St. Louis region and those who recently have moved here. It is not only what is said, but often what is not said by both parties that speaks to the essence of who we are as St. Louisans. Our region has many issues that largely shape its perception, from both the inside and outside. I believe the St. Louis region must embrace the idea of “radical hospitality” to create a welcoming environment and thus become a more competitive destination.
I recently read “Setting the Table” by native St. Louisan turned New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer. Meyer’s philosophy on hospitality is simple: how his team engages employees and patrons is the differentiator. It is up to the leaders to set the vision, model the behavior and apply constant, gentle pressure to ensure employees stay on track. I see how his thinking can translate to our region: we must extend ourselves beyond our traditional comfort and conversation to accelerate the region’s growth. How can this be done?
What if our community supported the initiatives in place that welcome and onboard new companies, leaders and transplants and apprised them of the work we are doing and the issues we are solving for? What if we encouraged all local companies to reinforce diversity in top leadership and worked together to recruit top talent? What if we established one collective hub for local groups so that newcomers could easily find and navigate our community’s civic offerings and become engaged?
The idea of radical hospitality has the potential to address perception issues and, over time, even the current struggles of our region like racial tension and separation. To begin the movement, to create the muscle necessary to push radical hospitality forward, we need the support and commitment of all leaders and people who want to see the St. Louis region a competitive destination. Let’s work together and talk to our networks about radical hospitality, model the behavior and apply constant, gentle pressure to ensure that we stay on track as a region. Our future depends upon it.