The following post originally appeared in Community News.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a hometown booster; someone who believes in the St. Louis region and promotes it vigorously as a destination to raise families, plant jobs and achieve dreams. While this is a true reflection for some, for far too many this is not reality.
For many, their neighbors and families are broken under the weight of poverty, unemployment or underpaid jobs, daily violence and crime, and communities scattered with derelict properties and abandoned plants.
Earlier this year United Way released the Basic Living Measure, which found that 43 percent of all St. Louis metropolitan area households do not have the monthly income to meet their basic living expenses. This means that nearly half of all households in our region are challenged to afford necessities like food, housing, transportation, healthcare and child care. How can we expect to be a thriving, competitive destination when our statistics reflect a region that is on the decline or standing in place?
To grow our region, we have to take radical steps and we have to work differently. Working differently means adopting a regional point of view when it matters most – like attracting new business and talent.
To grow our region, we have to focus on our young people. The St. Louis region should become the best place for kids to grow up. If we focus on child well-being, young adults coming out of our fine colleges and universities will want to plant roots here. We must grow our talent pool by giving youth opportunities to succeed.
To grow our region, we have to recognize the growing racial divide. To outcompete other thriving metropolises, we must commit to the long-term work of racial reconciliation that only comes when we care about others and dare to be in relationship together. And, we must embrace the features and the people that make each of our communities unique.
Solving our toughest problems and positioning for growth requires that we reshape the contours of regional relationships and conversations. Now is the time.