CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) – Political, business and civic leaders in St. Louis and St. Louis County say they are done fighting over economic development projects that can benefit the region as a whole rather than a single political jurisdiction.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Charlie Dooley joined several dozen regional leaders Tuesday morning at The Cheshire Inn on the city-county border to unveil a new strategic plan for the region’s economic development. The plan’s release follows the creation of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership nearly 10 months ago. That’s the same location where the pair joined other regional leaders in November for the launch of Better Together, the latest effort to unify the two local governments after nearly a century of unsuccessful attempts.
Both Slay and Dooley cited the recent effort to land a new Boeing airplane assembly plant for a site near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. While that bid was unsuccessful, the two elected officials repeatedly referred to it as an example of how cooperation is preferable to competition when it comes to recruiting global businesses to the metropolitan area.
“We are in a regional economy. What happens in one part of the region impacts the other,” Slay said. “Yet for too many years, the city and the county have been competing against each other.
“It is long overdue,” he added. “For too long, we had the political lines that kept us from working together.”
The new partnership unites the city and county economic development agencies, which previously looked out only for their own interests. The plan’s priorities include an emphasis on job creation, increasing foreign trade and investment and promoting start-businesses and entrepreneurs.
Organizers also hope to boost St. Louis’ image by creating a “unified brand” for the region and encouraging the joint reporting of city-county crime statistics long a sore point for urban boosters who argue that the city is unfairly portrayed as excessively dangerous when reports of assaults, burglaries and other crimes don’t incorporate the broad swaths of the county where crime rates are much lower.
Dooley said the partnership builds upon existing cooperative efforts that transcend political boundaries, such as the Metropolitan Sewer District, the regional transit system and the Zoo-Museum District, which oversees the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Missouri History Museum, the Saint Louis Science Center and the Saint Louis Zoo.
“The world sees us as one,” Dooley said. “They don’t see St. Louis City and St. Louis County. It does matter how we present ourselves to the global economy.”
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