I was a guest of Susanne Evens, president of AAA Translation, at the 2016 Growing Global event hosted by World Trade Center St. Louis this past Friday.
It was an impressive gathering that was well represented by many of the St. Louis region’s key economic driving forces. Senator Blunt was on hand, as were Mayor Slay and Steve Stenger, the County Executive. All three gave strong overviews of the tremendous potential of the St. Louis region to become a major player in global economic development.
Some might scoff at that idea, citing the numerous corporations that have left the area and our not so international airport. But what many people don’t realize is what a hub the St. Louis region has become for plant science research and innovation.
Agriculture, technology and innovation are three key areas of growth that currently have outstanding foundations here in the St. Louis metro area. The importance of all three in the not-too-distant future is going to increase as the population of the world continues to expand, combined with climate change and a dwindling water supply that will create demands on the world’s food supply that are hard to even fathom.
A lot of the research and development on these issues is being done right here in St. Louis by institutions like the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Monsanto is another major player in the global market and there are numerous other companies with major ties to agriculture as well. More international companies are being attracted to the market, lured by our Midwestern work ethic, strong school systems and overall quality of life.
Of course, all of that is debatable. The national spotlight certainly hasn’t shined very favorably on this region over the past few years and if you meet someone from out of town, you may find yourself trying to explain that St. Louis is a way better place to live and work than what has been shown via social media.
I have always believed St. Louis is poised to reclaim its spot as the true center of our country – transportation-wise, we should be a hub with railways, airlines, river traffic and highways – but there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m not sure if we’ll ever conquer the City-County divide but if we can pro-actively work as one to promote the region, particularly with a focus on attracting global business and foreign direct investment, there’s some cause for optimism.
Which brings me to the title of this particular blog piece – the confusing case of marketing St. Louis on a global stage. Upon leaving the event, I was totally pumped after hearing all of the speakers talk about the tremendous potential of further growing our ag/tech/innovation global presence.
There was a handout given to everyone called the Metro St. Louis Export Plan. In it, I expected to read more insights into how we’re going to more effectively target this lucrative and vital potential market base. Instead, I read about four strategies that had no mention of the importance of this focus and the topic only garnered a paragraph under Policy suggestions.
I understand the importance of getting companies and institutions throughout the region to get on board with the push to become more of a global player. It just seemed that all the talks we heard were focused on one direction and then this piece ventured off on a whole new tangent, all under the “St. Lou is Global” theme line.
The event also featured a speaker forum that featured key execs from global companies that do business here. The panel consisted of Fernando Merce, president of Nestle Purina Latin America and Caribbean; Antonio Santos, vice president of operations of Biomerieux; Greg Gorman, vice president of business planning and development for Nidec and Derek Bartlem, who leads the KWS Gateway Reserach Center.
All of these gentlemen talked about the importance of how branding for the region needs to be improved and the major strengths of the area need to be better communicated.
My thoughts exactly.
St. Lou is in need of better communications.
We have a tremendous story to tell.
Let’s GrOw St. Louis.