Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Trickle-Down Effect

The recent article about downtown's ability to lure conventions got me thinking that while its overall success is dependent on a number of interrelated factors, it really all comes down to the presence of businesses in the CBD.

Let’s consider a hypothetical company, the Acme Corporation (in deference Wile E. Coyote)…

Acme moves its offices downtown from Clayton.

Several of Acme’s employees discover howdecide to purchase lofts so that they can walk to work and enjoy the lifestyle they thought they could only live in other cities. Acme employees who had previously considered moving to (supposedly) greener pastures in cities like Chicago now feel compelled to stay in St. Louis.

With lofts selling more briskly, developers take on new residential projects, renovating vacant buildings and constructing new ones.

Now able to attract and retain the best workers due to its superior downtown location, the company undergoes tremendous growth and decides to build a new headquarters building, complete with rooftop signage that can be seen from Busch Stadium, on a vacant lot.

The headquarters needs artwork, and lots of it. The CEO visits a downtown gallery and purchases several works from local artists and commissions several more.

The vendors and partners that serve the company – PR firm, law firm, accountants, etc. – decide to relocate their offices downtown to serve their biggest client.

The additional workers create longer lines at restaurants and busier happy hours at downtown bars, inspiring entrepreneurs to open additional restaurants and bars to serve the additional patrons.

The improved nightlife makes a positive impression on a meeting planner who is exploring prospective sites for her organization’s next convention. She decides to choose St. Louis, bringing thousands of conventioneers to town.

The conventioneers book rooms in downtown hotels and provide a nice financial shot in the arm for downtown retailers.

The combination of improved convention business and increased business travel by Acme and other companies results in additional flights in and out of Lambert.

A college kid, at home in suburban St. Louis on summer break, heads downtown for a Cardinals game with his friends and experiences downtown’s vitality firsthand – new office buildings and lofts, restaurants and bars, people everywhere. He was thinking about moving to San Francisco after graduation, but now thinks that Cupples Station might be a better spot for the software company he wants to start.

This little scenario is all in fun, but hopefully it shows the trickle down effect that businesses can have on downtown, and in our region.

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