Thursday, November 06, 2008

"Can-Do" Spirit

As an avid reader of the Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Business Journal over the years, I’ve noticed that a gentleman named Richard Ontiveros has consistently submitted great letters to the editor. It’s always nice to see someone who gets it. Here is his most recent letter to the Post-Dispatch. I couldn’t agree more – cities like Charlotte, Houston, etc. all embody the “can-do” spirit that St. Louis needs to embrace:

St. Louis lacks a "can-do" spirit

I enjoyed Bill McClellan's column "Business leadership style steals success from St. Louis" (Sept. 19). I have been trying for years to get corporate leaders to realize their role in the vitality of downtown St. Louis (or lack thereof).

Billions of dollars have been invested in revitalizing our central business district, which has gained global recognition. But when it comes to jobs and office space, businesses prefer to go to Clayton, west St. Louis County or elsewhere. The trend has been to hold the city hostage for tax incentives and perks under the threat of leaving the area. What civic pride.

It's not that there is a lack of money in St. Louis to push this city into the limelight, but there is a lack of corporate leadership and commitment. There is no "can-do" attitude in this city. We prefer to be conservative and smug about not suffering the highs and lows that risk-taking cities sometimes experience.

This area has minimal growth in jobs and population. We continue to take one step forward and two steps back. We could be so much more, yet we sell ourselves short of that chance. We have a delusional notion that we are an important city. How many corporate headquarters have we lost? How many of our companies have been sellers rather than buyers? We don't even have non-stop flights to London or anywhere in Europe, let alone Asia or South America.

Whenever I mention building a new monument on the western end of the Gateway Mall — "The Spirit of St. Louis," commemorating our city's heritage in aviation and aerospace — I'm looked at with disdain.

Times change, but we don't. The last time this city was prominent was when we had the audacity to have a World's Fair in 1904 and the business community had the chutzpah to invest in the crazy idea of a transatlantic flight to Paris. That never would happen today.

Richard Ontiveros | St. Louis County


Justin said...

Great read... I have quite the same sentiment. When you look at the fabric of businesses that are in the "metro" area but choose not to work downtown (or even in the city limits):

Express Scripts
Brown Shoe
University of Missouri - St. Louis
Edward Jones
World Wide Technologies

This list is truly impressive and would create such a synergy in our urban corps if half were located downtown. But alas, the leaders of these groups do not value downtown enough to commit to locating there headquarters there and rather continue the sprawl that is our suburban metroplis.

Brian said...

And if even a few of those companies would just make a small commitment to downtown, it would help immensely.

One of my first posts on this blog was about Edward Jones. Despite the fact that they have a campus in Maryland Heights, a lot of their office space is pretty spread out - Des Peres, Maryville Centre, etc. If they would just open an "East Campus" downtown, it would be a huge shot in the arm.