Can St. Louis Compete?

Downtown Clayton Missouri

A St. Louis Post Dispatch Article headline asked: “Can St. Louis Compete?”

The short answer is “yes.”  The long answer is more complicated.  Cities are made up of a variety of elements: physical infrastructure, businesses, communities, educational institutions, local government, sporting institutions, the arts and many others.

Taken individually, the St. Louis region has many of these elements all of which are highly competitive and nationally recognized, including:  St. Louis University, Washington University, Cardinal Glennon, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri Botanical Gardens, and the St. Louis Zoo.  And whether or not they’re competing for a World Series, Stanley Cup or a Super Bowl, St. Louis is proud home to three major league sports teams.

And then there are businesses that are based in this region like Express Scripts and my company World Wide Technology; both are mentioned in the Post Dispatch article and both have demonstrated success.  And I can assure you that there are many other firms, large and small, in the area that are successfully competing nationally and around the globe.

With that said, I do believe individual institutions and enterprises can compete.

Whether an entire city or region can compete is more complicated.

Two elements crucial to competitiveness are the Region’s people and their values.

Having done business with companies and people across the country, I believe the St. Louis region has the hardest working people in the country.  Add to that strong work ethic our mid-western values of integrity and community and you have a powerful foundation to successfully compete.

But even hard work, integrity and community isn’t always enough.  The region, like a successful enterprise, also needs vision and leadership to ultimately compete and succeed.  It’s worth noting that it has been a strong “mid-western” work ethic combined with a long-term vision and principled leadership that has made World Wide Technology successful.

So in a broader sense, St. Louis, or at least its individual elements can compete.  I  think the question then becomes “How can we be more competitive?”

When you have many of the key elements of success in place, the ability to become “more” competitive comes from the alignment or “coming together” of these key elements towards a common purpose.    Alignment requires principled leadership to marshal the resources and point them towards a common vision or goal.

And with that, I ask you, “How can we create the vision, leadership and alignment needed for the St. Louis region be more competitive?”

Feel free to post your comments or suggestions.

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