Mayor Francis Slay’s statement, from the home office (photo by Gentry W. Trotter):
Thank you for being here today. I know that you really came for the awards and the desserts, not for the speeches, so I will be brief.
St. Louis has made a lot of progress since we last met. Here are a few of the highlights.
The City’s population is still growing; and our job losses have bottomed out. Thanks to the hard work of all the people in this room, I believe I am the first St. Louis mayor since Joseph M. Darst to be able to make both those claims truthfully in a non-election year.
There is finally solid administrative leadership for our public school system in the Special Administrative Board, and fifteen charter public schools are now operating in the City - with more to come.
While residential real estate may be lagging as an economic sector in other parts of the country for a while, since April of 2005, St. Louis had issued permits for more than 10,000 new homes - and many more are on drawing boards across the city.
I think we have finally broken the logjam on the new Mississippi River bridge. To say that all of the outstanding issues have been resolved would probably be overstating the situation, but I can tell you that everyone sitting at that table is now fully focused on building, not on stopping, a bridge.
Not far from the bridge site, Pinnacle’s gaming operation, part of that company’s very expensive bet on downtown, will open before the end of the year, with a new luxury-flagged hotel checking in quickly after that.
And walking out from the Pinnacle project, visitors will find that Downtown St. Louis now has more than 70 new street-level stores and restaurants. And, outside of downtown, shopping is blossoming in rehabbed storefronts in most of our historic neighborhoods and in new retail centers throughout the city.
This new retail activity has caught the attention of a major national retail developer, General Growth. General Growth has announced plans to bring new mainstream retail downtown in John Steffen’s ambitious Mercantile Exchange district.
Those national retailers will find their customers among downtown’s many new residents, at companies downtown that have renewed their leases or expanded their operations, and - I am delighted to be able to say - from the new office tower being built at Ballpark Village by Centene. Michael Neidorf’s building will be the first new Class A office space built downtown since Metropolitan Square.
Outside of downtown, Solae’s new headquarters is well under construction in the CORTEX area.
Those are some of the highlights.
I want to thank each of you for the roles you have played in this progress. Your enthusiasm and optimism for the city are contagious. Because you have believed in our future, others now believe as well.
In the coming years - working together - we’ll make even more progress.
Great Rivers Greenway District has exciting plans for expanding the riverfront trail system north and south; Kitty Ratcliffe’s energy and wisdom are giving new life to our convention and tourism efforts; the Gateway Foundation is creating a wonderful urban garden and funding a new plan for our Gateway Mall; and, thanks to the Gateway and the Danforth foundations and to Downtown Now!, Old Post Office Plaza is now under construction. The Danforth Foundation is also moving forward in a new direction with plans for, as Rollin Stanley would say, “activating” our Riverfront.
Live on the Levee grows bigger each year, and our new Events Coordinator, the tireless Ann Chance, is working with everyone who ever even dreamed of holding an event.
In April of 2005, we set the goal of adding 10,000 new jobs in our City - with more business opportunities for minorities and “new Americans.”
I expect those jobs to come from two places: the growth of the City’s existing employers, and new businesses and industries drawn to the City by our urban lifestyle. I am sure that Centene’s and General Growth’s well-publicized decisions to locate in our City will attract the interest of other businesses looking for opportunities. SLDC director Rodney Crim, named by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of the region’s most influential minority business leaders, and his team are working with many existing businesses on expansion plans, and we have already attracted a variety of new businesses.
Over the next forty-five minutes, you’ll hear about some of the many businesses and initiatives that are adding jobs in the City-building our economy, producing new revenues, and contributing to the growing belief that the City is an exciting-and profitable-place to do business.
As all of these new initiatives are realized; as we keep paying attention to existing business; as we keep reinforcing a “can do” attitude, working hard, building great teams, and spreading the word about our progress - St. Louis will continue to grow.
The past six years have demonstrated that changing attitudes about the City is a key to the City’s success.
What you believe - and what you say to others about your beliefs - has a major impact on attitudes about the City of St. Louis. Every successful city in the country is built on the positives beliefs of its businesses and residents.
Thank you for everything you’re doing to help make St. Louis a great city.