It is not really all that much fun to stand in front of 700 knowledgeable and well-connected people like you and make predictions. Most of you are the sorts of people who don’t forget things, and who don’t hesitate to remind me when I’m wrong. And it is somewhat dismaying to speaking after such good predictors as my fellow panelists.
In years past at this event and in the St. Louis Business Journal, I’ve accurately predicted: A new National League pennant flying at Busch Stadium; The fact that many of you would be eating dinner at a restaurant in the City’s new Grove neighborhood; that the airport would finally see higher passenger counts and some real renovation; and that a new residential high-rise would be breaking ground downtown.
Even so, the first thing someone asked me coming in was why we didn’t yet have the citywide WiFi system that I predicted a year ago — and the year before that, too.
So, I think I might limit my remarks this year to the “sure things.”It is a sure thing that Kitty Ratcliffe is going to book even more hotel rooms next year than she did this year. With hundreds of new residents along Washington Avenue, dozens of new restaurants and unique stores open for business, with Lumiere Place now open and busy separating customers from their chips, with several great downtown hotels re-flagged and refurbished, with the Old Post Office and the Federal Reserve buildings gleaming, and with St. Louis Centre finally closed for a much-needed facelift, downtown St. Louis looks wonderful again. And St. Louis is now attracting the national and international recognition it has earned.It is a sure thing that the region’s small and mid-sized businesses are going to be the engines of the St. Louis economy during 2008. Because they are blessed with strong, entrepreneurial leaders; and because they are not carrying the heavy weights of sluggish operations in parts of the country much more firmly pinched the credit crunch than is St. Louis, the next year will be a good one for our small and mid-sized businesses — and, consequently, a solid firewall for the City against the sorts of problems that cities on the coasts are having.It is a sure thing that the closure of a stretch of Highway 40/I-64 is going to be good things for neighborhoods, businesses, and entertainment venues located in parts of the City not located along the central corridor. I expect home sales, clothing sales, dinner sales, and ticket sales all to pick up as commuters traveling previously unfamiliar routes notice the unexpectedly interesting city through which they are passing.And it is a sure thing that many of the barriers that have separated the City from the counties that surround us will be lower in 2008, than at any time in recent memory. With regional problems such as workforce development, public safety, public transportation, health care costs, and public employees pension systems growing too large and too expensive for any of us to deal with alone, I predict that we are going to use some of the coordination we’ve learned on projects like the Mississippi River Bridge and the highway closure to more seriously explore wider areas of economic and operational cooperation. And, finally, because I usually have to include a sports prediction in these things, I’ll make this one: if you have to pick a team certain to have a winning season in 2008, the absolute sure-thing bet is to pass up the Cardinals, the Rams, and the Blues and bet the farm on the Arch Rival Roller Girls. They’re winners.
Ellen, thank you for hosting this wonderful event again this year. Please keep track of the winning predictions.