Over the last couple of decades, the St. Louis region has lost many of its manufacturing jobs and a hub airline. Some of the largest companies in the region now have headquarters in other states ' or in other countries. St. Louis County, the largest political entity in the region, has a population that is essentially flat, with its potential growth heading west and south, and ' lately - east back to the City.
Competing against the world for new employers is hindered by the fact that much of our energy is spent competing with each other ' municipality against municipality, City versus County. Even explaining that St. Louis County does not actually contain a municipality named St. Louis or that the City of St. Louis is itself a county-not-named-St. Louis County takes up several minutes and pages of every new business pitch. If St. Louis is going to stay competitive both nationally and globally, we have to work together as a region, rather competing against each other as fiefdoms. And we have to make more sense to people from outside the region.
How? As an important early step, the City of St. Louis should re-enter St. Louis County and the two should work together to create partnerships in public safety, parks maintenance, sustainability, and economic development. (Operating the region's airports and river ports under one roof would be an easy and quickly-formed part of a new, forward thinking St. Louis region.)
The change would be a good, dramatic story. St. Louis County's population would grow by 360 thousand residents, making it one of the "fastest growing'? counties in the country. It would be able to count within its boundaries dozens of vibrant neighborhoods, including most of the historic ones; a sizable percentage of the state's jobs; the cathedrals of several religions; the venues for three major professional sports; the stage of a major symphony orchestra; double or triple the number art galleries it now has; a menu of great restaurants; almost a hundred new parks; several new universities and colleges; and the state's largest and best equipped police and fire departments.
We can no longer afford to be wasteful, inefficient, parochial, or redundant. Our competitors already understand that. How long will it take us to figure it out?