Neal Richardson assumes new role July 1
Neal Richardson is working for economic justice.
The newly appointed executive director of the St Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) will take over at the end of June and says one thing residents can expect to see is more community engagement to strengthen neighborhoods and move the entire city forward economically.
The SLDC is an umbrella, not-for-profit corporation that fosters economic development and growth in St. Louis by stimulating the market for private investment in city real estate and business development.
“Economic justice is really being able to address the historical barriers and economic inequities that have prevented everyone from being able to contribute, have ownership in our economic future,” Richardson said. “So today we have about 45 percent of our population in the city of St. Louis is Black, but Black employees make, on average, 48 percent of a white employee and homes in predominantly Black ZIP codes are worth less than one fourth of those in predominantly white ZIP codes.”
He said these inequities were created systematically through racial covenants, redlining and other policies.
“And so, in order for us to be able to close these gaps and create opportunities for the full St. Louis to thrive, we need to have interventions in our policies and procedures — the way that we allocate tax incentives, the way that we invest in workforce development and providing the ecosystem for support for women and minority owned businesses entities to be able to compete at the same level, we have to invest intentionally in those things,” Richardson said.
Richardson said he believes he’ll find success in this position because of his 14 years of professional experience — as well as his passion for St. Louis, where he was born and raised.
He’s worked in a slew of capacities at U.S. Bank since 2011 — most recently as director of the Business Impact Group, in addition to being president and co-founder of Dream Builders 4 Equity — which hires minority contractors and students to refurbish dilapidated North City homes who then get a share of the profit once it’s sold.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones announced Riachardson’s appointment June 3.
“Neal Richardson understands that equitable development is more than just brick and mortar,” Jones wrote in a statement. “From his time leading the Business Impact Group at US Bank to his work as president of Dream Builders 4 Equity, I know Neal will encourage forward-thinking, holistic development that opens up opportunities for families across our city.”
Richardson is replacing Otis Williams, who took over as head of the agency in 2013 and retired at the end of April.
Williams served under two mayors — Francis Slay and Lyda Krewson — and worked behind the scenes on projects such the new Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village, the Cortex Innovation Community and redevelopment of the old Arena site and City Hospital. He also played a key role in the city retaining the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's western headquarters and construction of the $1.75 billion facility.
Richardson said he believes Williams did a great job at being intentional in attracting businesses and employers to St. Louis while working strategically with the business community to drive the region forward on the development front.
“And I look forward to being able to leverage and partner with those same developers and groups to be able to say, ‘Hey, I definitely want to partner with you, I think this is great, it’s needed for us to have a stronger economy,’” he said. “But in order to ensure that our region is stronger, all of our neighborhoods are stronger, that we address the crime and talent pipeline that's preventing us from growing.”
At the end of the day, Richardson says he hopes to elevate all residents’ voices in this position.
“That’s really what economic justice is about as well, is elevating the voices of all of our residents and making sure they have an equal seat at the table and not just a seat — that they have a voice that needs to be heard and respected. And so that's what I'm hoping to bring forward in this role, is to ensure that everyone has a strong voice and a shared and collective ownership and accountability in our future.”
Richardson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Webster University.