If a rebirth of St. Louis is to come, it will primarily come from people and communities that have historically been overlooked.
It will come from places including Pagedale, Wellston, Hyde Park, College Hill, Ferguson, Jennings, surrounding areas and in between.
It will come because enough people finally understand that the St. Louis region cannot reach its potential until more St. Louisans reach theirs.
Our region has overlooked the potential of so many St. Louisans and communities in its own backyard. For this shortsightedness, St. Louis has paid a heavy price.
It has cost us all in generations of lost productivity and potential from marginalized lives and lives cut prematurely short.
It has cost us with a continual exodus of talented people who felt they had to move to other cities more welcoming, with more opportunities.
It has cost our region in every imaginable way — socially, economically, our pride and reputation.
What encourages me is, at long last, more people from various parts of the region are seeing the light.
This was not the case in 2008 when residents and community leaders in the Normandy Schools footprint came together to make a change. People tired of seeing their community decline.
Together, we created a plan based on what community members believed was most needed. During the last 14 years, a lot has been accomplished. But there is still a long, long way to go.
Since that time, St. Louis has made significant investments in the region. There has been nearly a billion dollars in investment and development in the central corridor alone. This is wonderful and greatly needed. However, we have yet to invest in the people and communities that have historically been left behind.
Our greatest potential lies in our own backyard, and it has yet to be tapped. This must change. If it doesn’t, no number of new buildings and amenities will overcome this deficit.
This is the message of Once and for All, a Beyond Housing campaign. Its mission is to transform under-resourced, Black communities within our region to create a stronger, more equitable and prosperous St. Louis - once and for all.
But to do so, more St. Louisans must understand the collective fates are intertwined, and that transforming our under-resourced communities is not just the right thing to. It’s vital for our collective future.
I’m encouraged by the increased discussion on how to finally solve our region’s challenges. There seems to be a greater collective desire among businesses, civic organizations, nonprofits, local governments, and the region’s people to see change.
The business community is particularly concerned with the fate of our region, as the success of St. Louis directly impacts its success. This is why we are partnering with the St. Louis Business Journal and joining the discussion.
As in other cities across the nation, the St. Louis business community realizes that greater equity is a key for its own success, as well as the greater community.
People must realize that creating a more equitable workforce is removing obstacles within our under-resourced communities that make it more difficult for Black people to even get a foot into the door — even if that door is now open.
At a time when St. Louis businesses are having difficulty attracting talent from outside the region, it should be obvious the need to develop our workforce from within.
We believe we have the answer for the challenges of our communities and the greater region. It is based on the latest thinking on how to create real change and from our personal experience in making that happen.
A rebirth of St. Louis is more possible now than ever in its recent past. But the only way it will happen is through our under-resourced communities.
We only progress so far while continuing to leave so many of us behind.
To learn more, visit onceandforall.org
Chris Krehmeyer is president and CEO of Beyond Housing, a community development organization