ST. LOUIS, Aug 17, 2017 – The St. Louis Regional Chamber paid tribute to the people who work to make St. Louis a more prosperous region at its 180th Annual Event at Chaifetz Arena on Thursday evening. The event celebrated Game Changers – ideas, policy, organizations, and people who embrace change, discovery, continuous improvement and exploration into the uncertain future. During the program, Chamber President and CEO Joe Reagan gave highlights of the Chamber’s results, observing that the Chamber is having one of its strongest years ever in economic development and is getting results on its strategic priorities. Reagan also challenged leaders in St. Louis to find a meaningful way to participate in the complex discussion around local government unity, calling it the most important Game Changer for St. Louis. Five community college students were awarded the first-ever Gateway Game Changer award, a scholarship recognizing student dedication to degree completion. In addition, the event honored the St. Louis Public Schools Special Administrative Board and SLPS Superintendent with the Right Arm of St. Louis, the Chamber’s highest award for community impact.
Regional Chamber Board Chairman and Ameren Chairman, President and CEO Warner Baxter joined Dr. Fred Pestello, President and CEO of St. Louis University, in welcoming the nearly 800 attendees. In addition to the yearly results and formal award presentation, the evening included a VIP reception for new Chief Executives and multiple opportunities for participants to network with other regional leaders.
Mastercard President of Operations and Technology Ed McLaughlin presented the Right Arm of St. Louis to St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams, Richard Gaines and Rick Sullivan for leading SLPS to becoming the first district in Missouri to regain full accreditation after the district lost accreditation in 2007. Noting that SLPS now has a 95% attendance rate, graduates 72% of its students and operates with a $20 million cash surplus, McLaughlin congratulated the SLPS leadership team and said that full accreditation is the beginning of making SLPS one of the best urban school districts in the country.
The Regional Chamber joined with Express Scripts in creating the Gateway Game Changer Award, which recognized the central role community colleges play in helping St. Louis become a top ten region for degree attainment by 2025. Five regional community college students were recognized on stage with $2,000 scholarships for their academic excellence, community leadership and persistence in completing their degrees. Winners included Madelynn Clevenger from Lewis and Clark Community College, Tamara Zakaria from St. Charles Community College, Benjamin West from St. Louis Community College, Oscar Rodriguez from Southwestern Illinois College, and Wade Stuart from Jefferson College.
Chamber President and CEO Joe Reagan and Executive Vice President Gisele Marcus provided results of the Chamber’s work on it’s ONE Plan for Regional Prosperity, the Chamber’s strategic plan for economic growth. Reagan noted the Chamber focused on executing a limited number of strategic priorities, and is getting the intended results. Among other highlights, Reagan and Marcus noted:
- The Chamber and its partners have secured 25 deals – twice the rate as in 2016 – resulting in over $1.4 billion in new investment and 3500 new jobs, with an average salary of over $70,000. So far in 2017, the Chamber has attracted 76 new active clients and is having one of its strongest years ever working to create net new jobs for the region.
- The Chamber brought together 100 colleges, universities, businesses and corporate leaders across the region to support the Regional Education Commitment, which will help make college education and finishing a degree more attainable for both current and returning students. This fall, the Chamber will launch the Gateway to Degrees service, which provides advising services to working adults looking to further their education or training.
- The 11th cohort of the St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative Fellows Program was the largest yet, with 78 fellows from 37 companies. This month the Chamber will welcome 80 new Fellows into the program. The Chamber also founded LouFestU, an event focused on showing current college students the best of St. Louis to help retain this huge potential talent base for St. Louis employers.
- The significant progress made since 2016 in passing a Missouri Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax cut for 515,000 working families across the state.
In addition to highlights of accomplishments since the previous Annual Event, Reagan announced the investment of the Spirit of St. Louis Fund I, in partnership with Cultivation Capital, Twain Financial Partners and local banks, which will open up $5 million in new seed capital for the region’s highest impact startups.
Continuing its work on a unified brand strategy with regional marketing partners such as Explore St. Louis, the Chamber also debuted the group’s new brand book and provided copies to attendees. Produced in conjunction with Alive Media, the brand book is a digital and print tool for recruiters and businesses to tell the St. Louis story and share a common message about St. Louis, allowing the region to attract and retain talent and businesses.