• Chamber Reaffirms Commitment to Welcoming Foreign-Born and Refugees

    Jan 30, 2017

    St. Louis will only be successful if we attract new talent to our region.  Immigrants are a critical part of our economic development—they are thirty percent more likely to start a business and twice as likely to have a doctoral degree.  This combination of education and a comfort with risk-taking results in job creation and improves the economic environment for all people in our region. 

    Our position on the benefits immigrants and refugees bring to our region is long-standing and unchanged by the recent executive order barring travel for nationals of seven nations and suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.  We think this post by Joe Reagan from December of 2015 explains it best:

    Welcoming Refugees Makes St. Louis Strong
    by Joe Reagan | Dec 01, 2015

    The St. Louis Regional Chamber is driven by one overriding purpose – to inspire a greater St. Louis.  Study after study shows that immigration to Missouri, including settlement of fully screened refugees, provides both an economic benefit and is in line with our core values as a nation.  Being a welcoming community, particularly to those fleeing war and persecution, makes St. Louis stronger.  We have been disappointed to observe some of our national leaders call for Congress to halt the entry of refugees, particularly Syrian refugees, to the United States.  Similarly, we have been disappointed to hear some in Missouri call for refugees to be barred from settlement in our state.  The Chamber strongly supports efforts to ensure Missouri remains welcoming to those who want to come here to start a new life and contribute to our economy and society.

    The economic benefits refugees bring to Missouri and to the St. Louis region are real and significant. Some examples include:

    • Since 1999, resettled refugees have resulted in an estimated $160 million in direct economic impact to the St. Louis region.
    • In 2013 alone, the International Institute of St. Louis facilitated 415 job placements that earned an estimated $9 million in labor income for the region, providing a total direct economic output (the value of industry production for these workers) of over $90 million.  
    • In 2014, the Institute facilitated 556 placements with an average wage of $8.68, resulting in just over $450,000 in state tax revenue for these workers.  More broadly, an estimated 10,000 adult refugees work in the St. Louis Region alone, which translates into millions in state tax revenue each year.

    These economic benefits have been demonstrated in other states as well.  A 2012 study of refugee costs and benefits in Cleveland found local refugee services agencies spent about $4.8 million that year to help refugees get established in the area.  The study found the positive economic impact those refugees had on the community was nearly $48 million, roughly 10 times the initial resettlement costs.

    Missouri has been blessed with a vibrant and growing entrepreneurial community.  Multiple studies on refugees have found that they are more likely to be entrepreneurs and enjoy higher rates of successful business ventures compared to native-born.  In addition refugees increase demand for goods and services in local markets and can be particularly beneficial to communities that have declining populations, such as the City of St. Louis.  We have a recent example of such a strong, vibrant refugee community with as many as 50,000 Bosnian-Americans who have started families, created jobs and contributed to economic growth right here in St. Louis.

    As Americans we have long prided ourselves for being the refuge of those fleeing tyranny or oppression.  While the Statue of Liberty may not have initially been sculpted as a symbol of immigration, the plaque mounted on the Statue’s base confirms our century-old invitation to the less fortunate with its line “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” 

    Turning our back on refugees betrays our core values as a welcoming, diverse community that benefits from the contributions of all our immigrants. It sends the wrong message that Missouri is making judgments about people based on their religion or country of origin.  President Reagan saw our country in much the same way, as “a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

    We can welcome refugees while keeping our families and communities safe.  Refugees are the most thoroughly screened group of people who come to the United States, with background checks and security screenings including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon and multiple intelligence agencies.  Federal officials interview each refugee to determine whether they are true refugees and whether they are admissible to the United States. They then undergo a series of biometric and background checks, which is compared against government databases. This process typically takes more than two years before the refugee would arrive in the U.S.

    Our country is at its finest when it provides the example for other nations to follow.  Our openhearted and inclusive spirit, especially when welcoming refugees fleeing war and persecution, should continue to be an example for the world.  

  • St. Louis Regional Chamber Delegation Meets with Governor, General Assembly Leadership at Annual Lobby Day

    Jan 25, 2017

    A delegation of over 90 private sector executives and leaders visited Jefferson City on January 18th as part of the St. Louis Regional Day at the Capitol.  The Chamber once again joined with eight partner organizations and local chambers of commerce to discuss regional policy and legislative priorities with newly-elected Governor Greitens and leaders in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.

    The delegation shared the Chamber’s top priorities with the Governor and General Assembly, and had the opportunity to hear from the top executive and legislative leaders about their vision for the future of business in Missouri.  The policy priorities, part of the 2017 Agenda for Regional Prosperity, continue the Chamber’s focus on advocating for forward-thinking economic policies that will create jobs and grow the regional St. Louis economy.   

    The Chamber’s top legislative issue for 2017 is passing a statewide Earned Income Tax Credit, which will break the cycle of poverty and grow Missouri’s economy by encouraging more individuals to enter the workforce.  EITC has strong legislative sponsors in both the House and Senate and the policy closely reflects Governor Greitens’ State of the State remarks calling for a system that lifts people out of poverty and into the middle class, based on hard work and personal responsibility.  Other priority legislative issues for Missouri include supporting local public safety initiatives, building and investing in infrastructure, ensuring competitive Missouri Technology Corporation funding, and significant tort reforms.

    In addition to meetings with Governor Greitens and his senior staff, the delegation met with Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, Speaker Todd Richardson and Minority Leader Sen. Gina Walsh.  In all, the delegation met with over 50 legislators from the St. Louis region and across the state to advocate for policies that will make St. Louis a more inclusive and attractive place to live, work and invest for all people.

    Group photo of the St. Louis Regional Day at the Capitol delegation of more than 90 business and civic leaders that traveled to the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
     Warner Baxter, Chairman, President & CEO of Ameren Corporation and Chairman of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, introduces Governor Greitens to the delegation.
    Warner Baxter, Chairman, President & CEO of Ameren Corporation and Chairman of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, introduces Governor Greitens to the delegation.
    Governor Eric Greitens shares his priorities for his first year in office.  The delegation met with the Governor in his office and had an engaging conversation touching on a variety of topics.

    Sen. Bob Onder meets St. Louis delegates
    (from left) Bailey Tripp and Nelly Balley, St. Louis Regional Chamber,
    Cheryl Norton, President of Missouri American Water, Warner Baxter, Chairman, President & CEO of Ameren Corporation,
    John Sondag, President of AT&T Missouri, Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), Joe Reagan, President & CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Rick Sullivan, CEO of St. Louis Public Schools, Doug Sitton, President of Sitton Energy Solutions


    Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) speaks about his bill to establish an Earned Income Tax Credit in Missouri, SB 197, which is the top legislative priority of the St. Louis Regional Chamber in Missouri this year.
     State Treasurer Eric Schmitt meets St. Louis delegates
    (from left) State Treasurer Eric Schmitt, Warner Baxter, Chairman, President & CEO of Ameren Corporation,
    Cheryl Norton, President of Missouri American Water,
    Kitty Rattcliffe, President of St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, Austin Walker, St. Louis Regional Chamber, 
    John Sondag, President of AT&T Missouri
     Delegates 2017
    (from left) Craig Unruh, AT&T Missouri, Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff), and Christine Page, Missouri American Water, at the reception.
     Gina Walsh
    (from left) Tom Campbell, Polsinelli and 
    Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh (D-St. Louis County) at the reception.
     Sen. Richard
    Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin) addresses the delegation at lunch, sharing his insight on how this year's session will progress.
     Sen. Kehoe
    Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) speaks to the assembled
    delegation about growing up in St. Louis and the importance of transportation infrastructure.
    More STL Delegates 2017
     (from left) Kitty Rattcliffe, President of St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin), and Rep. Gretchen Bangert (D-Florissant) at the reception.
     Group 6
    Small groups of the delegation met with members of the legislature in the afternoon. 
    (from left) Angela Tate, Behavioral Health Response, Rebecca Zoll, North County Inc, Greg Laposa, St. Louis Regional Chamber,
    Christine Page, Missouri American Water, Mary Adams, University City
    Chamber of Commerce, and Reggi Rideout, Simply Strategy

    More information on the Chamber’s policy agenda can be found on the blog. You can view additional photos from the day on the Chamber's Flickr page.