Wednesday, February 18, 2009

St. Louis County: Most populous and economically diverse community

From St. Louis County Spotlight:

St. Louis County, Missouri is the most populous and economically diverse “community” in the St. Louis metropolitan region, if not the entire state. A total of 1,016,300 people live inside its 524 square miles. Most of this land is almost entirely developed and characterized by a tree ring-like pattern of distressed, inner-core communities, aging suburbs and newer, ex-urban development. The County houses the largest resident labor force in the region, as well as hosting the largest share of the region’s housing stock. With over 600,000 jobs, St. Louis County is the economic and employment engine of the region and State of Missouri. Nearly half of the region’s employment positions are based in St. Louis County.

However, it’s an engine that is now anything but race ready.

In recent decades St. Louis County has, from the standpoint of both “people and things”, undergone a subtle but dramatic and downward shift. Its population, infrastructure and neighborhoods are aging. Its land is developed, with growth focused on reinvestment and redevelopment. Poverty rates have risen. And the current housing and economic crisis have resulted in startling spikes in home foreclosures, “vacancy” rates, and job losses.

St. Louis County is unsteadily poised at a critical crossroad – perhaps the most critical of its distinguished history. Without significant investment in its fading infrastructure – particularly in view of the current economic and related housing challenges confronting both the region and the nation as a whole – the County approaches a future that is uncertain at best and dire at worst.

Yet St. Louis County still has considerable capacity to turn the indicators around, by making key investments necessary to attract the right kinds of employers, create the right kinds of jobs, and make available housing and communities that entice people to live and play where they work. This is precisely the right time to make those key investments and secure the greatest benefit out of scarce resources, before our capacity erodes any further.

St. Louis County requests $2.3 billion in funding for 145 projects that will help revitalize its core infrastructure, promote economic prosperity, ensure the health, safety and education of families, and create an estimated 63,200 real and identifiable jobs at all levels. The proposed projects are part of a broad strategic approach that will bring legitimate and immediate change and set the stage for future growth.

St. Louis County has the capacity, experience and expertise to effectively and professionally implement these economic stimulus projects. Its professional staff – in Parks, Highways, Public Works, the Economic Council and every other department – has displayed the fiscal discipline (as demonstrated by the County’s AAA bond rating) and management capability needed to ensure that the proposed projects will be implemented on time and in a methodology that is fully transparent and accountable. Together with its strong historic partnerships with the many municipalities located within its borders, St. Louis County is well positioned to achieve the vision and goals that President Obama has established for the nation.

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