St. Louis Urban Corps

Christine Chadwick*
Executive Director
FOCUS St. Louis 

The contents of articles authored by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of St. Louis Urban Corps or its members.

In the business environment of the twenty first century, it will no longer be sufficient to compete locally or even nationally. Rather, competition is taking place at the global arena: St. Louis no longer compares itself to Wichita or even Atlanta, but rather to Frankfurt or Singapore.[1]

Global partners do not much care about our many municipalities – University City or Edwardsville or Clayton. For that matter, they do not care much about St. Louis County or St. Clair County or any of the other 16 counties in our Metropolitan Statistical Area. What global partners care about, when they look to do business, is the entire region.

There has been a lot of recent talk about a City/County merger. There are devils in the details – political and technical issues that might be difficult to overcome. For instance, should the City enter the County as another municipality? If so, what will be the relationship between the City of St. Louis and the other 91 municipalities in the County? Another alternative (even more fraught with pitfalls) is reunifying the County and the City, making for one large municipality with an estimated population of 1.6 million.[2] 

Neither method of uniting the City and County (and there are other possible mechanisms) will solve all problems. More important is that we act in a more regional manner, making decisions with an eye toward the entire region’s best interests rather than based on the parochial needs of this municipality or that county.

Government is the formal structure that makes policy decisions and allocates public resources. Governance involves the broader process of business, government and community collaboration that shapes decisions and actions in a region. Changes in government structures can lead to more and better collaboration, but that isn’t necessarily a guaranteed outcome.

In a global marketplace, the St. Louis region needs to position itself as a major player. St. Louis City has 372,000 people – smaller than Wichita KS.  In order to sell ourselves, we have to be perceived instead as a region with 2.8 million people. 

We do not necessarily need some big unified regional government in order to present ourselves as a unified region. But until we develop more cooperation, more collaboration, and above all, better governance, we well continue to cede our position as a national and international player to other metropolitan regions.

* Christine A. Chadwick is the founding Executive Director of FOCUS St. Louis®, a non-profit organization that works to strengthen the St. Louis region by developing leadership, influencing policy and promoting community connections. She was named the first Executive Director of the organization following the merger between The Leadership Center of Greater St. Louis and Confluence St. Louis in November of 1996. In addition to serving as Executive Director, she also directs the flagship Leadership St. Louis and Experience St. Louis programs.

[1] In 2009, the City of Wichita was ranked #51 by the US Census, with a population of 372,000, while the City of St. Louis was ranked #52, with a population of 357,000. By contrast, the Wichita metropolitan statistical region had only 613,000 people, compared to more than 2.8 million in the St. Louis region. 

[2] All population estimates based on 2009 US Census, and can be found at