All posts by Brooke Foster

Better Together Young Professional Group Launches

Jeff Smith talks with the BTYPs.

By Joe Wilson

This week Better Together hosted the first meeting of BTYP, Better Together Young Professionals. Twenty men and women from around the area got together to talk with each other about their vision for the St. Louis region, about the problems they see in their particular communities, and about the difficulty they have in trying to explain to friends from out of town why St. Louis is the way it is.

The men and women in attendance were a mix of newly minted lawyers, non-profit employees, and other professional fields. They might not have come together except for their interest in how the region operates and how things might be made better. Many had already heard a speaker from Better Together give a presentation at a neighborhood association or professional organization meeting.

Jeff Smith was the guest speaker. Yes, that Jeff Smith. The Jeff Smith that went for Dick Gephardt’s congressional seat against Russ Carnahan. The Smith who had a documentary made about his campaign ( ) Smith also went to prison for things that happened during his campaign. He spoke about the political strength and power that the St. Louis region has but doesn’t flex in the Missouri legislature because of the regional belief in the lines that divide the community. He expressed the belief that St. Louis would be much stronger, and more successful, if we worked with each other instead of against each other.

His message wasn’t something new for the people in the room. The new members of Better Together Young Professionals were there because they already knew, already believed, that the St. Louis region is capable of something much more and that too much time has been spent trying to win petty regional fights. Now these young men and women – these early and mid-career professionals and future leaders in the region – have a call-to-action to which they can respond.

If you are interested in joining the Better Together Young Professionals organization, please email [email protected] .

Couch to 5k, Better Together Style

By Joe Wilson

I was a college athlete, though I don’t look the part now. I walked on to the University of Missouri – Columbia swim team and was team captain by my senior year. I wasn’t the fastest in the water, or the strongest on land, but I was pretty fit.

Then I graduated in 2008. Then I worked on a campaign in 2010. Then I went to law school, which I just finished this spring. The food I eat is more fried than it is fresh. Sitting at a desk for 40 hours a week has replaced the 20+ hours per week in the pool and weight room I used to have. This is unsustainable.

Better Together is conducting its third community-based study now, and it is on Public Health. Mayor Slay apparently wants city residents to lose weight too ( here ). My dog always seems to want longer walks, but I think she probably doesn’t have my health in mind. There are plenty of things in my life saying “time to make a change.” Looks like the Better Together 5k will be my first goal to shoot for.

In light of the 5k, the Public Health study, and our upcoming Parks, Recreation, and Infrastructure study, each weekend I will be visiting one of the major parks in St. Louis County to do some running, take some pictures, and do what I can to show off the gorgeous parks our region has. I will put together a little blog post about the park and about the health and well being of the St. Louis region. I encourage you to sign up for the run. Get outdoors and run, ride your bike, play some pick-up soccer or just take a walk.

Look for a curly haired, bearded guy at the 5k. Don’t laugh if I am wheezing too much. We all have to start somewhere.

Better Together – Ready to Show Our Pride!

By Matt Hoffman

The annual St. Louis PrideFest celebration and parade will be held Saturday, June 28, and Sunday, June 29, at Soldiers’ Memorial in downtown St. Louis. The first PrideFest was held in St. Louis in 1981, and has grown in size and influence ever since. In 2011, for example, an estimated 85,000 people attended PrideFest throughout the weekend. In 2012, over 100,000 people attended, making St. Louis PrideFest one of the most highly-attended LGBT events in the Midwest.

This year, Better Together is proud to serve as a sponsor for the festival. We will be walking in the parade, which takes place Sunday at 11 a.m. and travels down Market Street, and hosting a booth all weekend. PrideFest runs from noon to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday – come check out a great event, and swing by the Better Together booth to learn more about our work while you’re at it.

To learn more about PrideFest and the organization behind it, Pride St. Louis, visit http://www.pridestl.org .

Look Out, Silicon Valley

By Uzoma Onwumere

As someone who is a dedicated enthusiast when it comes to technology, recent articles discussing why St. Louis is becoming a hotbed for tech startup companies definitely piqued my interest. Reading these articles uncovered myriad reasons why St. Louis could give Silicon Valley a run for its money. For starters, the cost of living in St. Louis compared to places like San Francisco is incredibly low, allowing for tech startups to focus resources and funds into development of their company instead of small and cramped living arrangements.

What’s also appealing to new tech startups is that St. Louis offers excellent mentoring assistance from entrepreneurs who have already established themselves. Entities such as T-REX , which houses more than 80 start-ups and a wide community of developers, designers, mentors, and educators in its 80,000 square foot facility, allows aspiring entrepreneurs to have a space where they can work alongside new startups, leading to a place for not only networking but also creativity and helpful assistance.

St. Louis has steadily become a city where tech startups have the opportunity to thrive, and that has not gone unnoticed. Startup Voodoo is a Midwest tech conference where startups and entrepreneurs from Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, and other heartland cities can come together and learn more about tech startups and what it takes to become successful.

Guest speakers such as David Karandish of Answers Corporation and Jim McKelvey of Square are but a few of the startup giants that will be at the event to coach and mingle with startups in the region.

This unprecedented event shows just how strong the St. Louis region is becoming when it comes to technology innovation and entrepreneurship. The event is scheduled for September 25, 2014, and will be taking place in Ballpark Village. If you are a fan of technology in the St. Louis region, or just want to know more about entrepreneurship in general, then I highly suggest purchasing a ticket for the event

Celebrating World Cup Soccer in St. Louis

By Matt Hoffman

As the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil, it serves as a great reminder of St. Louis’ storied soccer history.  St. Louis is decidedly a soccer town, as well as one of the major birthplaces of the game in the United States. The St. Louis region has produced scores of professional soccer players over the years, including five members of the famous 1950 U.S. World Cup team, which defeated England in a shocking upset. That team featured several stars from The Hill neighborhood, including goalkeeper Frank Borghi. To learn more about Borghi, who worked for years as a funeral director in St. Louis, and the 1950 World Cup, read this 2011 Post-Dispatch interview .

The presence of large populations of Italian, Irish, German, and Bosnian immigrants, combined with a thriving youth soccer scene, has produced an enthusiastic and longstanding soccer fan base in St. Louis. Given this rich history, it is no surprise that the region offers a variety of bars and restaurants where fans can gather to watch and talk soccer. The Riverfront Times recently compiled a list of “ The 7 Best Places to Watch the 2014 World Cup in St. Louis ,” which features several excellent locations throughout the St. Louis area.

The World Cup is a great time to not only appreciate St. Louis’ soccer tradition, but also to get out, enjoy a game or two, and discover a new neighborhood!

Notes from the Compton Heights Neighborhood Association Meeting

By Joe Wilson

Sunday evening I visited the Compton Heights neighborhood, where enormous trees and well-kept houses line either side of the street. I was there to speak to the neighborhood association about the work that Better Together is doing. What I saw looked more like a neighborhood BBQ: Neighbors stood around sipping on beer, wine and soda. Friends caught up on neighborhood gossip while their kids played, using sticks for swords. It was relaxed, informal, and most of all friendly.

I stood and spoke for a few minutes explaining what Better Together is, what we do, and what we hope to accomplish. I tried to give very brief overviews of the public finance report and economic development report that have been released already.

Every time I go to these meetings, I look into the faces of people who are genuinely concerned for their neighborhood, for their city or municipality, for their business and livelihood, and for the area they call home. Better Together representatives get asked hard questions because the people asking care about their community enough to show up to meetings on a Sunday night, or in bad weather, or when they would rather be at home with family. The region is full of people who care, and we are all fortunate for that.

Cortex Stars in Brookings Institute Report

By Joe Wilson

A major project in St. Louis got some positive press this week . The Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based progressive think tank, issued a report titled “The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America.” The report is, of course, speaking about Cortex, the high-tech innovation center that has slowly risen above Highway 40 between Vandeventer and Kingshighway.

The report describes the difference between research parks, which house companies in relatively isolated ways, and innovation centers, which try to build density and increase the collaboration among entities and individuals in the area. St. Louis is placed alongside such major world cities as Berlin, London, Seoul, and Stockholm, and among American cities including Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, and San Diego.

A separate interview with one of the report’s authors again mentions our very own Cortex alongside the likes of the Cambridge Innovation Center and the Eindhoven in Holland. These are projects that use the design of the innovation center to help spur serendipitous meetings between those making use of the available resources, in order to encourage the collaborative creation of new ideas. Hopefully, those new ideas mean a growing economy for the region as well.

Part of Better Together’s economic development report is focused on the use of tax increment financing. Much has been made of the irresponsible use of this economic development tool, but Cortex is one example of a “good TIF.” Using TIF to encourage the expansion of the next-generation economy here in our region could mean growth in an area that needs it quite desperately. Not every TIF is used well, but hopefully over time, it will play out that the TIF for the Cortex facility will be worth a great deal more than the TIF provided for it.

STL + Baseball = Better Together

By Better To gether Research Fellow Matt Hoffman

This Monday was opening day for Major League Baseball, which means that the best unofficial holiday of the year is just around the corner – the Cardinals home opener at Busch Stadium. While the White House has declined to make opening day a national holiday , everyone in the St. Louis region knows that the Cards home opener is very much a local holiday, complete with Clydesdales, Hall of Famers in red blazers, and of course, Budweiser.

Next Monday, thousands of fans from across the region will find an excuse to leave work early and head downtown for the festivities. Residents of St. Louis City and County, St. Charles, Jefferson County, and Illinois will all come together to root on their beloved Cardinals. Opening Day in St. Louis is just another reminder of the amazing culture and entertainment St. Louis has to offer. Go Cards!