If We Were Serious About Development, We Would Develop People
Post date: Feb 6, 2020 7:32:35 PM
I am sick to death of seeing another development project being touted in the news. These projects are great for deadlines, and headlines, they do nothing for THE bottom line. This whole region rejects its people. Missouri seems hell-bent on being business and development friendly, to the detriment of its residents. Why is it nobody understands in order for businesses to thrive they need people who can pay them for services and products. Companies also need qualified workers who can staff positions when they move to MO. With so many incentives being handed out to attract the next company there is nothing left for the people.
What residents can live in the luxe apartments?
Where will companies find candidates to hire with decent qualifications?
What kind of a workforce and customer pool will we have with minimal public schooling?
How many more distant counties can be added to our MSA to cover up how degraded our population numbers are?
I just read an article about AllianceSTL being started by the Regional Chamber to market the crap out of STL for companies to move here. The new leader of that org commented about the biggest drag on being able to lure new companies from out of the area is our decreasing population. I would expand this to say our decreasing population of qualified workers AND qualified customers. It seems all we can do around here is poach HQs from each other around the region, by dropping our pants on taxes, incentives, and handouts-it's ridiculous. The elected officials around our entire state are playing a zero-sum game when they don't need to. Right now, our state is trying to lure corporate resources from outside its borders viewing the resources inside its borders as insufficient. I reject this view. If we focused inward and cooperated, MO would be an amazing place to live, work, and thrive. When we achieve this, people will notice and gravitate toward it, toward us.
First step, public schools. Missouri must trash the current funding scheme for public schools and go back to the drawing board. If we want to create an increasing population we are doing it the wrong way. Instead of focusing on corporations as being the biggest value-add, let's invest in people. I can think of no better way to attract young families than having a great public school system. There is also no better way to have people who grow up here stay here than having amazing public schools. Why don't we look at the largest Universities here in the region contributing to the primary school system with top-notch educators and cooperative programs. We can have WashU, Ranken, SLU, Webster and others fill gaps in funding and programs until the funding scheme is worked out. We also need to have resources spread more evenly around by ending the arbitrary district boundaries. When you have some districts going to a four day week due to funding and not everyone in the state is screaming bloody murder...there is a problem. We need to push the humans in the capitol to focus on building human capital.
There are many more ways to work on the pile of issues we have as a state and a region. Along with the school funding model, we have to stop doing things that don't provide more than superficial results and, in fact pull resources away from our greatest asset-our people. Specifically, we need to stop doing development under the current system. I am speaking about the entire Saint Louis MSA poaching from each other and begging for developer investment with insane incentives.
Part of my thinking on this topic is due to empirical evidence:
The above link contains an article confirming what many of us have known anecdotally forever, schools matter for much more than just educational value. Schools are community institutions, they can determine whether a neighborhood trends positive or negative in more than home prices. Currently our public schools are treated as an afterthought if considered at all when it comes to asset-based development. The model developed by SLDC for evaluating development incentives takes into account new revenue from projects that goes toward the school district mapped against 'if no project' happens. However, it is difficult to ascertain the amount of revenue the school district would get with a project and no incentive. This is what projects in the central corridor need to be evaluated against. No longer do we need to be mapping returns against no project. WE NOW HAVE A DESIRABLE COMMUNITY, no longer is all of the City a place we need lure companies into at all costs. The Central West End and Forest Park Southeast are DESIRABLE!!!! This kind of crap needs to be evaluated for more than the financial impact, we MUST look at the impacts upon people--positive and negative. After doing some research, I found the SLDC model only incorporates 40 out of 100 possible points when examining a project. This is INSANE. There are two more HUGE evaluations that are simply not taking place at this time. Why? It's too inconvenient to deal with the impacts of development and incentives on people. It takes too much away from development companies and the law firms who represent them when these companies contribute HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS to political campaigns EVERY YEAR....just in the City. If we really want to do good for our region, focus on the many. Focus our minds and our resources on the hundreds of thousands of people and not dollars. Promote our public schools, ALL of them, and watch our region begin to thrive once more.