Before You Judge the St. Louis Metro Area, Here’s Something You Should Know

By Greg Prestemon, CEO 

When you’re an economic developer, credibility is important. You cannot just be a cheerleader for a community, city, or state without recognizing the challenges you face—or people just stop listening. In the St. Louis metro area, we undoubtedly face some challenges. We have for a long time.

To not acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do is to ignore reality and lose credibility.

However, the St. Louis area shouldn’t be defined by what the rest of the nation sees in the national media. Anyone who calls this region home can tell you that. They will tell you that yes, we have our challenges—but this is also one of the best metropolitan areas to call home. We have the best baseball fans. We have the best zoo. We have the best (and not coincidentally, one of the only) places to eat a brain sandwich.

The brain sandwich may be a bad example, but here’s something you probably didn’t know about the St. Louis metropolitan area: According to Money magazine, two of the 50 best communities in the entire country to live in are located in this region, and specifically in St. Charles County. In the magazine’s 2017 ranking of the 100 best places to live, St. Peters and O’Fallon were ranked #15 and #42. That made St. Charles County one of just four counties in the entire country to have multiple cities ranked in the top 50.

(The other counties that achieved that distinction were in or near Chicago, Dallas, and Indianapolis.)

You wouldn’t know that if you tuned in to cable news a few weeks ago. That’s no surprise. Clichés become clichés because there is truth to them, and there is a whole lot of truth to the cliché “If it bleeds, it leads.” And, bluntly, some of this is our own fault. We often fail to view our metropolitan area as a region, and we perceive communities separated by less than 20 minutes as almost being separate planets.

This does the region a tremendous disservice, because the truth is that some of the safest, best places to live in the entire nation are part of the St. Louis area. Of course, our strengths aren’t just limited to the safety and quality of life in our suburban communities. We are also one of the most charitable communities in America, and home to the fastest growing startup scene in the country.

(Did we mention we have the best baseball fans? Or that the St. Louis Cardinals have won 11 World Series, which is second only to the Yankees—but 10 more than the Chicago Cubs?)

None of this erases the challenges in front of us. We have to become a fairer, more equitable region. We have to embrace the idea that having so many different diverse communities within one metropolitan area is a strength, and shouldn’t be a source of conflict.

But we also have to be a little better at embracing our strengths, and telling the world that what they know about this region is just a tiny (and often inaccurate) fraction of the story. As an Iowa kid who moved to St. Charles County in 1993, I know that grabbing the megaphone and bragging goes against our nature—but it has to be done. Otherwise the world misses our story and fails to hear about all the good things we have here.

Like the best baseball.

Or two of the country’s 50 best communities.

And the best brain sandwich.

(If that’s your thing.)