Selling St. Louis

Elizabeth Bleier | St. Louis ‘06

In my role as Director of Talent at KIPP St. Louis, I frequently need to ‘sell’ candidates on the idea of moving to St. Louis. I have my sales pitch down pat. We have affordable housing and beautiful neighborhoods! Museums are free! The ice cream cone and iced tea were invented here during the 1904 World’s Fair! Nelly is from here!!

I often find, though, that despite the fact that I love St. Louis, when my sales pitch is over and I’m talking casually to friends and family, there are subtle negative undertones in the way I describe my adopted city:

 “Oh, St. Louis is better than you think”

“Chicago’s just four hours away”

“Ikea’s coming! We’re finally a real city”

In 2011, forbes.com published an article written by contributor Aaron Perlut, entitled St. Louis Doesn’t Suck. While the sentiment and overall message of the article are positive, it still maintains the underlying message that there’s something wrong with our city. This got me thinking about how we, as advocates of progress and change in St. Louis, message our thoughts and opinions about the Gateway to the West.

So how can we help to promote St. Louis as a great place to live and an up-and-coming city in the education reform world in order to improve our national reputation and attract new talent to the region?  We can start by changing the language we use to describe our city.

Rather than defend St. Louis, let’s promote it. Here are some positive talking points:

  • We have many of the same cultural events you’d find in a much larger city (concerts, festivals, museums) but without the cost (so many things are free!) or all of the parking hassles.
  • Traffic here is minimal and our streets and highways are extremely easy to navigate. You can pretty much get anywhere within 15 minutes and there’s often no line for security at the airport.
  • We have world class restaurants without the three month wait for reservations you’d experience in other major cities.
  • We have beautiful urban parks that are full of history. Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country, and is actually 500 acres larger than Central Park in NYC.
  • Missouri is one of only a handful of states with a AAA credit rating. The result of our state’s fiscal discipline translates to millions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.
  • We’re home to 21 Fortune 1000 companies and are considered by many to be the worldwide center of plant science research.
  • We have major bang for your buck! St. Louis has the lowest cost of living among the 20 largest metro areas in the country. In what other major city could you affordably live in a renovated loft right on the downtown entertainment strip or buy a three bedroom townhouse on a teacher’s salary?!

I think what really distinguishes St. Louis, though, is its size. At KIPP we like to promote St. Louis as a city that is “small enough to make an impact and big enough to matter.” We are that perfect size where our individual voices can be heard on the local level, and our collective ones on a national scale. Let’s challenge ourselves to “sell” St. Louis in a positive and cohesive way to anyone who will listen in order to retain and attract amazing talent to better our community. 

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Elizabeth Bleier is the Director of Talent Acquisition at KIPP St. Louis and works to recruit high quality education talent to St. Louis. She was a 2006 corps member in St. Louis and prior to her role at KIPP taught Special Education at Gateway High School for five years. She was also a member of the 2nd TFA cohort of the Saint Louis University MA/MBA program. She is the Relationship and Retention Chair for Teach For America’s Alumni Advisory Board.

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