Mr. Neidorff’s statements regarding the opening of a second corporate headquarters in Charlotte is not a “wake up” call to St. Louis. It is a well-deserved punch to the gut. Clayco’s Bob Clark told St. Louis the same thing several years ago on his relocation to Chicago; St. Louis did not listen. Based upon past experiences, the politicians and the civic leaders of St. Louis will not change their ways either because of incompetency, or because they are in over their heads.
Mr. Neidorff and Mr. Clark are honorable men; we should appreciate their honesty. Their statements about the St. Louis community are sincere. Their statements clearly emphasize that St. Louis does not need a course “correction.” It needs a massive pivot. The politicians and civic leaders of the last 30 years share responsibility for the current status of the region.
In the 1980s, St. Louis was home to more than ten Fortune 500 companies, including four of which were Fortune 100 companies. Many well-respected global companies maintained offices in the region as a direct result of the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in St Louis. One such company was Marubeni Corporation, one of the world’s largest sogo shoshas (Japanese companies). It was here because of the leadership of Mr. Chuck Knight. Marubeni wanted his business; so, he demanded they open an office in St. Louis. For those of you who do not know the success of such an approach, please research Bentonville, Arkansas.
It has been straight downhill since the 1980s, with one example after another of our leaders taking their eyes off the ball. Schoemehl was too busy trying to buy the New England Patriots for one dollar to be bothered attracting and retaining our core businesses. Vince, how did that work out for St. Louis?
In the 1990s, St. Louis told Ed Whitacre that he could not be a member of St. Louis Country Club. He took his $214 billion company and 250,000 employees to Texas. How dare he want to golf at St. Louis Country Club! We showed him, didn’t we? We are reminded each day how well we put him in his place as we see that whale of a building standing empty in our skyline. That trade was more lopsided than the Brock-Broglio trade.
Granted, St. Louis has some accomplishments. The continued strength of Washington University, along with the success of Enterprise, World Wide Technology, the Cortex Innovation District, the renovated Arch grounds, and the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Next NGA West headquarters should all be celebrated – but these successes are fewer and less frequent every year.
In the meantime, St. Louis cannot even manage to fulfill Mr. Neidorff’s request for turnstiles on the MetroLink. If we had effective and decisive leadership, the only appropriate response would have been “Sir, would you like the turnstiles painted red or blue?” Most likely, this failure is, just another of many reasons why Mr. Neidorff’s viewed Civil Progress as a joke. It is another do nothing group in St. Louis. The economy generated 4.8 million new jobs in June. In other words, business is happening; St. Louis is not.
St. Louis, there is no tomorrow; the change is leadership must happen now. Current political leaders, please take this opportunity to find other careers. Do not go away mad, just go away!
Also, to any business leaders who knew of Mr. Neidorff or Mr. Clark’s displeasure with the political and business climate of St. Louis and did nothing, please take this opportunity, and exit through a turnstile.
Christopher S. Swiecicki earned his juris doctorate and LLM (Taxation) from Washington University School of Law. He is managing partner of Swiecicki & Muskett, LLC, an adjunct professor at Washington University School of Law, and the chair of the school’s Eliot Society. He is also a former employee of Marubeni Corporation. He currently serves multiple St. Louis companies as outside counsel.
The views expressed are his own views and he does not speak for any organization.