ST. LOUIS — The new nonprofit formed by a merger of five local private-sector business groups has chosen a name and leader.
Greater St. Louis Inc. will be led by Jason Hall, the current CEO of one of the merging organizations, Arch to Park, with Andy Taylor, executive chairman of Clayton-based rental car giant Enterprise Holdings, serving as its first board chair.
The Business Journal reported Oct. 7 that five of the region's economic development groups — St. Louis Regional Chamber, AllianceSTL, Civic Progress, Downtown STL Inc. and Arch to Park — would combine under a single banner in a move that would signify a seismic shift in the region's long-fractured civic landscape.
That transition will take effect Jan. 1, the new organization said this week.
In an interview with the Business Journal, Taylor said he realized change was needed in St. Louis after visiting other Midwest cities that had "upped their game," with business groups boasting bigger staffs and budgets. Greater St. Louis Inc. said its structure is adapted from organizations in Charlotte, Denver, Des Moines, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
Taylor said the lack of a unified voice for the business community became apparent during discussions over whether the city should privatize operations of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
"I figured we had to step it up and needed to reorganize our entities," Taylor said. "There's not one voice of business in St. Louis."
Taylor added that when he and Hall "socialized" the consolidation idea, "it was like people just had an epiphany."
"Some said it should've already been done," he said, adding that "people have coalesced behind this so unanimously."
Greater St. Louis Inc. will be structured to include affiliates, with duties similar to those currently performed by the organizations that are merging. The difference is that those organizations will no longer be independent; they will be led by presidents who report to Hall, and will exist within Greater St. Louis Inc.'s 501(c)(6) framework.
The affiliates are:
- AllianceSTL: It will focus on business attraction and to be led by President Steve Johnson, the current leader of AllianceSTL, a business recruitment arm of the St. Louis Regional Chamber.
- ChamberSTL: It will focus focus on public policy and advocacy. A leader has not yet been chosen.
- CentralCitySTL: It will focus on strengthening downtown St. Louis and the urban core. A leader has not yet been chosen.
- Greater St. Louis Foundation: A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, it will focus on raising funds to support the organization's charitable activities. It will be led by President Val Patton, the current senior vice president of inclusion at the Chamber.
Patton will also serve as chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer of Greater St. Louis Inc. She said part of her role will involve examining how to get native St. Louisans to come home, plus how to attract people from smaller markets.
The consolidation marks a big step up for 45-year-old Hall, a lawyer and former state and Chamber executive who Taylor said has "unique experience" and "passion" for such work. Taylor is a founding funder of Arch to Park, a company that looked to spark development through a "patient capital" real estate fund. The board chairs of the five merging organizations selected Hall and Patton for their new roles, Greater officials said.
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