Building a greater St. Louis.
When two organizations decide to merge, it can require months of negotiation and planning to integrate their missions, resources and strategies.
Now imagine the logistical challenges associated with consolidating five powerful civic and economic development organizations in less than three months’ time. That was the daunting challenge facing the leadership of Greater St. Louis, Inc. as it approached its January 1, 2021 launch date.
“We found it was easier to think of ourselves us a startup that inherited five organizations interested in creating a more vibrant St. Louis economy,” said Jason Hall, CEO of the new 501(c)(6) nonprofit, which unified the former AllianceSTL, Arch to Park, Civic Progress, Downtown STL, Inc. and the St. Louis Regional Chamber.
The goal of Greater St. Louis, Inc. was to unify these five legacy organizations around a common vision and strategy for the region’s future. “We saw great value in merging the talent in these groups and focusing on bold new ways we might all work together to grow a more inclusive economy,” said Hall. “We are all about being better than the sum of our parts.”
Hall and his team prepared to visit best-in-class cities like Denver and Charlotte for insights on how they might reimagine the St. Louis economy in pursuit of inclusive growth. But first, the new organization’s leadership had to overcome the multiple logistical challenges faced by every start up.
“Our first challenge was getting the resources and infrastructure in place to hit the ground running on Day One,” said Hall. “To do that, we needed strong, trusted partners who could help us navigate the complexities we faced.”
Among the primary resources Greater St. Louis, Inc. turned to was Commerce Bank.
“We would have zero money in the bank on January 1,” said Hall. “While we would be funded by businesses and foundations, we needed a line of credit to get started. And that takes a lot of work when an organization has no operating history.”
A phone call from Commerce in early November led to a $2 million line of credit that took effect as Greater St. Louis, Inc. launched. Commerce also provides credit cards and other treasury services the nonprofit needs to operate.
The relationship between Greater St. Louis, Inc. and Commerce goes beyond banking services. “Commerce has been a core partner in helping us establish our business and make good decisions on how to reach and impact the larger community,” said Hall.
Commerce leaders have also served on the steering committee for the organization’s STL 2030 Jobs Plan, which includes five actionable strategies for adding jobs, addressing racial inequities in employment and bringing more investment to underserved areas of the region. In addition, Commerce participates in STLMade, Greater St. Louis, Inc.’s effort to shine a light on the people and positive stories that make up St. Louis.
“Commerce is a good corporate citizen that leads by example,” said Hall. “It doesn’t just focus on its business, but on giving back to the community with time and leadership. Commerce is one reason why Greater St. Louis, Inc. is off to a strong start.”