St. Louis Region is 21st Largest in U.S. – Now What?

By Tom Chulick, President and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce

This column was originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest population estimates for the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The St. Louis region grew, but our rate of growth was slower than those in other metro regions like Denver, Tampa, FL, and even Baltimore. As a result, we dropped from 20th to the 21st-largest metropolitan region. But let’s be clear: We are doing well in a lot of areas. This story is not about urban vs. rural, this suburb vs. that suburb.

Every metropolitan region across the country is competing for people, jobs and economic opportunities. But what this news should do is inspire us, as business and civic leaders, to work together more effectively to market the St. Louis region and bring more jobs and talented people to our region.

We do have a lot of momentum on which to build. This spring, we beat out Kansas City, Milwaukee and Louisville, KY, to win more than 2,200 new jobs with companies like Amazon, Cenlar and Grove Collaborative. Our startup businesses continue to grow and thrive, and we have more opportunities to encourage expansion. In March alone, St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce staff met with site selection consultants in Dallas and Cincinnati, and we are soon heading to Cleveland and Chicago. We hosted the consul general of India, who is committed to encouraging Indian companies to locate here in St. Louis. People, jobs and companies are moving to and interested in moving to St. Louis, but the more economic opportunities we can provide—in terms of jobs and a talented workforce—the more likely we can grow at a faster rate.

The core mission of the St. Louis Regional Chamber is regional economic development. That means when a business is wanting to relocate its business, we look at all corners of the region—City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Madison County, St. Clair County and beyond. Each area has unique assets, and combining our strengths creates a region that is very competitive. Companies and site selection consultants tell us they love St. Louis’ educational opportunities and our strong talent in biosciences, financial sectors, health care, and logistics and advanced manufacturing. They appreciate our friendly business climate. And as many of us know, they cite affordability as a major selling point.

According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, we rank No. 7 in the country for adjusted real personal income per capita, 12 percent higher than the national average. That means a dollar goes further in St. Louis than almost anywhere else. The 2017 ACCRA Cost of Living Index indicates that our region’s composite index ranks at 90.6, where 100 is the average for the country. Affordability, educational opportunities and key industries are reasons why companies choose to do business in St. Louis. And we think many more will, especially as the chamber and community partners continue to work with regional educational partners and employers to grow and develop our workforce.

It is important that we in the business and civic community work together to attract new people to St. Louis. Young professionals, immigrants and companies want affordable housing and commercial space to help their growing families and businesses. We should target the coastal cities to highlight our lower cost of living and housing and our other regional assets. We still have real challenges and perceptions to address, but we also need to get out there and tout our strengths.

Ultimately, people and businesses are looking for economic opportunities. That is how St. Louis will grow. We must continue to work together to bring more jobs, build our workforce, and attract talented and innovative people. We also must support people and organizations that make St. Louis a better place to live. This is our call to action. We at the chamber will continue to work hard and collaborate with our partners in both Illinois and Missouri to market the region around the country and across the world. St. Louis has many assets, we are open for business, and it is time we assert the story of our region’s benefits.


For more than 25 years, Tom Chulick championed regional economic growth as a financial services industry executive and a committed civic leader. Since March 2018, Tom has served the St. Louis Regional Chamber as President and CEO.

Chulick is the former Chairman, CEO and President of UMB Bank in St. Louis. He specialized in business growth, commercial banking, brokerage, institutional asset management, wealth management and treasury services. During his tenure at UMB, the St. Louis Region market achieved unprecedented sales growth with a six-year compounded annual growth rate over 24%. Tom led a successful turnaround in three markets and as a result, his model became the UMB Bank standard. During his tenure, Forbes Magazine recognized UMB Bank as one of the best run banks in America for five consecutive years.

While at UMB, Tom was responsible for fostering business growth through consumer services, wealth management, commercial banking, fiscal activities, risk management and human resources for Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Greater St. Louis, including both Missouri and Illinois. Tom launched and managed industry verticals in Agri-Business & Healthcare growing the Agri-Business vertical from an ABA national ranking of 49th to the Top 25.

Tom has also championed innovation and workforce development, especially in the financial sector. He instituted, monitored and mentored investments in the 630 FinTech Accelerator, led the company in highest Customer and Associate Satisfaction scores, and earned the UMB Financial Corporation Leadership Award, the highest company honor.

Tom currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Webster University and the Board of Directors for The Regional Business Council and the St. Louis Sports Commission. He has formerly served on the Board of Directors of the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and Saint Louis University John Cook School of Business.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at

For Our Region’s Youth, Affordable Transportation Means Access to Opportunity

By Nataly Garzon, Specialist, Systems Change Strategy at Ready by 21 St. Louis

Nataly Garzon (right)

Nataly Garzon (right)

St. Louis’ limited public transportation infrastructure is often cited as a barrier to accessing employment opportunities, health care, education, and cultural experiences throughout the region. Many of our young people, especially those living in underinvested and isolated neighborhoods, are growing up a short car ride away from community assets they may never be able to access.  

As the region frets about the looming skilled worker shortage and the current workforce limitations that left the region uncompetitive for the Amazon expansion, we know we must invest now in the untapped potential of our region’s youth to ensure they are career-ready. Our teens and young adults need opportunities to be exposed to professional environments and develop job skills under the mentorship, supervision, and support of caring adults.

A number of youth employment organizations recruit, train, and place young people in businesses throughout the region. However, inability to pay for transportation keeps many young people from accessing these career-building opportunities that can set them on a path to financial sustainability.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The STL Regional Youth Employment Coalition (RYEC), a newly formed partnership of 15 employment organizations in the region, has been collaborating to identify a solution to this issue. Partners around the table have shared data to better understand the geographic concentration of youth placements for their eight-week employment opportunity (Figure 1).

Originally, it was assumed that most of the young people originated from St. Louis City and North St. Louis County and were placed in summer employment opportunities in West St. Louis County and in St. Charles. The data collected contradicted this by demonstrating that youth were primarily employed in the Central Corridor, a part of the region that’s highly accessible thanks to public transportation.

With regular Metro pricing, young people would have to pay about $160 to access public transportation for the duration of their summer employment—about 10% of their entire potential earnings for a summer. Some existing programs have supported young people by providing a week’s worth of passes, but the rest of the cost was left to youth to carry.

Armed with this information, RYEC advocated for reduced transit fare pricing for youth to ensure that transportation was no longer a barrier to accessing summer employment. As a result of this advocacy, RYEC was selected as a sub-pilot leader of the Gateway Go Program, which provides half-fare transit access for youth ages 13 to 25 thanks to a partnership between the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Clair County, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, the St. Clair County Transit District, Bi-State Development, and Metro Transit.

As part of this pilot, RYEC coalition partners pooled resources and leveraged a Wells Fargo Advisors investment to provide free Gateway Go Cards for 435 young people. These Gateway Go Cards were loaded for unlimited use during their two months of summer employment.

Collectively, these young people used their Gateway Go Cards a total of 20,042 times. Nearly all youth indicated that having the Gateway Go Card made it possible for them to get to work and that they were satisfied with their experience using their cards. Many were also able to use the cards for non-work-related commuting, opening up opportunities for them to fully explore our community.

“I really appreciate the opportunity to use this card,” one young person who received a card reflected. “The Gateway Go Card really helped me when I had no other way to go to work or any other place that I had to go. I’m very thankful.”

The St. Louis Regional Youth Employment Coalition is committed to reducing transportation as a barrier to employment. During the summer of 2019, RYEC plans to provide even more youth with loaded Gateway Go Cards and empower them to take advantage of economic, educational, and cultural opportunities that will prepare them to be our region’s future leaders. Bi-State Development and the City of St. Louis are currently evaluating the pilot with some support from RYEC to obtain youth feedback.

As of right now, half-fare transit pricing for youth has only been extended through September 30. To ensure that Gateway Go continues to expand access to opportunity for our region’s youth, we must advocate for the program’s permanent continuation.

As a regional stakeholder, you have a role to play in ensuring youth have better access to jobs and opportunities to explore our community. If you share our belief that our region can and must do more for its young people, we invite you to contact Mayor Krewson’s office today and share your strong support for the continuation of the successful Gateway Go Pilot and expanded mobility for our region’s youth. Together, we can make sure that tomorrow’s leaders have access to the opportunities they need to learn, grow, and connect with the community today.


Nataly Garzon is committed to ensuring racial equity in opportunity. She graduated from Williams College in 2014 with a degree in History and Political Science. Since graduating college, Nataly has worked for two collective impact efforts. In Massachusetts, Nataly lead coalitions working on decreasing the county’s teen birth rate, decreasing youth substance and alcohol abuse, and increasing the high school graduation rate. After three years in Massachusetts, she moved to St. Louis and joined the Ready by 21 St. Louis team in June of 2017. In her role as Specialist, Systems Change Strategies, Nataly spends her time supporting efforts within the space of Social Emotional Learning, and has been standing up the STL Regional Youth Employment Coalition since early 2018.

The STL Regional Youth Employment Coalition, a cross-sector collaborative with a footprint of St. Louis City and St. Louis County with a racial equity lens, is committed to fostering economic empowerment and strengthened quality of life through an equity lens by increasing youth employability, growing a diverse talent pipeline, and impacting systemic change. For 2018-2020, the coalition is focusing on increasing the quality of pre-placement training for youth employment programs, coordinating youth wraparound support for youth in these experiences, and developing an intentional coordinated referral system to credential and apprenticeship training opportunities for youth 14-25 in their footprint.

Since she was a teenager, Nataly has fundamentally believed that youth of color deserve to have the tools at their disposal to succeed as they define it. It is because she holds this value close to heart that she has pursued her current role, and is deeply passionate about her role through Ready by 21.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at

DISMANTLING THE DIVIDE: Bel-Nor Should be an Inclusive Leader in its Quest to Stabilize Homes

By Nancy Cambria, Communications Manager at Health Equity Works

This column was originally published in The St. Louis American.

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In July the Bel-Nor Board of Aldermen crammed into their tiny meeting room with about 25 residents, both black and white.

The discussion centered on the tiny North County town’s decision to combat deteriorating properties with an aggressive inspection program that would result in citations and possible fines if the required repairs were not completed by early fall.

The Bel-Nor Board of Aldermen welcomed various opinions. They are trying hard to protect the beauty and future of the community. The feeling was, this strategy is the best way to protect a town that’s withstood decades of decline experienced by nearby North County towns.

Most at the meeting were in favor of the fines, saying people had to be responsible, just like everyone else. Others remained quiet.

There is no extension option built into the process. So, if you need more time to raise the cash to make the required repairs, there’s no way to appeal the city for an extension. Instead, they were reassured by a Bel-Nor police officer that if you had to go to court, the judge would show leniency if you were making progress.

Bel-Nor told me my house needed some paint. No argument there—it does. And I’m sure my neighbors think so, too. I’m not yet sure how much that is going to cost. The problem is that I have little saved for that project and no equity in my house to borrow money at a low-interest rate, so I’m not sure where the money is going to come from if I want to stay out of municipal court.

And I’m sure there are several people in the community who are in the same situation.

Surely, there has to be a better way for diverse communities struggling with housing values in North County than punishing its residents for financial factors out of their control.

In April, my mentor and colleague Dr. Jason Purnell of Washington University wrote about creating consciously inclusive communities—one of 11 recommendations in the report “Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide.” He urged people to consider diversity and inclusion as assets that could stabilize and strengthen communities. Indeed, neighborhoods that were welcoming to all and created supportive systems for everyone could chip away at a century of policy promoting racial segregation.

Bel-Nor is an outlier when it comes to our region’s pervasive problem of black and white segregation. The town is about 48 percent African-American and 46 percent white. It’s not like some “diverse” towns or neighborhoods where whites and blacks don’t live on the same streets. African Americans and whites truly live side-by-side in Bel-Nor.

But, Bel-Nor is struggling to stay solvent, and some of its residents are struggling too. When the Great Recession hit, Bel-Nor took a hit in housing values. After Mike Brown was killed, Bel-Nor took another hit. A few walked away from their houses because they were tens of thousands of dollars underwater. A man down the street lost his home to the bank and stripped out all of the crystal doorknobs and the Central AC compressor on his way out the door. Opportunistic landlords swooped in on depressed home values and converted houses into student rentals. And, some housing declined.

Indeed, all of these factors point to the possibility that Bel-Nor, though diverse and blessed with beautiful housing stock, could transition to another poor North County disinvested community.

I love my town, and I don’t want this to happen. I want it to remain diverse. I want it to remain pretty and maintained. And I want it to thrive. Preserving the housing is critical. But I don’t want people ostracized in the process. I want people to feel included and part of a real community.

At this meeting, I asked the group to consider doing away with punitive fines and consider more inclusive, supportive and creative solutions that don’t ostracize its vulnerable residents in the courts—or put others in jeopardy of leaving or walking away.

I urge them to keep thinking about this.

This could include working more closely with homeowners on tiered improvement plans so the repairs get done over time. Better partnerships with families could help them find needed credit and resources. Even creating a swap system of yard and exterior upkeep work between families with different skills could help.

On a bigger policy scale, lobbying could yield incentives that encourage stability in transitional neighborhoods so people don’t leave—maybe by offering residents in these neighborhoods college tuition breaks in state schools, or arrangements with UMSL and/or WashU to entice investment in neighborhoods that house faculty. (WashU is already offering staff and faculty incentives to buy home in certain parts of the city.)

Or, the Board of Aldermen could actively lobby on the recommendations in “Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide.” They include St. Louis County establishing an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Or the creation of a Greenlining Fund so people can borrow money to improve under-appraised homes. They could consider applying for support for home stabilization through community reinvestment groups. And they could start talking about how our differences make us stronger if we stick together.

Neighborhoods certainly benefit from well-maintained housing, and Bel-Nor leaders are tackling hard issues. But better policy and inclusive and caring relationships can also build strong, stable communities. There is a better way if we start demanding it.


Nancy Cambria is the communications manager for Health Equity Works, formerly named For the Sake of All. She was a lead author of the recent community report Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide. Prior to joining Health Equity Works, Cambria was the children and families reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for more than a decade. Her reporting focused heavily on children in poverty, child trauma and early childhood quality and safety.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at

Policing and Social Trust

By Luther O. Tyus, Graduate Research Assistant at the Brown School at Washington University

This column was originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Humans are a social species. The need for trust is rooted in our DNA. In times of peril and uncertainty, trusting relationships provide a sense of security. Trust helps us to survive.

In 2014, during the Ferguson unrest, I was a police officer in St. Louis, assigned to a special unit focusing on low-income housing projects. Dirty stares and middle fingers were testaments to the trust we’d lost. The city was on the verge of erupting.

One evening, I handcuffed a man on his front porch for unlawful use of a handgun. I didn’t notice the angry mob forming behind us. “Leave him alone,” someone yelled. Angrier words followed. You could feel the tension in the air.

But then a young woman stood up in front of us. “Stop,” she yelled to the crowd. “That man,” meaning me, “reads to my child at school.”

And it was true. I did read to students. My unit also sponsored movie nights and back-to-school giveaways. At Halloween, we hosted “Trunk or Treat.” We invested in community relationships.

The community didn’t forget. Her plea worked. The crowd lost its steam.

But in too many places, police have failed to create trusting relationships. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice released its report on the Ferguson Police Department. The report concluded that “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.” The DOJ also found that these practices “reflected and reinforced racial bias,” with “nearly 90 percent of documented force used by FPD officers was used against African Americans.”

These problems began long before the shooting death of Michael Brown. The DOJ report highlights a 2013 encounter between a Ferguson patrol sergeant and an African-American man. The sergeant, though he could not articulate a reasonable suspicion, detained the man after seeing him talk to an individual in a truck. When the man refused to allow the sergeant to frisk him, insisting that had committed no crime, the sergeant became infuriated and drew his Taser.

Video captured by the Taser’s built-in camera shows that the man made no aggressive movements. Still, the sergeant fired, knocking the man to the ground. The sergeant then fired again, later claiming that the man had attempted to stand. But the man never tried to stand, as the video makes clear. He just squirmed in agony.

Each year, similar reports flood the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. Victims hope for protection and understanding. Police misconduct is a betrayal of trust.

Distrust is not simply the absence of trust: Both are rooted in neurobiology. Feelings of trust flow from the prefrontal cortex, which compares the present to past experiences. Feelings of trust release oxytocin and dopamine, which increase energy and a sense of belonging. Feelings of distrust trigger the amygdala, which controls our “fight, flight or freeze” response.

Together, these brain structures dictate our perceptions of reality, which is why regaining lost trust can be so difficult. Once the amygdala is engaged, new experiences invariably mix with old narratives of hurt and disappointment.

But it is possible to regain trust, as Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss, who was appointed in 2016, is now demonstrating.

From the ashes of unrest, Moss has implemented a community-first philosophy. Every member of the department must meet with members of the community. Officers are rewarded for positive interactions, from organizing kickball tournaments to treating high school students to a special “Black Panther” premiere. The promotions process has been revised.

Chief Moss also emphasizes that social media, properly used, can help to humanize officers. Specialized units are creating content for the department’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Videos provide friendly tips for public safety and exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at department operations.

Effective policing requires social trust. The Ferguson Police Department is rebuilding the trust it had lost by tapping into a simple but powerful human need: the need to belong.


Luther O. Tyus is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Brown School at Washington University, as well as an eight-year veteran of the St. Louis Police Department and a certified POST police instructor. Luther has published and commentated for CNN, Headline News, and St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Luther has delivered a one-hour Crime Prevention presentation to numerous corporations, including ten to AT&T and several to Ameren UE. He has conducted his Social Unrest seminar for the NAACP, Urban Strategies, FOCUS St. Louis, and The Urban League.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at

Failure to Participate in County Executive Forum Represents a Breach of Public Trust

By Wally Siewert, Ph.D., Public Ethicist


Next Tuesday, August 7, St. Louis County residents will go to the polls to decide between two leading candidates in the Democratic primary for St. Louis County Executive: incumbent candidate Steve Stenger and his chief challenger, businessman Mark Mantovani. Voters were recently denied an opportunity to listen to these candidates exchange an open dialogue on a range of important issues facing our region.

As a public ethicist, a civic engagement advocate, and a U.S. citizen, I find this deeply problematic, and symptomatic of a wider trend of non-engagement, especially among incumbent candidates.

For the past year, I have been a part of the Social Policy & Electoral Accountability Collaborative (SPEAC), a group facilitated by the Community Builders Network and comprised of leading St. Louis area organizations striving to hold elected officials accountable to the communities they represent, or are seeking to represent, both prior to an election and afterward. In February 2017, SPEAC hosted one of the largest mayoral forums in the City of St. Louis, held at the Sheldon in partnership with St. Louis Public Radio, the Nine Network, and The St. Louis American. Over 700 people gathered to hear mayoral candidates discuss their priorities on live television before the March primary, a race that—as will likely be the case with next week’s primary in the County—effectively determined the outcome of the subsequent general election.

SPEAC has spent the past ten months planning a similar forum for the County Executive race in St. Louis County, originally set to be held on July 25 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. As we did last year, our group was working with journalists at St. Louis Public Radio to craft questions that would have explored where candidates stand on priorities at the heart of the Ferguson Commission Report under the Youth at the Center, Opportunity to Thrive, and Justice for All issue clusters.

Mark Mantovani agreed to take part in SPEAC’s forum. However, despite repeated, multi-pronged outreach attempts over time, County Executive Steve Stenger’s campaign failed to confirm his participation. As a result SPEAC was forced to cancel the event.

As someone who worked hard in partnership with a coalition of incredible St. Louisans who are passionate about building a stronger, more equitable, and more just region for all, I was very disappointed in this result.

As Forward Through Ferguson’s David Dwight noted in SPEAC’s press release about the forum cancellation, “there are few things more core to the health of our local democracy than the right of residents to interact with those who seek to represent our community in public office.” Indeed, this is the very glue that holds a democracy together: a genuine belief that our elected representatives and public institutions will take our viewpoints and our needs into account in a real, substantive way when they craft policy and make decisions. Without that foundation of accountability, transparency, and trust, democracy can’t exist.

To read SPEAC’s full announcement about the forum cancellation, click here.


Dr. Wally Siewert has over a decade of experience with civic and political engagement, from the grassroots and applied level to academic analysis and theory. From 2011-2017, Dr. Siewert was the Director of the Center for Ethics in Public Life (CEPL) at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. During that time CEPL established itself as a statewide hub for public ethics information, conferences, workshops, research, best practices, legislative tracking, community collaboration and more.

Prior to arriving in St. Louis in 2011, Wally earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy and ethics from the University of California Santa Barbara. He also holds an M.A. in philosophy and a B.A. in philosophy and German from Western Michigan University. Prior to his post-graduate work, Dr. Siewert worked as a political organizer and lobbyist for a network of state-level grassroots consumer justice organizations, including two years as the Campaign Director for the Coalition for Consumer Justice of Rhode Island. He also spent four years as a small business owner and manager.

Dr. Siewert’s most deeply held political beliefs are not about policy, but about political process—about what it takes to create cooperation among co-citizens while simultaneously respecting every individual’s right to pursue her own personal conception of the good. He is an avid wood-worker and animal lover who enjoys nothing more than a good game of chess with a purring cat on his lap and a dog on his feet.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at

Community Development at Work: Justine PETERSEN

Justine PETERSEN Connects Residents & Business Owners in Underserved Communities with Opportunities to Thrive

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Justine PETERSEN (JP) is one of the most renowned local credit-lending institutions in St. Louis. The organization first began its impact on the St. Louis community through affordable housing and homeownership counseling. JP has since expanded its products and services and is currently grounded on three specific pillars: micro-enterprise technical assistance and lending, homeownership counseling, and credit building counseling and financial education.

The organization focuses on five main strategic goals:

  • Increase opportunity for low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.

  • Increase homeownership through counseling and working with banks to create more accessible products.

  • Provide credit building counseling and develop products aligned with credit building.

  • Rehabilitate and sell homes to income-qualified buyers.

  • Expand JP’s industry and organizational capacity through staff development, talent management, succession, and sustainability.

CBN recently had the opportunity to sit down with a team member of Justine PETERSEN, Katie Arnold. Katie has been the Grants Manager at Justine PETERSEN since 2014. She’s part of an integral, three-person development team at JP. Katie and her team are responsible for managing JP’s large grant portfolio.

Katie Arnold (right) with her JP teammate, Constance Siu (left), Resource Development Associate

When asked about the impact that JP has had in the St. Louis community, Katie shared the organization’s impact on leading conversations with the St. Louis Equal Housing and Community Reinvestment Alliance (SLEHCRA), of which JP is a founding member. SLEHCRA is the area’s local coalition that focuses on promoting investments in low-income and minority communities as required by the Community Reinvestment Act. Katie also emphasized the impact that JP has had on credit building in the community through the provision of various credit-led financial products as well as counseling services. JP has also played a substantial role in investing in new and existing businesses in the St. Louis area with the hope of creating a ripple effect of economic development.

The organization has undergone several new projects since its inception. In 2013, JP established a new location in Granite City, Illinois. In addition to offering JP’s full line of services to Illinois clients, JP housing counselors also assist Illinois homeowners facing foreclosure through Illinois’s Hardest Fit Fund. Five years after establishing a Granite City location, the JP office has moved to a ground-level coworking space that provides more exposure to the community.

Red of Red’s BBQ talks about his experiences as part of a panel held at Justine PETERSEN’s office during Missouri’s Small Business Week

Another major project that JP is endeavoring in is enhancing its for-profit CDFI, Great Rivers Community Capital. The CDFI specifically provides affordable financing to low- and moderate-income underserved populations. JP received a CDFI Fund Award of one million dollars in 2017 to spearhead this project.

The role and the significant impact of Justine PETERSEN truly emerges from the relationship between its employees and needs of the community. In her role, Katie hopes to foster additional relationships with local CRA officers and bankers. And among her JP teammates, she hopes to generate more team-building and enhance team communication.

Justine PETERSEN has been a CBN member since winning the 2017 Award for Excellence in Lending at the CBN Awards Reception. Just like the work their team produces, JP has been a collaborative and innovative partner within the CBN network.

Justine PETERSEN was honored at the Illinois Department of Human Rights’ Fair Housing Celebration in April 2018

Written by Melanie Liu, CBN Practicum Student

DISMANTLING THE DIVIDE: St. Louis needs a Greenlining Fund to Undo Damage Done by Redlining

Jackie Hutchinson, Co-chair of the St. Louis Equal Housing & Reinvestment Alliance (SLEHCRA)

Clayton Evans, Community Banking and CRA officer at Reliance Bank and board member of the MSLCRA Association

This column was originally published in The St. Louis American.

Jackie Hutchinson

Jackie Hutchinson

Clayton Evans

Clayton Evans

The historical impact of the early 20th century federal redlining policy continues to hold back many communities of color. For decades, the federal government used a system of color-coded maps to grade neighborhoods for mortgage risk. Red areas were marked the highest risk for loans, which were primarily African-American neighborhoods, meaning residents could not secure financing for homes and wereunable to build equity and accumulate wealth from which many white families and neighborhoods benefited.

The impact of redlining continues today. Neighborhoods in North St. Louis continue to show little or no mortgage lending activity. While many neighborhoods in St. Louis have recovered from the financial crisis in 2008 and now have an active mortgage market, neighborhoods north of Delmar have almost zero loans.

One of the contributing factors is depressed housing values creating an almost all-cash market, and making it nearly impossible for potential home buyers to finance a home. Depressed home values of surrounding homes guarantees that more buildings will face demolition and ensures homeownership remains out of reach for many families. This is felt when a family tries to purchase and rehab a home but cannot get a loan because the home’s after rehab value is still too low.

In the Greater Ville community for example, you may purchase a home for $35,000 and provide an additional $50,000 for rehabilitation. After completing the rehabilitation, the home only appraises for $70,000, far less than the $85,000 needed to purchase and renovate the home. Because of this common appraisal gap, the loan is denied. Consequently, homes in the impacted communities stay vacant and fall further into disrepair, while families lose out on becoming homeowners in their neighborhoods.

To overcome the long-lasting effects of redlining and to break this vicious cycle, a coordinated approach to reinvesting in neighborhoods of color is needed. We need to do the opposite of redlining—we need to “greenline” neighborhoods, opening up access to credit for residents to buy homes.  Lenders, community organizations, foundations and local governments must work together to create a loan program that fills this need.

We’re calling this approach a Greenlining Fund. This fund, modeled after the Detroit Home Mortgage Initiative, would provide loans for qualified community residents to purchase and rehab homes above their appraised value. In Detroit, the program works with partner banks, foundations, local governments, and a community development financial institution (CDFI) to offer loans up to $75,000 over the appraised value to purchase and rehab a home or repair their current home. Participating banks offer the same loan product, which provides homebuyers with consistent terms and rates on quality, affordable mortgages. Since the program’s beginning in 2015, Detroit has seen the number of mortgages increase by more than 25 percent each year. This program has opened up homeownership opportunities to families who have long been denied the ability to invest in their neighborhoods. We believe this program will work in our market.

The Greenlining Fund would foster homeownership opportunities for residents and help stabilize neighborhoods. Becoming homeowners would help build household wealth for African-American families historically cut out of home-buying opportunities. Homes that have fallen into disrepair will become habitable, reducing the number of vacant homes and bringing life and vitality to neighborhoods. An influx in home rehab projects will create jobs and bring more investment to North City neighborhoods. New mortgages made through this fund will contribute to restarting the real estate market and increasing housing values, helping to improve our local tax base and contributing to the economic viability of the city.

We are already working as a group with the Metropolitan St. Louis CRA (MSLCRA) Association and nonprofit advocates like the St. Louis Equal Housing and Community Reinvestment Alliance (SLEHCRA) to put the pieces for this fund together in St. Louis. In particular, the report “Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide,” recently released by the For the Sake of All project team and partners, included the Greenlining Fund as one of its policy recommendations. We call on our partner lenders, nonprofits, and CDFIs to join us. More support is needed from foundations, our government leaders, and from neighbors and community members that want to undo the effects of redlining in their neighborhoods and instead, invest in opportunities for neighborhoods to thrive.


Jacqueline Hutchinson is VP of Operations for People’s Community Action Corporation in St. Louis. She is actively involved in policy and advocacy issues that affect low-income consumers in the St. Louis region. Jackie is Co-Chair of the St. Louis Equal Housing and Community Reinvestment Alliance (SLEHCRA), where she works to increase investment in LMI communities; serves as board chair for Missouri Consumers Council; and is a member of the Unbanked Task Force. She has a Master’s Degree in Policy Analysis from Southern Illinois University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Washington University in St. Louis.


Clayton Evans is Senior Vice President of Community Banking and CRA Officer at Reliance Bank. He is also a Board Member of the Metropolitan St. Louis CRA (MSLCRA) Association. MSLCRA was formed to provide a venue allowing banks of all sizes within the St Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) to come together in a non-competitive environment to share best practices.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at

We Must Invest in Remedying the City’s ‘Depletion Areas’

By The St. Louis American Editorial Board

This editorial was originally published in The St. Louis American.

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Better Family Life, Inc.’s renewed strategies for community outreach call to mind an urban legend that continues to haunt North St. Louis. The so-called “Team Four Plan,” many people continue to believe, was a secret development strategy intended to lay waste to majority-black North St. Louis byconcentrating public and private investment in developing the diverse Central Corridor and majority-white South Side. The truth is messier than the legend—this so-called “plan” actually was a mash-up of a development memo (crafted by Team Four Architects), an unrelated map of the city, and two unrelated board bills. None of it was secret, and none of it was enacted into law or policy. However, public and private investment have been focused on developing the diverse Central Corridor and majority-white South Side, and much of majority-black North St. Louis is so disinvested that it does look like it was intentionally laid to waste.

What Team Four’s Memorandum 6B actually proposed was three types of areas that would receive different strategies for investment: Conservation Areas, which would be maintained in their current state of relative health; Redevelopment Areas that would be targeted for redevelopment; and Depletion Areas, whose poorly chosen name had something to do with the sprouting of an urban legend. So did the fact that these “Depletion Areas”—that is, areas “experiencing severe problems requiring redevelopment but where reinvestment had not yet begun,” as William Albinson of Team Four Architects wrote in The American in 2008—were heavily concentrated in majority-black North St. Louis. However, Team Four did not recommend merely letting these areas go to ruin and depletion. Rather, as Albinson wrote in this paper, it advised that “spreading scarce redevelopment funds thinly across all depletion areas would not work” and therefore “the city should make commitments to specific locations before turning them into redevelopment areas.”

It’s a redevelopment strategy sometimes described with the medical term of “triage,” where the incoming wounded are sorted into categories depending on how urgently they need treatment and how likely immediate treatment would save a life. The “Depletion Areas,” in this metaphor, are the parts of the city in need of so much investment to be saved that a perennially cash-strapped city would be better off investing in other areas of the city that are closer to coming back to life. Though Team Four’s memo was not secret—it was submitted as part of the 1975 St. Louis Draft Comprehensive Plan, a public document—and it was never enacted as policy, St. Louis has been developed—and underdeveloped—very much along these lines. And though Team Four did not take racial equity into account when making its proposal (it would take St. Louis almost a half-century and a suburban uprising before it would start taking racial equity into account), the areas that have been depleted are mostly places where mostly black people live, and many black lives have been ruined right along with their neighborhoods.

In 1975, when the Team Four memo was written, St. Louis’ population had declined to just over 500,000, a decline of 40 percent since mid-century, and the city’s finances were in shambles. The city’s decline in population and tax base have continued until today, along with a host of other worsening macroeconomic conditions, including departure of company headquarters, loss of high-wage manufacturing jobs, flight of downtown retailers with their sales taxes and accessible jobs, and erosion of outdated housing stock, leaving the city’s “Depletion Areas” more depleted than ever. The city budget submitted last year had to plug a $17 million deficit, due largely to lower-than-expected sales tax and payroll tax collections.

James Clark, vice president of community outreach for Better Family Life (BFL), knows this history, he is busy standing it on its head, and he needs help—including from the financial powers that invest in development. Rather than allow “Depletion Areas,” considered in human terms, to go to further ruin while concentrating efforts on people and places that would be easier to save, Clark and his team are going right at the heart of urban decay. The name of the effort—the “Resourcing Ground Zero Initiative”—is well chosen; it could just as well be called the “Resourcing Depletion Areas Initiative.” BFL is canvassing eight of St. Louis’ most challenged neighborhoods, with staff drawn from those neighborhoods, bringing social services directly where they are most needed. They also are fighting the opioid crisis by taking resources right to where drug sales take place in open-air drug markets and have organized conflict de-escalation centers where they intervene between individuals at immediate risk of resorting to gun violence.

We commend Clark and the rest of BFL leadership. St. Louis leaders may not have consciously followed a master plan to neglect the neediest areas of our city and let them go to ruin, but that has happened—to disastrous effect. Clark and BFL are now trying exactly the opposite approach. They are diving into the wreck and trying to save those who would appear to be the farthest from salvation. It is incredibly difficult work, and its positive effects may not be immediately evident, but we believe it is a promising approach because it is so different from the approach that has failed and is failing. Clark is calling for the Black Church to join BFL in this work, and clergy and the faithful are desperately needed. Equally needed are the financial powers that neglected these parts of the city and these citizens while focusing development elsewhere. BFL’s outreach efforts have received critical funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health, Civic Progress and the Regional Business Council, but more is needed. Robust macroeconomic growth is what is needed in the St. Louis region, more than anything, including the city, but community outreach into our most desperate and dangerous areas like BFL is attempting can only make St. Louis a safer and more attractive place to live and invest.

As Jason Q. Purnell’s landmark study on racial disparities makes it clear, we don’t address the neediest cases merely for their own sake; we do it “For the Sake of All.” We will never have a healthy, safe or equitable St. Louis if we do not remedy the neighborhoods and human beings we left depleted. These remedies will require investment, and it is urgent that these investments be made.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at

Parting with Trees to Save the Forest: Why Diversity Can’t Be an Afterthought

By Adam Bowen, Senior Application Developer at ej4, LLC

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I live in the Shaw neighborhood in South St. Louis City. Our area’s diversity is one of the qualities that drew me in five years ago and one of the biggest reasons I’ve felt compelled to stay. Every conversation with a neighbor is a chance to learn something totally new from someone who’s lived a life that’s different from my own.

Those who work and volunteer in community building spaces are familiar with the fact that diversity of all types strengthens communities. The ecological world, like the human one, thrives on it. Unfortunately, until recently, St. Louis’ failure to cultivate diversity among our urban street trees has gone largely unnoticed by most.

A few months ago, the city began destroying dozens of ash trees all over Shaw. They’re preparing for an inevitable environmental disaster, but knowing the purpose didn’t make the process easier for many of my neighbors.

For over a century in St. Louis, we’ve been trading our natural diversity for continuous urban sprawl. A tree’s aesthetic beauty is easy to understand, but many of us don’t realize that the trees outside our homes have immense structural and economic value as well. The more we build out our communities, the more turf grass (with its shallow root systems), concrete, and asphalt we layer into the environment. Our sidewalks, buildings, and parking lots prevent the ground from absorbing water, putting stress on the sewer system.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) has a program called MSD Project Clear that’s tackling this issue from several angles. As they work to expand and renovate our aging sewers, MSD is educating homeowners and commercial landowners about the value of trees and native plants and incentivizing them to landscape conscientiously. Project Clear highlights one of a street tree’s most important roles in an urban landscape: its capacity to collect water and absorb it into the soil. Large shade trees like the green ash absorb up to 100 gallons of water after one to two inches of rainfall. A street’s shade trees can also provide energy savings to the structures around them as their leaves block sunlight and heat, reducing the need for air conditioning in the summer.

In 2015, St. Louis’ ash trees were confronted with a new threat: the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive wood boring insect that targets the entire ash family of trees. It kills every ash tree it infests and currently threatens 15,000 out of the City of St. Louis’ 80,000 street trees. As the population of the EAB grows, it can wipe out all of the ash trees in a region within 3–10 years.

With the clock ticking on our 15,000 ash trees’ remaining years of life, and the value of the city’s ash population calculated at $817,000 (you can explore the value of your neighborhood’s trees using this calculator), the City has to decide which trees to save and which to destroy. The EAB population can only be controlled with pesticide treatment of healthy trees and destruction of trees that are less likely to survive. We cannot let infested ash trees die on their own—liability from trees falling on property and people would be enormous—and we have a responsibility to the wider region to reduce EAB numbers as best we can.

The City has taken these complex factors into account and has determined it will need to destroy 14,000 of the city’s 15,000 ash street trees in response to the EAB. The plan is a costly one—both literally and emotionally. I saw firsthand the distress and confusion my neighbors felt as contractors cut down the first round of ash trees in my neighborhood this spring. The tiny replacement trees they planted were not much comfort when the shade on some blocks had all but disappeared.

But it’s important to remember that these replacement trees, which include dozens of species and should last for half a century or more, are a critical investment in the future. They point to the silver lining of our EAB crisis: it’s giving us an excuse to address our tree diversity problem. The EAB only targets ash trees, so the damage the EAB is able to wreak on our community is directly proportional to the number of ash trees we have in it. Although the City of St. Louis Forestry Division recommends a single species comprise no more than 10% of the city’s trees, 12% are currently green ash.

It’s too late for our green ash trees, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that something like the EAB will threaten our community again. Increasing diversity in our street trees will make St. Louis more resilient to disasters like the EAB in the future, just like fostering diversity in our neighborhoods on human and structural levels will produce groups of people with greater capacity to handle the challenges of our daily life in creative and compassionate ways.

I want to live in a St. Louis that values and benefits everyone. The destructive impact of the EAB should be a wake-up call: diversity can’t be an afterthought if we want our communities to be strong, safe, and resilient.


Adam Bowen is a software engineer and amateur gardener living in St. Louis City. He’s the organizer of the St. Louis chapter of Papers We Love, a meetup focused on notable papers in computer science, and a frequent participant in several tech meetups in the St. Louis area. He also serves as a member of Young Friends of the Ville and Young Friends of Urban Harvest STL.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at

Arrested Development: Healthy Housing is Under Siege in Missouri

By Samuel Yang, MPH, Research Assistant at Washington University in St. Louis

This is a revised version of an op-ed that appeared under the author’s name in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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It’s been a bad year for houses—the White House, statehouse, House of Representatives, and “House of Cards” have all rotated through the spotlight. But as the nation’s eyes have been fearfully glued to the drama unfolding inthose houses, affordable housing in St. Louis has silently taken even more hits than usual.

This month, in response to changes in state discrimination laws, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development followed through on a months-long threat to suspend the state’s participation in federal fair housing programs. This comes on the heels of a Missouri Housing Development Commission decision late last year to not match federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funds, effectively halving the amount of money available to low-income housing developers.

These are programs designed to produce quality housing and safeguard equal access to them. The Fair Housing Assistance Program helps state and local agencies investigate, enforce, and promote housing access. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) program helps developers build affordable housing in neighborhoods where it’s otherwise unavailable or unfeasible. Under them, federal, state, and local agencies worked together, a tenuous balance that is set to be brutally disrupted.

Such changes don’t just affect the market—they pose a serious threat to health and well-being for St. Louis residents. Most immediately, in-home exposures directly impact physical and mental health. Housing costs also affect the ability of individuals and families to manage illness and disease. Healthcare, sick days, and healthy habits are expensive. If housing is expensive, too, cash-strapped families often have to make hard choices.

Beyond those effects, though, public health advocates are becoming increasingly aware that health, like real estate, is all about location, location, location. That sticky mantra isn’t narrow obsession. It’s a reflection of how neighborhood conditions can be nearly all-encompassing in influencing health outcomes.

Cutting-edge academic programs here in St. Louis are connecting their programs in urban planning and design with public health and social work, but they’re just playing catch-up to every homeowner since the ancient urbanites who first started settling by rivers. Those early city-dwellers knew what the first practitioners of zoning (invented partially to separate houses from factories) knew, which is also what every parent today who buys their home based on school districts knows: Where you live is deeply tied to how you live.

That means questions and concerns about fair housing are inherently also about neighborhood access. Do all house-hunters have discrimination-free access to neighborhoods? Are they all shown houses in every neighborhood they can afford? Are they all treated equally when applying for mortgages?

The evidence says no. This is a problem, because in St. Louis, place (and race, to which it has been tied by abuse and neglect) is essentially a foundation for what parks, hospitals, schools, and jobs are within reach. All of those eventually affect health—and not just for this week or next week. Research suggests that children of mothers who grew up in underserved neighborhoods are at a disadvantage even if they themselves don’t. One crack in the foundation leads to further instability, which echoes across generations.

This is especially important in St. Louis, where in the past year alone, alarms have been sounded over illegal evictions, handicap accessibility, and policies that could jeopardize housing access for victims of domestic violence and the disabled. Just three years ago, reports emerged that housing voucher holders, often people of color, were discriminated against and “steered” toward certain neighborhoods, reinforcing segregation and health disparities. All of this in a city that already ranks in the top 10 for racial segregation and bottom 10 for economic mobility.

Despite the initial chaos, opportunities still exist for Missouri to fix its foundation. LIHTC’s opponents say they want to see long-term improvements to its efficiency, but fine-tuning a program doesn’t require the dramatic gesture of entirely pulling state funding and crippling the program. Let’s put together a plan for reform, and let’s do it through an honest, open process that won’t sacrifice important, necessary work already being done.

Furthermore, revisions to our state discrimination laws that restore harmony with federal laws need to be made by May 15 (the federal government’s deadline, three days before the end of the legislative session) so that fair housing funds can flow again.

With those plans and changes in place, state and local agencies can get back to work providing and protecting fair housing—and families across the state can start building their own healthy lives and happy homes on that foundation.


Samuel Yang, MPH is a Research Assistant at Washington University in St. Louis and a resident of South City St. Louis.


Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

We invite readers to contribute to the civic conversation about community development in St. Louis by writing an op-ed for the Community Builders Exchange. Op-eds should be short (400-700 words) and provocative. If you have an idea for an op-ed, contact Todd Swanstrom at