As president of the Regional Chamber and Growth Association, Fleming spent a year just before the recession trying to woo a major employer to open a data center. Fleming wouldn't name the firm, but said it was "a Fortune 50" company that wanted to hire 1,500 people at good wages. Forty cities wanted the facility, and the company narrowed it down to two finalists — St. Louis and Raleigh, N.C.The firm's consultants recommended St. Louis, Fleming said. But the company was worried about the region's slow growth, concerned that it couldn't get the workers here it would need over the years to come."Perception became reality," Fleming said. "And we lost the deal."
Could the company attract the necessary talent to St. Louis? Perception of place influences hard economic choices. Stereotypes matter, particularly to the most geographically mobile. Hence, NCR relocates from Dayton to Atlanta. Pitching a job to someone who hasn't been to either city is much easier if you are in Georgia as opposed to Ohio.
In terms of workforce development, I see the region's mesofacts as the greatest challenge. St. Louis might be much improved (I'd certainly welcome living there), but the rebranding efforts will be slow to take effect. It might be too late to take advantage of the latest reconfiguration of domestic migration patterns.