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Outsiders to the rescue

As I have made my way through many conversations over the past couple months asking, “who makes this city go?”, transplants as a category and as specific examples come up frequently.

Yesterday I was with my friend Eric who is in finance and it was his first answer. A couple weeks ago I was with my friend Lisa who is in the arts and she said the same thing. I also recall my friend Marc who is in manufacturing saying, “more often than not, the most bullish people I meet on St. Louis aren’t from here."

While these examples are anecdotes, as I look around, I am often amazed at how many people here who are making big waves would be left out in the cold by the isolating, “where’d you go to high school?” question. I do not mean to say that all great actions happening here are occurring through transplants but they seem to disproportionately represent the answers I have received over the past couple months. But if the answers I have received are at all reflective of what may be the case, its another reason to challenge ourselves to challenge an insider mentality and ensure we are as welcoming as possible.

Adding on to other ways an outside lens can be brought to the table, last night my friend Randy reminded me how many boomerangs (people who are from here, left and have since returned) are also making waves here.

What these groups have in common are fresh insights and eyes on the place we call home. The longer one stares at a problem, the more likely you may become to accept it rather than move to address it.

While with Eric, a Louisville native, he said regarding the city-county divide, “look at the outcome of the city-county merger in Louisville! People by-and-large love what has changed since the merger. While St. Louis is bigger Louisville is now growing faster. We need to sell that same growth and improvements here!”

If you’re troubled by the struggles our city faces my first question to you is, “is it your hope that things stay the same or continue to decline?” My guess is everyone would say they hope to see things change for the better. If that’s the case, the next thing we should all do is find people and get involved with initiatives we believe are working toward a productive region as opposed to divisive, winner take all / your problems are yours and not mine approach.

A friend who is working to create new messaging for the region told me they wrapped up a poll which shows our community tends to be bullish and upbeat about our entrepreneurial growth. Reinforcing what they heard, last night I attended a welcome reception for the new director of the Skandalaris Center at Wash U, II (two) Luscri. For the past seven years he has been at Villanova launching their entrepreneurial program. II said during his remarks, “I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back at Wash U and how many people in the Philadelphia region look to St. Louis’s innovation corridor with envy.”

Ghandi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” If you aren’t sure how to be that change, find someone who is. And if you don’t know where to look, a transplant or boomerang is likely a smart place to start.

Go Forth Boldly

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