ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Development Corp. has always had a clear mission: Draw private investment and stimulate growth in the city of St. Louis. Now it’s adding image control to its responsibilities.
The agency has spent $2 million on marketing contracts that its new leader, Neal Richardson, said are meant to highlight the good that’s happening here and offset the headlines about crime and mayhem that can scare off new business.
“We want to change that narrative, shift that narrative and elevate those positive stories,” Richardson said. “So when businesses are thinking about St. Louis, they’re not just seeing some of the challenges that we have, but they see some of the opportunities that St. Louis presents to them, for their businesses, for their employees.”
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The $2 million in contracts have been awarded to an outside company, Kansas City-based Candid, to develop a marketing plan that includes TV spots, billboards and a new website.
Richardson has likened the marketing contracts, as well as other contracts that have also drawn scrutiny, to deferred maintenance of a house. They will modernize the agency, eliminate bottlenecks and improve production, he said.
But SLDC has faced criticism, including from Alderwoman Cara Spencer who sits on the SLDC board, for the amount of money Candid has received for work that previously fell to SLDC employees. Others have questioned the lack of transparency behind some of the contracts, and the awarding of the work to a Kansas City firm to tell the St. Louis development story.
In addition, the agency’s metrics for determining whether the money has been well spent are based on business attraction and retention — factors that other organizations like Greater St.