Networking efforts build a stronger community

Bill Motchan

St. Louis has a lot to offer young professionals, but one of the top draws may be the cost of living. Last year, the Penny Hoarder website ranked St. Louis No. 1 in its “25 U.S. Cities That Millennials Can Afford — and Actually Want to Live In.” 

However, the overall population trend of the region is not promising. St. Louis’ population is decreasing each year, and the metropolitan area isn’t growing. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center projects a consistent decline in population over the next decade.

There are a number of networking opportunities for young professionals. Meet New People Parties are an innovative approach to community building. Karen Kalish’s focus on college graduates is also on the mark, according to Henry Webber, executive vice chancellor and chief administrative officer at Washington University and chairman of the board of directors of Cortex. 

“The strongest predictor of regional success in the past 20 years has been the percentage of college graduates among adults in a region, and there are two ways you build your percentage of college graduates,” Webber said. 

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“One is to build a quality higher education system, and the second is you recruit and retain people, and it is widely perceived that St. Louis has challenges in recruiting and retaining people. The more you can help them find social networks, the more they build friends and have connections and the more likely they are to stay in a place.

“St. Louis being successful depends on attracting high quality human capital from around the United States. You can’t depend on people from your region, and the more we can do to connect people to the place and to other people, the better off we are.”

Creating an image of a hip, happening place where young people have social opportunities can only help in those recruiting and retention efforts. Webber said that during his tenure at the University of Chicago as vice president for community and government affairs during the Daley administration, there was an explicit strategy to make Chicago a fun place for young professionals to live.

“Karen’s effort is one of the things you can do,” he said. “There are a set of things that cities and regions can do. Karen as a private citizen is doing one of them. More power to her.”