Our Economic Opportunity

Increasing equity strengthens our economy. This has been proven true throughout the country and across industries.

“In 2014, the St. Louis Metro economy would have been $15.6 billion larger if there had been no racial gaps in income.”

“Wage and employment gaps by race (as well as gender) are not only bad for people of color—they hold back the entire economy. Closing these gaps by eliminating discrimination in pay and hiring, boosting education attainment, and ensuring strong and rising wages for low-wage workers is good for families, good for communities, and good for the economy. Rising wages and incomes, particularly for low-income households, leads to more consumer spending, which is a key driver of economic growth and job creation.” –National Equity Atlas

Working together to address gaps in income benefits the entire region. While we have chosen to focus on the construction industry, we believe that our process for finding best practice solutions, learning from stakeholders across the board, and proposing calls to action can and should be replicated in various industries vital to our region’s economy. Based on the National Equity Atlas’ analysis we estimated the construction industry’s potential share of the $15.6 billion GDP gain.

The St. Louis Metro construction industry could account for $400 million more in GDP if there were no racial gaps in industry employment and wages.

The construction industry, broadly defined as construction, maintenance and architectural, engineering and related services, accounts for about 4.7% of the region’s GDP. This is an industry that still holds the promise of a living wage that can be obtained through alternative means of training. There is progress being made and a commitment to diversity from key construction leaders in the region. However, there is work to be done.

The region’s construction industry was hit hard by the recession, development stalled and labor employment levels dropped significantly. While employment in the region’s construction industry has not returned to pre-recession levels, the industry is growing. In 2015, the St. Louis construction industry added nearly 3,400 jobs for a growth rate of 6.0%, outpacing the nation’s growth rate of 5.2%. Construction activity has been increasing in recent years and is expected to accelerate in the coming years.

Recruiting and training a younger generation is crucial to a successful workforce. Addressing equity is key to closing the gap in income and readying the industry for an influx of new projects already on the horizon.

The St. Louis region has over $5 billion in construction projects on the horizon.

Several large, high profile projects are in progress or were announced in 2016 including but not limited to:

• NGA –$1.75 Billion
• Centene’s Clayton Corporate Campus – $770 Million
• City Foundry Project– $340 Million
• Ballpark Village Phases II $ – $220 million
• Cortex Expansion $170 million
(Source: nextSTL.com)

In addition, spending on needed new infrastructure and improvements to existing infrastructure by MDS, Ameren, MODOT, Bi-State Development/Metro and other utilities and governments agencies could generate billions of dollars in new construction activity over the long term.

We need to be ready. If we can’t provide the diverse talent necessary to complete the projects and meet diversity goals, we will lose contracts to outside companies putting our entire region at a loss. These projects represent a significant opportunity to embrace transparency and put best practices into action. If the leaders of these projects make a true commitment to equity they will set a new tone for our region. Improving racial equity at the core of regional development would strengthen our economy, create opportunities to thrive, and showcase St. Louis as we find innovative ways to address challenges within the construction industry that many cities are facing.