Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Open Letter To St. Louis' Largest Companies: AB, Build A Bear, Express Scrips, Sigma Aldrich, Monsanto, Enterprise, Scottrade, WWT

Dear Mr. or Mrs. Company President/CEO:
I think I can speak for most area residents when I say how proud we are of your sucess. Having firms such as yours in our community helped make St. Louis a great place to raise a family and live.
With that in mind, that's why I'm turning to you. St. Louis needs your help.
Here's the deal: the community is losing larger businesses like yourselves. We've become a second-tier city. We no longer have auto plants and manufacturing facilities our residents once relied on for employment. We're no longer even a hub city for airlines. When young, enterprising entrepreneurs talk about starting companies, they don't mention St. Louis.
Our opportunity to turn things around relies on nurturing and growing the businesses we currently have in the community. I've met many of these owners and they are committed to growing and on the verge of growing into mid-size and larger businesses. But they need some help.
These are the businesses of the future for St. Louis. These companies will one day grow to become the next Enterprise, Scottrade, Express Scripts, AB--all companies that began on a shoestring in St. Louis.
But they need help.
I'm asking three things from you:
1. You help incubate some of these firms. What is incubate? You offer free space to a group (10 or 15 area small- and mid-sized businesses). Cuts have been deep for larger corporations lately so we know you have the extra space. The free space will help these companies get off the ground running in the early years when cash is tight.
2. You'll help mentor them. You have lots of knowledge in your organization, such as HR managers, PR managers, marketing and legal professionals. One hour a month of free consulting from these individuals will help these young firms make better decisions and help them grow. One hour a month, that's all.
3. You'll get them together. At least once a month, you will provide the venue that helps these 10 or 15 business owners get together to share their ideas, brainstorm for one another and help each other with business leads.
There isn't a lot of time commitment involved, and we're only asking that you provide the space you might have vacant in some of your offices.
Only you can make this happen. Many of the city governments incubate firms and do a great job. But only you have the business know how and expertise to really help these owners learn and grow.
Civic leaders are always talking about stealing companies from other cities. This is your opportunity to say, "Let's work together and build the companies we already have."
The great part about building companies we already have is that the owners are already a part of the community, and they will stay here when their companies grow. Just look at your own businesses.
This isn't about civic duty, it's about building a better future for every child you see playing on area playgrounds and building a better business environment for every kid at the bus stop.
It's up to you. Only you can make this happen.
It's time to give back. You may not get media coverage for helping a small business grow, but that's ok. You're going to do this not because it's the civic thing to do, but because it's the right thing to do.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

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