Enliven St. Louis

World Trade Center

Is #STL growing globally?

Growing Global is more than an aptly named event; it is the mission of World Trade Center St. Louis. From the ‘Born Global’ theme to the welcoming of Kevin O’Malley, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, WTC used its annual luncheon to showcase what it means to grow globally in 2015 and beyond.

We asked WTC Executive Director Tim Nowak to talk about how St. Louis can position itself to grow internationally and what four principles will get St. Louis there – born global, access, opportunity and connectivity.

Tim you’ve talked extensively about Brookings Institution-Global Cities Initiative. What is it and what does it mean to St. Louis?

global cities infographicSt. Louis is fortunate to be amongst the final cohort of cities accepted into the program; one of just 28 cities. The Brookings Institution’s Global Cities Initiative helps business and civic leaders grow their economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness.

Within less than a year of our acceptance, we already see how the program aligns St. Louis with global opportunities. As with any great strategy, we started with research. We surveyed and interviewed more than 750 regional companies, gaining insight into what – and where – St. Louis businesses sell. More importantly, we looked at how we can grow.

So, how can we grow?

As we worked our way through the research, several themes arose – born global, access, opportunity and connectivity. I think these are four really insightful and potentially impactful findings. Here’s why…

  • Born global. It means companies are exporting earlier and growing faster. Given our nationally recognized, entrepreneurial ecosystem, it is no wonder that the phenomenon has the potential to transform the St. Louis global strategy. See what entrepreneurs say about being born global.
  • Second, St. Louis’ leading exporters offer market access. Our region’s large exporters have strong supply chains that sustain their ability to perform and compete. One large exporter told us that what is good for his supply chain is good for his entire company.
  • And then there’s Opportunity. Long-term it will be the born global firm; immediately it’s the threshold exporter. St. Louis is home to nearly 3,000 exporters, 85% of which are small-to-medium in size. More advanced exporters get help from U.S. companies already in the market. Imagine the impact of these in-market exporters bringing along the new-to-market exporters.
  • Connectivity is key. Many companies enter a particular international market through a personal contact, friend or relationship. St. Louis has those connections: international investors from every continent, a growing foreign-born community, even ambassadors who make it a priority to connect St. Louis globally.

Tim, tell us about hosting U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley?

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was that Ambassador O’Malley traveled to St. Louis for Growing Global. In 2014, I visited Ireland with our trade delegation, and it was clear how much he was doing to help St. Louis, even from 3,800 miles and an ocean away.

We have a St. Louis native leading the way to open trade and investment doors in Ireland. And we believe there has been no greater advocate for St. Louis this year than Ambassador O’Malley. That’s why we presented him with the St. Louis Global Ambassador Award at Growing Global. It acknowledges his ongoing commitment to promoting St. Louis in Ireland and worldwide. Saying it is well deserved is an understatement!

Read more about my trip to Ireland here.

Tell us about what’s next.

Next, we make it happen. By the end of 2015, we will develop new export strategies and implement them into the larger regional economic playbook. We are armed with really compelling information. St. Louis has embraced the notion that we must be global to compete. The business community – small and large alike – are leading the way.