AdvanceSTL: Have someone on the fence about taking a job in St. Louis? Here's what these executives would tell them.

By   –  Reporter, St. Louis Business Journal

What do you say to someone who wants to move to the St. Louis area or is contemplating whether to stay?....

Here's how each panelist described their approach to selling St. Louis:

BONIKE AKINSANYA | senior human resources manager at architecture firm CannonDesign

“My go-to is you have to appreciate St. Louis for what it is. You can’t come into St. Louis comparing it to New York, Chicago or Nashville, for example,” said Bonike Akinsanya, senior human resources manager for CannonDesign, in response to a question from Editor Erik Siemers. “You have to come in with an honest mind and an open mind to really give the city a chance,” added Akinsanya, who moved to St. Louis six years ago from Nashville.

Akinsanya, originally from Nigeria, said she met several people through the St. Louis African Chamber of Commerce.

“Whether that’s your workplace or your place of worship, whatever that looks like, once you start going to those communities it gets easier because then you have others to explore the city,” she said.

KATHY OSBORN | CEO, Regional Business Council

Kathy Osborn, president and CEO of the Regional Business Council, said she tells people who are weighing whether to move to the St. Louis area that they can make a difference here.

“You can go to New York City. It’s a wonderful and exciting place, but guess what? You’re going to make no difference. I don’t care what you do there. You’re just not going to be able to do that. I love Chicago, and Chicago is kind of the same way,” she said.

In St. Louis, because of its size, people can work on civic and other projects and have an impact, Osborn said.

NEAL RICHARDSON | executive director, St. Louis Development Corp.

Neal Richardson, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corp., said to attract new residents and retain the ones living here, his message is they have an opportunity to build a strong foundation for the rest of their life. He said St. Louis is “what you make it.”

“You have an opportunity to start off with (home) ownership and you have an opportunity to make an impact on your neighborhood and your city every day,” he said.

FRED PESTELLO | president, Saint Louis University

Fred Pestello, president of Saint Louis University, said he shows people the redevelopment around and between the university's Midtown campus, which he said are significant improvements from when he arrived in St. Louis eight years ago.

“We give them an example of ‘this is what St. Louis is all about.’ People are impressed. We make sure to get them over to the City Foundry for a meal; make sure we show them opportunities to live right there adjacent to campus,” he said

BETSY COHEN | executive director, St. Louis Mosaic Project

Betsy Cohen, executive director of the St. Louis Mosaic Project — a regional initiative within the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership — said the four largest foreign-born populations in the St. Louis metro are from India, Mexico, China and Bosnia, respectively. She said helping immigrants get involved with local organizations makes them want to stay in the St. Louis area.

“One of the things that I talk all of the organizations that want new board members. They want committee members. They want people to be involved and all of our foreign-born people in the community, I say to them, ‘We can help you get connected,’’’ Cohen said.

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