In a recent article published by the Belleville News Democrat, they quoted, “We’re humble Midwesterners, but we should not be any longer.” These words are eerily similar to a message shared during the early stages of our strategic planning. This is how the Midwest Cyber Center described our work and our organization’s mission. I think we all know these values are true to the core, because the message resonates in everything we do.
A little secret I do not believe many know (because we are humble Midwesterners) is that our region is fortunate to have several colleges and universities who have increased availability of cybersecurity degrees and certificates. UMSL, Maryville University, Fontbonne University, McKendree University, Webster University and Washington University have all created degrees and certificates to increase availability of local talent. We are also privileged to have a multitude of non-traditional programs like LaunchCode, Claim Academy, Savvy Coders, and CoderVets to engage nontraditional tech career seekers. This combination of traditional and nontraditional pathways provides an “all hands-on deck” mindset where companies have access to talent through regional collaboration. MC² is unique in our focus on cybersecurity but recognize the importance of collaboration and how our collective work can, and will, meet the demand for St. Louis. The time is here to tell a unified vision for all of these programs and to work collaboratively. I hear terms like “competition” frequently, but in all reality, there are enough opportunities in our region for everyone, and as our leaders in economic development work hard to create even more, we need to continue to grow our pipelines.
I was excited to attend the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership Annual Luncheon last week. I was even more excited to hear the war cry of collaboration and a single, not humble, unified voice. Just because we were not selected by Amazon doesn’t mean we didn’t learn from the process. It became clear to regional leaders that something needed to change, and we need to work together with a “regional mindset” to be competitive. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but websites like https://stlouishustle.com/ are a step in the right direction.
One thought that ran through my mind during the event was hope. The other was concern. I sat in a room full of community and business leaders who were all in, but how does that translate to everyone else? When I pick up a local newspaper I find myself inundated with negativity. When I turn on the local news station I hear about someone being shot, crime and ultimately something else negative. The message of hope I heard at lunch needs to be told by everyone. We must get the community on board and we must shift the culture of media to reflect a vision of opportunity for EVERYONE.
I truly believe St. Louis is on the verge of a rebirth. If we look at our region as a person I believe it would be described like this. Innovative spaces like Downtown T-Rex, Cortex, and 39 North are the heart. They embody collaboration and provide unique spaces to facilitate creativity. Organizations like National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Scott Air Force Base, Boeing, Microsoft, and World Wide Technology make up the body. They are the moving pieces driving opportunities and business in those innovative spaces. Organizations like the Regional Chamber, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, Hawthorn Foundation, Leadership Council and government are the head and brains. They are the planners of how we market opportunities and maximize our current and future regional assets. Finally, our traditional and nontraditional pathways for training and education are the central nervous system for it all. Talent is essential for everything and the bottom line up front, we must create more!
This was written to be a call to action for everyone. Will you join MC² and our efforts to advocate for the region and to share the positive results being achieved collectively? If you have something you are doing, or an initiative you are passionate about, let us know. We would love to hear your perspective, share that perspective, and say cheers to a bright future for our region!