Economic development cooperation
4:38 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Economic Development Merger Clears Another Hurdle

St. Louis City and County are a step closer to merging some of their economic development functions.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday sent their version of the agreement to Mayor Francis Slay, who's expected to sign it. The St. Louis County Council will take a final vote on its measure on Tuesday.

The agreement between the two agencies is more than a year in the making. They'll continue to handle functions like real estate, but the merger is meant to create a central clearinghouse where businesses can find what sites are available and what incentives are offered in both the city and county. Individual municipalities would still award the incentives.

Ald. Fred Wessels, the sponsor, said it won’t stop a company from moving from the city to the county – or vice versa – if they find a space that works better.

"But what it will minimize is competition," he said. "What it will minimize is subsidies that either the city or the county pays to the company that wants to move."

The merger has other benefits too, Wessels said. The county has handled more loans from the Small Business Association, but the city has excelled in securing New Market Tax Credits.  

First Ward alderwoman Sharon Tyus was the only one to oppose the measure on Friday, calling it poorly-written. But she objected philosophically as well, saying the Board has already surrendered too much of its power.

"Then when people call aldermen and they get on our case about why isn’t this being done, you have no power to affect it anymore, because it’s been effectively removed from you being able do anything expect maybe being able to make a phone call," she said, calling it a step toward a complete merger of the city and county.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann