Metro-East News

St. Louis Chamber official talks to Belleville business community about moving forward through Ferguson

"Forward Through Ferguson" by Joe Reagan

President and CEO of St. Louis Regional Chamber Of Commerce was guest speaker at the Belleville Chamber's Issues & Eggs breakfast.
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President and CEO of St. Louis Regional Chamber Of Commerce was guest speaker at the Belleville Chamber's Issues & Eggs breakfast.

During an Issues and Eggs breakfast Wednesday, St. Louis Regional Chamber President and CEO Joe Reagan spoke about the needed actions in the area to help bring about prosperity to the region.

“If something happens in Belleville, good or bad; if something happens in Ferguson, if something happens in Chesterfield, something happens in Washington, or Union, or Mascoutah, it has effect throughout the entire region,” Reagan said.

Reagan said “Forward through Ferguson” is a more uncomfortable topic than the usual Issues and Eggs topics, referring to the racial tensions that boiled over in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting.

Reagan highlighted the Ferguson Commission’s final report, which called for certain priorities, including racial equity, justice for all, putting youth at the center, and providing opportunities to thrive.

During the discussion, Reagan emphasized that the metro-east, as well as communities on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River are all part of the same metropolitan area.

“We are one community as St. Louis,” Reagan said.

If something happens in Belleville, good or bad; if something happens in Ferguson, if something happens in Chesterfield, something happens in Washington, or Union, or Mascoutah, it has effect throughout the entire region.

Joe Reagan, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber

The event, at Fischer’s Restaurant, was sponsored by the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce.

Reagan also talked about coming to a shared reality as part of the Ferguson Commission.

“What was revealed, what sparked that world event is the deep chasms social, economic and education disparities that exist throughout our entire region.”

The report called for a “step up in the state-supported funding plan for public transit,” Reagan said.

He said Illinois puts more into transit in the St. Louis area than Missouri does.

“We pride ourselves in being a 20-minute town but that’s not true for many of our individuals here,” Reagan said. “It’s a 90-minute town at best.”

The commission also called for identifying priority transportation projects for the region as well.

He sat down and was willing to listen to the community and leaders in that area to come up with a plan as it relates to forward through Ferguson. I think he’s the type of leadership we need for this region.

Stanley Franklin, president of the NAACP East St. Louis Chapter, on Joe Reagan

The Ferguson commission called for enhancing collaboration between educational institutions and employers and implementing work-based learning opportunities, among other things.

It also called for a refundable state earned income tax credit and expanded Medicaid eligibility which both already are in Illinois.

“We want to be the best. We want to be the most educated, want to be the most growing and prosperous, want to be the most successful employers, creating jobs …,” Reagan said. “We will not be the best unless we close the economic opportunity gap in our community.”

Stanley Franklin, who is the president of the NAACP’s East St. Louis chapter, said after the breakfast he is impressed with Reagan and his efforts to reach out on both sides of the Mississippi River.

“Joe has been feet on the ground; he’s been there since the inceptions of the Ferguson situation, and I think they’re doing an excellent job … by stepping in to assist when a situation of crisis happened in Ferguson,” Franklin said. “He came and offered his support. He sat down and was willing to listen to the community and leaders in that area to come up with a plan as it relates to forward through Ferguson. I think he’s the type of leadership we need for this region.”

Thoughts on the NGA

Reagan was asked if he had thoughts on where the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency should locate.

“Talk about a situation that will be a test for us about whether we’re one community or not. The federal government is going to make a decision about moving jobs. … St. Louis has already won. There will be no change to the metropolitan job numbers that are reported … with whatever the decision is with NGA,” Reagan said. “There are strategic importance to both sites that are the leading sites within this discussion. What we want from our chamber is (the NGA) to find the most effective site for their mission and what they do … The way we lose is if we tear each other down in the process.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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