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St. Louis' Inferiority Complex is Driving Innovation: New York Magazine

Categories: Tech

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Shawn Semmler on Flickr
People should live in St. Louis, says New York Magazine.
When coastal outlets write about St. Louis, we brace ourselves for bad news.

What will it be this time? Stories about how dangerous our city is? National airings of our local dirty laundry? Even that cute Huffington Post list about hidden gems in St. Louis read like its author had never actually deigned to fly here.

But there's a change in the air. As St. Louis exponentially grows its central corridor with more tech startups, research institutions and the millennial-friendly businesses that keep those employees happy, people are seeing the Lou in a new light: as an up-and-coming urban tech hub.

Nothing makes this more evident than a recent listicle from New York Magazine's Kevin Roose, titled "5 Reasons Cities Are Getting Better, And Everywhere Else Is Getting Worse." In a time when living outside the technological advantages of a modern city is "tantamount to opting to live in the past," Roose says, St. Louis has come to perfectly embody some of the most successful habits of highly successful cities.

See also: High-Tech Workshop Where Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey Built Square Is Eyeing St. Louis

While Roose's report focuses on St. Louis' Cortex district, a 200-acre innovation hub anchored by universities, hospitals and, in 2015, IKEA, Daily RFT couldn't help but notice a more subtle and surprising source behind the city's recent tech growth: St. Louis' inferiority complex.

Roose doesn't exactly use the words "inferiority complex" to describe the phenomenon. (He goes with "special status.") But the idea is the same: Tech startups and innovative businesses are more exciting to the people of a city like St. Louis, which wants to keep up with the tech-heavy hubs on the coasts, than in cities like San Francisco or even New York. (There's no other reason the Lou would ever embrace the Cronut.)

"A tech community that is treated by its home city as a special, treasured thing is more likely to succeed than one that isn't," Roose says. "In St. Louis and Detroit, tech companies are seen as a godsend. In New York, they're just one more industry. And although New York is trying to rebrand itself as a tech city, the size of other industries in the city (e.g. Wall Street) means that techies will likely always be small fish in a big pond."

St. Louis' inferiority complex has driven the city to do great things. When St. Louis' biggest tech duo Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey were forced to build headquarters in San Francisco instead of their hometown of St. Louis, McKelvey came back with a new plan to train local talent in coding.

See also: Launch Code: How 42 "Unqualified" People Landed Dream Tech Jobs in St. Louis

And that's not the only sign that St. Louis is embracing its newfound technological prowess.

Read more about the other moves St. Louis is making to be tech-friendly, including investing in the city's Cortex Innovation District, on page two.



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32 comments
Joseph Innamorato
Joseph Innamorato

I read the article and the rebuttals... It's very interesting. Can't comment cause I don't live there but my daughter and her family do and I hope it does become a better city all around....

Dierdre Lockette
Dierdre Lockette

Nothing can be "done" about public education until the city can get it's tax base back. In other words, move there.

Carolyn Cash
Carolyn Cash

So does this mean you will never move to CO?

Jeff Hendrickson
Jeff Hendrickson

I wish the crime wouldn't be brought up because we all know that the stats are skewed .

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

Much better, RFT. More positive, less negative. Thank you.

Mary Poletti
Mary Poletti

Great article, but am I the only one who thought that link headline was a bit of a backhanded compliment?

Liz Casmier
Liz Casmier

I am from STL, and I live in Los Angeles, I wish I could move back home all of the time. The people are great, there is world class medical care available, Busch Stadium is easy to get to, and you don't have to worry about getting beaten up if you wear a opposing team gear. Most of the museums and other cultural centers are free. Those that aren't like City Museum, are so fantastic, you don't mind paying. One day, I will move back and I'll be able to afford a house. What a thought!

optinstl
optinstl topcommenter

I love the idea of growth and development, but this Cortex district is a big funnel for government funds and the only real promise is that it will make St. Louis already wealthy developers, contractors and architect/engineering firms wealthier.  The new Metrolink stop for this would require 9 million dollars and tearing down the existing stop at Barnes Jewish. 
The MOST negative view of this city is expressed by its' so-called "leaders" and "powerful men" by their insistence our future lies only in "attracting talented young professionals with an entrepreneurial spirit".
What about all the talent and spirit languishing here in poverty and neglect?  The city's public school system has been all but abandoned.  There is no positive belief being expressed by any leader of either political persuasion that our schools are worth saving. 
And the north side of the city is so ignored and neglected, and treated like an reservation of hostile natives and cheap, surplus labor, contained by an overly-aggressive police force.
No one was in the least concerned about the 25 houses set for demolition in the Taylor neighborhood until Cortex showed up. 
And do we need more retail jobs when we have so many people living in poverty and 10% unemployment (if you use the U-6 statistic, which is more accurate and inclusive)?  Cortex

Cortex wants a green community?  Poverty is green.  Poverty has a low carbon footprint, rides public transit, walks and bikes, lives in smaller, older housing. 
And innovative?  There is more innovation going on in Wells-Goodfellow, just trying to make SNAP last til the end of the month, then in the entire Cortex staff.  Talented professionals?  Watch a brother trying to hustle a job mowing a lawn or washing windows.
Please remember that we the people are going to pay for this Cortex development.  Our sales, property and income tax will pay the bills (and the bonds) for this.  If the development fails or doesn't deliver fully, we won't get our money back.  (Yes, there is abatement, but all of those developers will still be rich, and we will be stuck with more empty buildings).

And as I said, even if it succeeds, I don't see it really bringing anything to this city that we need.  The city could spend this on our schools and on creating actual jobs-- clean up the city, improve the quality of life for everyone. 
This is not innovation.  The is more corporate development with a "green" mask.

Debbie Hayden
Debbie Hayden

Not sure that any "officer" is the cure for "race relations." Pretty sure that good people focusing together on improving our city without regard to race, color, creed, sex, yada yada, would go the furthest and the fastest towards drawing everyone together ~

Genia Ackworth
Genia Ackworth

With all the cultural ambience you'd think they would be better at race relations. No diversity officer that I know of on Slay's staff.

Jacqui Ruoff
Jacqui Ruoff

I love St. Louis but something has to be done about public education!

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker

Wow...what a great article. I love when people see St. Louis as the gem that I see it as. I predict that the next 10 years in St. Louis is going to experience a growth boom for many of the same reasons listed in this article. The way I see it people all over the country are becoming more money conscious... and are seeing the economic advantages of living in a city like St. Louis. Many shows on HGTV spotlight St. Louis as very affordable living with an awesome central location, with spacious homes that have great original architectural features, and with culture and great dining. I hope people continue to see our city this way. We have a lot of room to grow. It will happen, and soon, if trends continue.

Rebecca Neuhart
Rebecca Neuhart

While all cities including St. Louis have some negatives, can't we just focus on the positive? This is uplifting, encouraging: a move in the right direction. Let's pay attention to how we can improve instead of wasting our focus on negative press.

msdlockette
msdlockette

Good to see growth and development for our city in spite of the constant negativity of some of the metro area. Some of the natives, especially those in surrounding suburbs and counties, sometimes sound like they WANT our city to fail, just so they can say that they were right with their "it'll never work!" mantra. That "us vs them" instead of "we" mentality is what almost bled the city dry in the first place.

Debbie Hayden
Debbie Hayden

Me too, Jeff! I find most people that criticize our city have never moved away. I have twice, and I can tell you, St Louis has the BEST people, the most wonderful nooks and crannies, the greatest cultural ambience of any place in the US that I know of. I'm proud to see that she is now getting some recognition. Lets promote the good, which will drive out the bad!

Travis Sheridan
Travis Sheridan

I'm from California. Moved to STL in Jan 2012 because I can thrive here and make a difference!

Kevin McAlister
Kevin McAlister

If only for the daily homocide? And or corrupt council member caught with their hand in the cookie jar??

Matthew Ingmire
Matthew Ingmire

Love how these articles saying people should live in a said place don't actually live in said place. They only see it from the outside and not the crusty interior.

optinstl
optinstl topcommenter

If Cortex were really innovative they would look to Old North or partner up with Beloved Streets of America at Martin Luther King and Hamilton.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

how about not be a boring fucking doomcryer for once?

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

shut the fuck up you boring fucking twat. assholes like you improve nothing except maybe a lawn in plasticville. go fuck yourself

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@jaco1175 , perfect example of why not to live here. Some people trying to verbally abuse others in not speaking up. Some people thinking their way is the only way. Some people being just plain rude.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

@JamesMadison Please don't live here because you are fucking nuts. You belong in the woods because it is obvious that you have a bunker in your yard, a huge fucking arsenal of weapons, a ron paul bumper sticker on your car and probably some gold bullion while you cower in your shack waiting for civilization to end. You go Eric Rudolph, may the force be with you. Keep your crazy ass out of the city you fucking moron.

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