You know the saying, “People don't leave companies, they leave managers”? Similarly, people don't leave St. Louis. They leave St. Louisans who are cliquey or clannish. Or, to flip the script around, transplants don’t stay for St. Louis. They stay for St. Louisans.
Harsh as that sounds, it's actually an empowering perspective for local residents.
Each and every St. Louisan can be the approachable friend, welcoming neighbor, guiding mentor or newfound relationship partner who seals the deal – and makes this town really “sticky,” so to speak. Every local who loves this place can have a massive role in attracting talent and growing the region – or keeping people here in the first place.
It's an issue you can actually do something about, right now, today.
How exactly does one person change the region?
While we have absolutely zero metrics to back this claim, we have strong anecdotal evidence of the butterfly effect – that is, a small change at one place in the complex relocation system having large effects somewhere else. The impact of local residents forming strong social bonds with transplants is very, very real.
For example, take a medical resident, grad student, scientist or entrepreneur moving into your building or neighborhood. If they feel connected and find a sense of belonging – with someone like you – they are more likely to stay. After all, one happy medical researcher can turn into a department of 50 thanks to a multi-million-dollar grant.
Newcomers frequently have the time, energy and motivation to join civic boards, make new cuisine, invest in businesses, buy art, shop at independent stores and rent real estate, to name a few benefits. Their ideas, mindsets and contributions can really move the needle in invaluable and countless ways.
They might also bring their siblings, family members or friends to St. Louis. Before you know it, one is four. Four become eight. Eight turns into sixteen. So on and so forth.
I don’t have any special influence …
It’s a misconception that it's only the "big jobs" matter for regional growth – or, by the same token, that 50,000-foot issues are dealbreakers. Of course things like taxes, politics, education and crime matter. But not everyone can contribute to macro levels of change all the time. Sometimes it really is the seemingly inconsequential conversations or actions that make the difference.
When a family is deciding whether or not to accept an offer, uproot their lives and move to St. Louis, the little things aren't so little at all. In fact, the person who tilts the scales in our region’s favor may be one teacher on an elementary school tour. One Uber driver transporting the head of a site selection committee. One barista behind the counter. One chef in the kitchen who makes a kick-a** lobster roll.
Diversity, equity and inclusion outside the workplace
Years ago, when St. Louis Transplants launched, our founder Anthony Bartlett initially thought that getting all the newcomers together in the same room at the same time would be enough to convince them to stay. While that's wonderful, we’ve learned through experience that the best equation is a few transplants (or “replants”) plus a local or two.
If you look around your circle, club, congregation, cul-de-sac or friend group and discover that every last person is from here, maybe there's an opening to adopt a newcomer. Bring someone new with you to a party. Walk them through a new door. Ask if there's anything they need or someone they'd like to meet. Chances are good that the answer will be yes.
Photos by Priscilla Du Preez. Anthony P. Bartlett is the Founder of Acclimate. Acclimate helps companies attract, hire and retain top talent within the St. Louis region by connecting prospective candidates and new hires with the lifestyle, communities, preferences and affinity groups that maximize their quality of life.