As chronicled in this space in recent years, St. Louis is in a world of hurt for many reasons.
The latest blow to St. Louis’ civic pride and local economy landed this week with reports that Stan Kroenke, owner of the city’s National Football League team, might build a stadium in Los Angeles County and possibly move the Rams there.
By contrast, I often point out, Kansas City looks at least a little better than St. Louis in key metrics such as population growth, crime rates and job gains.
My latest online post about St. Louis’ woes garnered some understandable defensive reactions. But several emailed responses also made the excellent point that the state of Missouri’s future will be a lot brighter if both Kansas City and St. Louis can find ways to prosper.
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These two cities and their suburban communities — which feed off the vibrancy of the urban cores — are the economic engines of the entire state. Both cities have plenty of strong points, such as revived downtowns that woo millennials and still-vibrant neighborhoods for families. Yet boosters of the two cities often forget that many other large cities offer the same — or even better — amenities.
The best ways to bring new life to Kansas City and St. Louis are to add lots more people and jobs while reducing outrageous violent crime rates. Tried-and-true solutions exist such as investing in better public schools, infrastructure and transit.
But a closer look yields a chilling conclusion: Both cities still face huge challenges in becoming highly desirable places that people will flock to in the coming years.
▪ The two cities have much higher murder rates than almost all their competitors. The fear of violent crime harms both cities’ futures.
As 2014 ended, Kansas City had suffered 77 homicides and St. Louis 159.
Kansas City had 16.5 murders per 100,000 residents. St. Louis, with a staggering 50 murders per 100,000 people, was even worse than Detroit a year earlier, when it had the highest homicide rate among the nation’s 50 largest cities.
But don’t celebrate too much in Kansas City. Even though murders were down from 100 in 2013, our city’s latest homicide rate likely will still be near the country’s 10 worst when the FBI releases its final list later this year.
Also, most competitors are doing far better: 31 of the 50 largest cities had under 10 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2013.
▪ Job growth in the metropolitan areas that include Kansas City and St. Louis has been weak for years.
Six months ago I compared employment growth rates for 25 regions, including many of Kansas City’s traditional benchmark cities and a few other successful ones we hope to emulate.
At the time, Kansas City was a woeful 21st on gaining employment over a three-year timetable; St. Louis was 24th.
Unfortunately, new information hasn’t much changed this list, except for this fact: The St. Louis area jumped ahead of Kansas City in creating jobs from November 2013 through November 2014.
Kansas City placed 20th while St. Louis was 17th. However, the growth rates for both regions were below the U.S. average.
Both also trailed a long list of more successful employment magnets: Raleigh, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Seattle, San Diego, Portland, Austin, San Antonio, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, Denver, Nashville, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati and Minneapolis.
Missouri’s two biggest cities have big troubles — and still much potential. They must stay focused on setting the priorities required to become more attractive places for new businesses and residents.