Saint Louis, Mo. — A few hours before Gov. Jay Nixon announced a gubernatorial commission to study the socioeconomic issues underscored by events in Ferguson, Nixon’s 2012 re-election opponent made an announcement of his own.
Dave Spence told reporters today about his project, Ferguson1000Jobs, a website and matching coordination initiative designed to bring together local non-profits with businesses both large and small to combat unemployment in the Ferguson region.
“Jobs and training are systemic issues for all of St. Louis right now,” Spence told The Missouri Times. “There are a lot of organizations doing some very good work right now in response to Ferguson. But there needs to be a coordination of these efforts and as I started meeting with people and talking to different groups it seems like there was an exasperation that no leader is trying to coordinate.”
Lance McCarthy, an economic consultant working with Spence on the initiative, said the plan would help match individuals with local businesses and find training opportunities for them. He also said the plan had three prongs: a corporate job initiative, minority business development, and youth, technology and training.
“It’s a systematic approach to this issue,” McCarthy said. “A lot of agencies are doing great work her, but the lack of basic jobs and opportunities is a major problem in that region that has to be fixed before you’re going to see a major change.”
Spence and McCarthy have been taking meets for more than a month with corporate partners, non-profits and local leaders. Centene has already partnered with the initiative and pledged to add another 200 jobs in the area.
Spence said he wasn’t interested in turning the issue political and that he had been frustrated early on by the “blame game” and “finger pointing” among elected officials.
“I really just wanted to do something as a private citizen who grew up in the area,” Spence said. “I was frustrated with how things were going, and I wanted to see what I could do go get rational people in a room to work on solutions. I’m not interested in dealing with the far left or the far right.”
Spence and McCarthy both said that 1000 jobs was the hard goal, but that the initiative would continue long after making it if it proved successful. Currently, Spence is bankrolling the project himself, but said he believes largely corporate sponsors will fund the venture in the future.
“This are has lost momentum and we need to create it,” Spence said. “We want to put you in position that when Express Scripts hires 1,5000 people in two year, you are qualified and in line for those jobs. Good jobs bring dignity and it’s a good way to start.”
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman