St. Louis Economic Development Strategy RFQ/RFP Questions & Responses
This page provides the list of questions received by potential applicants, along with SLDC's responses to those questions.
Can you provide more context around the planning grant received by the St. Louis Community Development Finance Institution Coalition and how that plan will interact with the Economic Development Strategy? Will these projects be happening concurrently or will this Economic Development Strategy be based on work already completed through the Neighborhood Economic Nodes planning process?
The work being done by the CDFI will be concurrent to this Strategy. The exact details as to how the plans will interact will need to be determined through the process. When the RFQ/RFP was drafted, the portion covering Economic Nodes was written to mimic the scope of work that was planned for the CDFI plan. At the time the RFP was drafted, it was unknown if the CDFI would receive the planning grant, and we wanted to make sure that this work was included as a cornerstone of the City’s Economic Development Strategy. We only discovered that the CDFI Coalition received the grant within about 48 hours of the RFP release. We expect that the consultant hired through SLDC will work closely with the consultant hired by the CDFI coalition to ensure that the plans inform one another. It makes no sense to duplicate the work of the CDFI. They are our partners, and have indicated their willingness to work very closely with us on our Economic Strategy. The exact details of how the plans will interface needs to be determined. However, one possibility is that the CDFI plan could stand in to cover some of the scope from the Economic Strategy, and then the rest of the Strategy would build from where it leaves off.
Note: we do not see any reason why the consultant hired by SLDC for the Economic Strategy could not also apply for and try to win the CDFI work, assuming they have the capacity to do so. In this case, they could be treated as two components of one plan with two different funding sources. To our knowledge, the CDFI plan, which will be led by Rise Development Corp., has yet to go out for RFP, since the funding is still in process.
What is the source of funding for the project?
The primary source of the funding is a combination of donations from private partners, as well as public funding from the City of St. Louis.
What is the approximate budget for the project?
We anticipate that the budget will not exceed $500,000 for the City’s portion. The CDFI grant will be in addition to this amount.
How in-depth should 4. Project Understanding & Approach be within the RFQ Submittal?
The depth of the Project Understanding & Approach should be deep enough to paint a picture for our selection committee as to how you would tackle the problems posed in the RFP, which the City must address in order to build a thriving and sustainable economy. We would recommend that you err on the side of providing too much depth, rather than not enough.
The RFP indicates an estimated start date of August 2018. Is there a date when all project activities need to be completed? If so, by when?
We anticipate that project activities will be concluded with a final plan in place by September 2019.
For 6. Project Experience & References, can proposals only include three total project descriptions with accompanying references? If utilizing subcontractors, can they provide their own three project descriptions and accompanying references?
The three references mentioned is in reference to the primary contractor. Subcontractors are allowed to add additional references, but should be limited to no more than two each.
How do community development corporations (CDCs) currently connect with the City’s economic development activities? Do you anticipate their involvement with 3. Neighborhood Economic Nodes?
It is recognized that current CDC connections with City activities are imperfect. The primary problem is lack of proper communication channels and a resulting lack of synergy in efforts. We would welcome input that would help us improve this situation. Ideally, the CDCs would be very active in the process of selecting and developing Neighborhood Economic Nodes.
Who will serve as the Project Manager for the project?
Jonathan Ferry will serve as Project Manager for the project for day-to-day activities, but Otis Williams, the Executive Director will ultimately be the final authority on larger decisions.
How large is the Selection Committee? Who is represented on it?
The selection committee is made up of 5 people. They include one representative appointed by the Mayor, one appointed by the President of the Board of Alderman, one appointed by the Comptroller, and two appointed by the SLDC Board.
The RFP includes Selection Criteria. Does the City have specific points or percentages in mind for each listed criteria item? If so, what are they?
For each of the criteria, it is up to the applicant to demonstrate to the selection committee in a convincing manner that they can meet the criteria. A point system for the criteria has not been established.
With regard to M/WBE, the standard target is 5% for WBE and 25% for MBE. Firms who do not meet these criteria will not be disqualified, but it will be taken into account as part of the final decision-making process.
Will project teams with M/WBE participation receive additional points?
The City highly values M/WBE participation. The quality and extent of M/WBE participation, therefore, will be considered in the rating of firm proposals. The weighting of the various criterion has yet to be determined, but at minimum, firms should be able to demonstrate that a good faith effort was made to meet our target levels. To the extent that the leading two proposals are close in qualitative measures, the consultant/team with the higher M/WBE participation will be given preference.
For the Litigation and Debarment statement, where should a statement be included in the RFQ Submittal?
Such a statement can be included toward the end of the document.
Does any information on insurance coverage need to be included with the RFQ Submittal?
A statement of assurance and agreement to the insurance requirements should be all that is required as of the RFQ submittal stage. Further detail will be required if your firm is selected to be one of the 5 or so finalists to submit a full proposal.
The RFQ/RFP mentions tourism and marketing strategies as part of recommendations coming out of the market study. What level of detail is desired?
The point of the study is to be action-oriented. Therefore, the level of detail desired for all recommendations throughout the Strategy is to provide specific action steps and measures to follow in order to implement the goals pertaining to each strategy. With that said, however, the level of emphasis that should be placed on any given strategy should be informed by data. For example, it might be a good strategy for the City to pursue the XYZ Industry, but the marginal benefit of gaining said industry may be lower than in pursuing other strategies. It is therefore up for the consultant to determine which strategies have the greatest marginal benefit to the City and advise accordingly.
The RFQ/RFP mentions recommending economic incentives for types of neighborhood economic nodes. Does the city have policies in place that govern use of incentives now?
The City currently has an incentive guidelines resolution, which can be found at the link below. No other formal policies have yet been set into place, as we are awaiting the recommendations of the strategy to help form and guide those policies.
Regarding neighborhood economic nodes, is it anticipated that all parts of the city would be assigned to a type of economic node or would there be a process of studying and then prioritizing neighborhood nodes?
The goal of the economic node analysis is to identify and prioritize neighborhood nodes based on their capacity to help the City reach its larger financial, and economic goals, including goals of economic equity. That said, there are two ideas in mind with regard to the neighborhood nodes. First, a node is not an entire neighborhood, but an area of impact which serves (or has the capacity to serve) as the economic engine that will drive future economic growth and activity in that surrounding neighborhood. We anticipate that there will be nodes identified throughout the City in many of if its neighborhoods. We understand that the capacity does not exist to do an in-depth plan for how to turn around or catalyze every node. Therefore, we are recommending that these individual nodes be grouped into typologies for which certain sets of strategies can be pursued in each one.
We want to emphasize, again, that the goal of this strategy is to drive action by the City, SLDC and its partners. We need to identify the places where the City should be investing its limited resources to make the greatest impact for the future economic sustainability of the City. Therefore, while we do not expect in-depth plans for every node, we would like the consultant to help us identify the nodes in different quadrants of the City that have the greatest potential to make a material, positive impact to the City. For these areas, we would like more specific strategies and actions that can be followed to leverage the opportunities that these areas present.
It is important to note, that in asking for the top nodes in each quadrant of the City, what we are requesting is that all parts of the City be represented by these nodes. It would go against our wishes if, for example, the Strategy identified ten nodes, and they were all in or around downtown.
We would like to know if it is anticipated, and makes for a stronger proposal, to bring on an urban planning team member with expertise in physical infrastructure to help execute the following elements of Task 3 in the RFP.
"Task 3. Neighborhood Economic Nodes (Place-Based Growth Strategy):
2.b. Develop a neighborhood typology profile
2.d. Working with the City, SLDC and other stakeholders, identify the top 2 to 3 nodes in each quadrant of the City which have the greatest equitable growth potential within the next five years and develop a general land use/building form plan for those nodes to help guide future development there.
2.h. Tie the recommendations in this strategy to the City’s larger infrastructure and planning documents. This includes the Strategic Land Use Plan, transportation network including proposed major investments, particularly the transit system (both existing and planned), GRG trails network (including Chouteau Greenway progress), etc. It is essential that this economic development strategy build upon the physical framework of our existing assets, plans, CDC and special service district areas, infrastructure projects and TOD areas."
The neighborhood economic node concept is meant to be very place-based. As a result, we can see a benefit to having an urban planner on your team to be able to help inform the strategies that relate to the particular places where the nodes are selected. An urban planner may also be able to use their expertise in identifying certain traits or characteristics of places which give it greater potential to become a node of economic strength that may not show up in any data set. Therefore, while we are not requiring that an urban planner be on a team, we do agree that having one could make a positive impact to one’s proposal.
On the local level, we are seeking a sub consultant to assist with planning and community engagement. Would you be able to recommend any local firms with a good reputation for either planning or outreach?
It would be inappropriate for us to make any recommendations as to local partners who could join your team. That would imply that we favor one or more on the list that we provide. It's expressly prohibited.
We can advise you to search through plans that are online at the City's Planning and Urban Design Agency, Downtown STL, and Great Rivers Greenway. You can find out who participated in any of their plans by searching the online documents.
We’d also advise you to search our Minority and Women Business Enterprise website as M/WBE participation is one of the selection criteria. https://www.flystl.com/business/business-diversity-development-1/directories
Is there a page limitation for this proposal?
No. We have opted to not place a page limit on the proposal.
Are out of town firms encouraged to apply?
How should this Strategy align with the SLDC/STLP Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy 2017-2022, and should this Strategy meet the criteria of US EDA's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy?
The SLDC/STLP CEDS Strategy 2017 - 2022, contains relevant demographic and other background information about the City, and we would expect that this information be re-used to the maximum extent possible, so that we can spend more of our budget funding for the Economic Development Strategy on the brass tacks of putting plans into motion. For example, the CEDS includes a number of high level strategy ideas, many of which likely make sense to be built upon within the Economic Development Strategy. The shortfall of the CEDS, however, is that it does not provide any indication of prioritization of strategies, as it does not make any real effort to determine or measure which strategies would have the greatest impact in meeting the City/County's most important needs and goals. Furthermore, the CEDS does not give much, if any, indication as to what steps need to be taken to be successful in these strategies. Neither does it identify who the essential partners would be for accomplishing these strategies, or give much indication as to the role each partner should play in executing the tactics of the strategy.
Therefore, the CEDS should be considered as a reference in creating the Economic Development Strategy. There is a lot of useful information in there that can be used, rather than replicated, and there are a number of ideas that can be extracted and elaborated upon when constructing this Strategy. However, it is essentially a "wish list." As such, not every idea within it will or necessarily should align with this Strategy. Any consultant selected, therefore, should not see the CEDS as a constraining document outlining boundaries within which they must stay. For example, the CEDS identifies key industry sectors that are strong in the City/County area. However, not all of these industries are relevant to the City, but primarily to the County. Alternatively, there may be some that are more City-specific that were not mentioned, but should be more of a focus for a City-wide plan.
As for meeting the criteria of the US EDA CEDS Guidelines, because the 2017 - 2022 CEDS plan was already designed to meet the EDA's technical requirements, we do not feel the need to meet any technical requirements in this plan.
To what extent does SLDC anticipate this strategy informing internal organizational change to better deliver services and/or deliver additional services?
The City and region of St. Louis has a long history of developing plans (strategic or otherwise), which contain a good deal of analysis and ideas for moving forward, but ultimately end up sitting on a shelf collecting dust. To prevent this from happening this time, it is very important to us that the staff and workers who will be doing the day-to-day work of implementing this plan are both contributing ideas about what we should do, and assisting to figure out how we need to change (whether in organization, external partnership structuring, work process, etc.) in order to successfully implement this Strategy. Furthermore, it is essential that we develop the institutional knowledge to utilize this Strategy, think and act strategically and develop the capacity to adapt and pivot when things change.
It is very important that the Strategy take into account internal organizational structure, and recommend change so that we can more successfully deliver the services and attain the goals laid out in this Strategy.
Regarding the Neighborhood Economic Node Strategy portion of the plan, can you please clarify/elaborate further about the following:
How many existing Neighborhood Economic Nodes (such as South Grand Blvd which is cited as one example) or Opportunity Areas are there?
In the City’s Strategic Land Use Plan, there were 56 Opportunity Areas identified. The definition for these areas, however, is not fully aligned with the concept of an Economic Node, as many of them were identified based on the lack of development in an area and availability of land, or proximity to other areas of economic strength, rather than the presence of economic drivers within the areas themselves. As for other existing Economic Nodes such as South Grand Blvd., we have not done an inventory of our existing Nodes to determine how many exist at the present time.
Will you provide a list of these to the consulting team?
A list of the existing nodes does not currently exist. However, the members of our Neighborhood Business Development Team are a wealth of knowledge who will be available to work with the consultant to share their knowledge and perspective in helping to identify and categorize the existing nodes as well as locations for potential future ones.
Beyond existing nodes, like South Grand Blvd, what number of prospective nodes are you hoping to identify?
We have not predetermined any specific number of nodes that we are hoping to identify. Our strategic purpose in undertaking this effort to identify Neighborhood Economic Nodes is to guide us in our future investment and service efforts so that we can be more proactive in our approach to the economic revitalization of the City. Of course, if we had unlimited resources, we would invest in all parts of the City at the same time. Since that is not the case, we must identify the areas where our investments can generate enough economic activity that the area becomes economically self-sustaining. We believe that a purely analytical approach to the Economic Node concept (such as simply identifying and cataloguing existing and potential nodes without building an investment strategy around them) would be misguided. Strategically speaking, there may be very strong economic nodes that are key areas to the City’s future growth that should not be primary targets of City and SLDC investment because they are already self-sustaining. There may be other strategies needed for these areas to help protect and preserve them, such as land use codes, or business retention services, or crime prevention efforts etc., while at the same time, direct investment strategies, and other incentive strategies may not make the most sense there. Determining which strategies we should pursue and where, is the whole point of going through this planning process.
Are you wanting to engage the public at this Neighborhood Economic Node level?
We think that the public is a key resource in helping to identify these Economic Nodes. Engagement in this regard could be as simple as sending out surveys, or it could be more involved. In any case, we think that some level of public engagement is necessary to the Neighborhood Economic Node strategy process.
What level of logistical support for consultation/engagement is the SLDC able to provide?
We want, and expect, our staff to be engaged throughout this process. To that end, our staff and our facilities will be made fully available for the consultant to use to whatever degree is possible. As for more logistical details, such as finding venues, set up/tear down, providing refreshments, etc. our staff could help with items of venue selection, and refreshments, and other things like this which can be done from an office setting. Things like set up and tear down are beyond what we have the manpower to handle. However, when it comes to submitting costs for the proposal portion of this selection process, we would ask that consultants include line item costs for every item without assuming that SLDC staff will be able to take it on, so that we can selectively determine which logistical items SLDC staff will handle, and which items the consultant will provide.
The RFP states that we are to designate a meeting facilitator. How do you view this role as being different than project manager? What role should the facilitator have on the team?
The meeting facilitator that the RFP mentioned was in reference to the topic of public engagement. With regard to internal meetings with staff, etc. that will be in the wheelhouse of SLDC’s Project Manager. The meeting facilitator and the Consultant's Project Manager, however, could be the same person.
What is the anticipated approval process for the final Plan/Strategy? In other words, when determining the project timeline, should we consider the time necessary for final legislative approval by St. Louis City Board of Aldermen or other governing bodies?
As mentioned above, we are hoping to have, if possible, a final report available to give to the BOA by September 2019. However, the goal there is not necessarily to have the plan approved by the BOA by that date, but rather to have it in a final form that will be presented to the two Aldermanic Committees that are overseeing this process. Therefore, for the purposes of the consultant, we think that their work will be completed upon presentation to the Aldermen at the committee level followed by their vote to recommend the plan for adoption to the full Board, which should be able to be accomplished in either one joint Committee meeting, or two separate ones scheduled closely together.
Regarding Key Personnel, should the response include description of the abilities, qualifications, and experience for all support staff or only key personnel and/or those making significant contributions to the project?
We are most interested in knowing the qualifications and experience, etc. of the team members who will actually be making significant contributions to the project and doing the work. Therefore, we are under the assumption that anyone included in the Key Personnel section will be actively working on our project. Please do not include the profiles of your Firm’s Principals, if they are not going to be working on our project, specifically.
Is there an existing database of small business owners in the city?
The City’s License Collector has a database of small business owners. SLDC does not have control of or direct access to this database, but there is a request form that we can fill out to get access to this information. When they have shared this information in the past, it is normally in an Excel format.
Can you provide clarity on your definition of “gig economy” and expectations in terms of the overall analysis?
The term “gig economy” refers to the portion of the labor market which is characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. Regarding expectations, we are most interested in seeing how this transition to and growth in this type of work will affect the City’s traditional identity as a hub for jobs (particularly office jobs) in the region, and how we should be adapting to ensure that we continue to be the primary jobs center for the region.
In the small tier analysis, are you looking for a specific focus on women business owners and business owners of color?
To the degree that this section of the Strategy focuses on equity, yes, we are interested in knowing if there are particular strategies that we can pursue to strengthen women and minority owned businesses.
Are you interested in an analysis of small business connection to large anchor institutions (e.g., universities, hospitals) in St. Louis?
Yes. One strategy that we are interested in pursuing further is a Local Sourcing effort, whereby we help to connect our small businesses with our anchor institutions so that we can increase our local capture rate of dollars flowing through our anchor institutions. We want to emphasize, though, that data and analysis that is not connected to specific strategies is not our goal. Analysis for analysis’ sake is not the best use of our resources for developing this Strategy.
Are you interested in a scan of the capital flows to small businesses (e.g., SLDC loans) in St. Louis?
As mentioned above, analysis for analysis’ sake is not our goal. However, if such a scan is necessary or useful for devising the strategies that SLDC, the City and its partners should pursue to grow our economy, then we would welcome its inclusion in the Strategy.
Are you interested in an assessment of the entrepreneurship and small business support organizations in St. Louis?
We think that such an assessment should be included as part of the SWOT analysis process. This assessment should be used to directly identify action items that the City can pursue to strengthen our entrepreneurial and small business segment of the economy.
Do you want an overview of the challenges that small businesses and entrepreneurs face in the city?
Our answer to this question depends on what the definition of an ‘overview’ is and what its purpose would be in the Strategy. Quite frankly, we have read numerous plans for other cities (and our own), where such an overview appears to be little more than an attempt by the consultant to fill up space within the document. Generalities about small business challenges that would be true anywhere are not very helpful, in our opinion. However, if there are challenges that small businesses and entrepreneurs face that are specific to St. Louis for one reason, or another, and that could be fixed by a change in policy, or incentives, etc., then we would be very interested in having this type of information in the Strategy along with specific action items that we can pursue to correct them. Similarly, if the challenge is not specific to St. Louis, but St. Louis has a specific strength that we could use to address the challenge and therefore differentiate ourselves from other parts of the region or the country and therefore attract small business owners, then we would be interested in that, as well. But, a general overview that could be true if written for any place in the country is an unnecessary waste of space and resources.
Should we benchmark the small business ecosystem in St. Louis to the small business ecosystems in other cities?
If a sound, strategic reason exists for doing this, then we would be open to seeing such a benchmark. If done, this benchmark should only be included if it would uncover action items, tactics or strategies that the City should pursue to enhance our small business ecosystem, or if it reveals metrics that we should be tracking along these same lines. Similarly, best practices from other cities are useful if they can be applied to St. Louis and translated into specific actions and strategies for SLDC and the City to pursue.
When uploading our proposal, is there a file size limit that the system can handle?
We have successfully tested up to around 60 MB size files that went through the upload portal. We would urge caution when trying to go above that threshold. If your document is larger than that you can always submit it in two or more parts. If you get an error message, please email the Project Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org to let him know that it did not go through.
Has there been any work product released after March 2018 from the City Resilience planning efforts?
The only work product released to our knowledge, thus far, has been the summary notes released to the participants of the Resilience Lab, and the Preliminary Resilience Assessment, which can be found at
The City’s Chief Resilience Officer, however, is currently working on the final draft of the Resilience Plan for the City. However, that will not be available for a few more months.
How do the RFP Instruction topics relate to the evaluation criteria stated in the RFQ document? Would the evaluators rather have the responses to those topics embedded in our full proposal or contained in a separate narrative/ letter?
The items in the RFP instructions are the key topics that are front of mind of SLDC leadership and staff as we go through the Economic Development Strategy process. In essence, your key ideas relating to these topics are going to be a top concern as we evaluate finalist proposals. Therefore, the more clearly that you can address these things, the better. Ideally, we would like to see these things addressed within the proposal, rather than as a separate attachment, because we would like to see how you place these things into the larger context of your proposal. They are not, however, a replacement to the items identified within the initial RFQ/RFP document, as those items will still be closely evaluated, as well.
Are there any other 'major' planning processes currently or soon underway and/or recently completed that we should be aware of and contemplate interaction with?
There are a few other major planning processes currently underway. They include the Chouteau Greenway plan, and the North-South Metrolink Alignment Study. There have also been some recently plans done more at the neighborhood level such as the Forest Park Southeast Form Based Code and the Jefferson Corridor-Gravois Park plan recently conducted by one of our CDFI partners.
Has there been any discussion about an advisory board or steering committee to guide the process/ interact with the consulting team? We typically work with our clients to form a diverse group of stakeholders that serve such a role.
Yes. We have been considering a three-tier committee structure, including a Steering Committee, made up of approximately 20 business and community leaders in the City selected by our Executive Director, with input from staff and the consultant, a technical steering committee, which will include economic development, academic and other economic and community development professionals in the City/region, and finally, a Public Advisory Committee. The Public Advisory Committee, we are thinking, will be composed of up to 100 individuals. Those individuals will be selected via an application process. The preliminary application has already been developed, and can be accessed, here: https://goo.gl/forms/2tcUsFYHE4dGzPk23. This form has not yet been made available to the public, as we would first like to determine the specific role that this committee would play so that we can lay out appropriate expectations for any potential applicants at the time that we announce the application process.
Regarding the identified topics in the instructions pdf, did you want them answered in a stand-alone appendix, worked into the RFP response, or both?
We think it would be best to work your responses regarding the identified topics into the RFP, primarily. Then, if you would also like to submit a stand-alone appendix for clarity, that would be welcomed, as well.
Would consultants be allowed to add to their team of sub-consultants at this stage in the RFP process?
Yes. We do not mind if you add to your team. We just ask that you provide information about these added firms and explain your reason for adding them in your RFP response.
Would SLDC release a list of the sub-consultants for each of the six finalists?
After speaking with our legal department, they do not feel comfortable with us releasing this information.