An Eye on the Future

City of O’Fallon, Missouri

With over 80,000 people residing in the city and a number of businesses calling it home, O’Fallon is becoming known throughout the Midwest – and the nation – as a great place to live and conduct business.

O’Fallon is positioned between two major national corridors, Interstates 64 and 70 and the city has taken advantage of its location to attract businesses and people from all around the world. The area along Interstate 64 is known as the “High-Tech Corridor,” and is home to numerous business and data centers. One of the most notable is MasterCard’s Global Technology and Operations Center which employs 2800 people and where every transaction for MasterCard is processed. The establishment of the operations center has fueled growth for other technological companies in the area. O’Fallon is also headquarters for CitiMortgage, the city’s largest employer with 4900 employees. Other notable companies include APC-Schneider Electric, Fireman’s Fund Insurance, SunEdison, and True Manufacturing.

Economic Development Director Mike Hurlbert spoke about O’Fallon, its history and economic initiatives driving business into the city.

Mr. Hurlbert grew up in the area and has witnessed the growth throughout the city. “My family moved to the area in 1984, and it’s still amazing to see areas that were once horse farms are now commercial property and subdivisions,” he says.

Indeed, O’Fallon has come a long way since its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century when it was established as a railroad stop in 1856. Nicholas Krekel, a German immigrant was O’Fallon’s first resident and also served as the first postmaster and first railroad agent. Krekel also operated a store out of his house, which was the first built in O’Fallon. His older brother, Judge Arnold Krekel purchased land, plotted a town and donated some of the property for a new railroad line which would link the area to St. Louis.

O’Fallon was incorporated in 1912 with about 600 residents. The city grew slowly well until the early 1970s. It then began experiencing growth in the 1980s as suburban expansion from St. Louis began to spill over into St. Charles County where O’Fallon is located. By the mid-1990s, O’Fallon began an aggressive program of infrastructure improvements that supported residential, retail and manufacturing growth, resulting in a twenty-five percent increase in the number of jobs.

Mr. Hurlbert says this aggressive approach still keeps O’Fallon an attractive place for businesses. “We initiated an economic development strategic plan in 2013 focusing on business retention, attraction, marketing and regulation,” he explains. “We have thirty-eight objectives for those four goals, one of which was the creation of a new position of Economic Development Coordinator, who serves as an ombudsman for the development process and a point of contact for permit applications, zoning approval and development approvals to ensure applicants are being processed effectively.”

The city also works to send out one attraction letter per week to different companies, highlighting the city’s strengths. “We like to emphasize economic and demographic information and how a company would be a good fit in the city. We also work with real estate brokers and partnerships with other local chambers to find companies that are looking for new locations, providing information for people who are looking and need space.”

One recent example of these efforts includes the headquarter relocation of Air Evac Lifeteam to the city in 2012, bringing hundreds of jobs to the city. Air Evac is a leading provider of air medical transportation to rural communities throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

O’Fallon’s economic development team is known for its aggressive business retention efforts which pay off in keeping businesses in the city. “We have at least thirty monthly visits for business retention,” says Mr. Hurlbert. “It’s an important part of our effort to make sure we keep businesses within city and assist them to stay successful.”

The city also has a number of programs in place to keep those businesses successful. One notable example is the Keep It in the “O” campaign, which is an initiative for residents to shop locally. “The city pays for advertising (paper, print and online), and the communications department visits four local businesses each month to highlight on a local cable access channel as well as our city website and YouTube channel. This is a huge part of our marketing efforts and businesses love to take advantage of the opportunity to be featured.”

O’Fallon’s business assistance program, Open in the “O”, started in 2013 to help local businesses and corporations adjust to the area and ease the process involved when businesses have dealings with the city. “We meet with potential projects or businesses, address concerns, and answer questions up front to save time and money,” explains Mr. Hurlbert. “Open in the “O” is an opportunity and example of why we’re inviting for businesses.”

Other plans include developing further along the Interstate 64 corridor to bring in additional business. “Our strategic plan has special projects in place, including the high-tech corridor branding efforts with assistance from the Economic Development Council of St. Charles County,” shares Mr. Hurlbert. “We’re highlighting available opportunities to companies.”

Some of these additions include the potential development of a renewable energy research park, which was initially planned years ago but stalled due to the recession. The city, however, is considering plans to start up again.

Additionally, electric company Ameren Missouri recently broke ground on what will be one of the state’s largest solar farms in the city. Covering about fifteen acres with over 19,000 solar panels, the solar farm will be able to power about 650 average size homes in the city per year. “We are proud O’Fallon was chosen for this project,” says Mr. Hurlbert. “We’re making this a part of our attraction efforts, looking to diversify our economy.”

With its eye on the future, O’Fallon is also focusing on downtown development and improving the Interstate 70 corridor. “Downtown O’Fallon is our historic hub and its revitalization is an important part of our economic development efforts.” This could include streetscape improvements, public parking, public space utilization and additional opportunities for private property owners. A key goal is for vacant property within downtown to eventually be developed with mixed-use retail and office concepts.

Other future plans include more commercial opportunities. There are a large number of retail concentrations in St. Charles County, many of them right in O’Fallon, including big box stores and strip mall centers. There are over 300 restaurants in O’Fallon, and there are plans to build more in the city.

This aggressive approach toward making O’Fallon an attractive place to do business has been noticed by people looking to live and work in the area. The city has grown from a population of 8,677 in 1980 to about 83,000 people today, and the area continues to grow. “O’Fallon has a high quality of life,” Mr. Hurlbert emphasizes. “We’re considered to be one of the safest and best cities to live in and we have lots of accolades to point to.”

Some of these accolades include being named as one of the top 100 cities to live in by Money Magazine in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. In 2013, Nerdwallet named O’Fallon as the fifth best city in the state to find a job and is consistently ranked as a top ten city for business in other publications. “Growth is a symptom of demand. People like working and living here, and that continues to draw people in, growth continues to move forward and make more opportunities available.”

To be sure, O’Fallon has many activities and attractions to keep its residents busy. The city has a large number of parks with sporting leagues and tournaments scheduled throughout the year. One notable event is the Fourth of July Heritage and Freedom Fest. Outside of the City of St. Louis celebrations, it’s one of the largest festivals in the area. The festival attracts over 50,000 people over a period of three days and festivities include live bands, carnivals and fireworks.

Mr. Hurlbert is himself a member of the O’Fallon Convention and Visitors Bureau and understands the importance of tourism. “Tourism is important to the economic development of O’Fallon,” he says. “We continuously work with the business community when people from out of town come to the city for meetings, conventions, and sporting events.”

The city also boasts a number of historic sites including the Log Cabin Museum and Zumwalt’s Fort, which provided shelter to families during the War of 1812. Founder’s Day events commemorate its role in the history of O’Fallon.

With its aggressive approach to attracting business and residents, O’Fallon has proven that it is more than just a mere suburb, but an economic powerhouse in the St. Louis area. “We’re open for business,” says Mr. Hurlbert. “We have everything here that everybody could want.”

July 22, 2018, 2:58 AM EDT

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