> Construction Forum

We Believe That Our Role As A Collaboration Builder

“St. Louis doesn’t do change well,” Joe Blanner, president and co-founder of Construction Forum STL (CFSTL) has often said. It was precisely because of the STL Region’s need for a more inclusive, transparent, and proactive approach to change related to issues affecting the STL Region that the Forum was founded.

“I grew weary after decades of sitting in the same meetings, with the same faces, talking about the same issues, with nothing ever changing,” said Tom Finan, a publisher in the local construction industry for four decades and Forum co-founder with Blanner. In 2010 Finan, who has been CFSTL’s executive director from its beginning, published a call for an industry forum and followed up with a white paper that was an action plan.

In late 2012 Blanner and Finan came together for the first time to discuss his idea. A year later, on November 20, 2013, the Forum was launched as a “member-less” nonprofit civic organization. Three weeks later, the fledgling organization held its first event. Over 350 people attended the program.

The mission of Construction Forum STL is, “Building the St. Louis region’s tomorrow, through inclusive engagement, unbiased communication, and focused action.” The Forum’s four pillar areas for action are workforce, inclusion/diversity, regionalism, and collaboration.

“We believe that our role as a collaboration-builder, convener, and communication channel with organizations across disciplines and geographies can clear pathways to action that benefits all 2.8 million people in our two state, 12-county, region,” Joe Blanner said.

The metrics of the Forum and related organizations it has formed validate the way in which its mission and approach have been embraced by people in the STL Region. In its first five years, the Forum sent almost 5 million of its twice-weekly email newsletters. Event registrations topped 10,000. The website ConstructForSTL.org receives over 200,000 page views per year.

In its brief history, the Forum has received local, regional, and national media attention, recognition, and awards for its work in its core areas of workforce, inclusion/diversity, regionalism, and collaboration. CFSTL’s 18-month programming effort to examine true regional governance— including national speakers and a whitepaper series—was well-attended and extensively covered in print and electronic media.

The Construction Forum Education Foundation (CFEF), a nonprofit founded by the CFSTL, has built collaborations with union training programs, industry associations, on-the-ground community agencies, and workforce development organizations in developing workforce strategies and programs. It has participated in many outreach programs.

CFEF is developing technology to meet the Digital Native generation where they live, including the portal website YeahIBuiltThat.org (Yeah, I built that!) and a data platform that will aggregate metrics and career information.

The Forum also co-founded the Gateway Welcome Project (GWP), an organization dedicated to welcoming immigrant/ refugee children to the community. GWP completed a $250,000 soccer facility in 2016 at a school for new immigrants and is currently working on a $500,000 project for a downtown center serving an at-risk population that is 50:50 immigrant/African American.

On June 12, 2019, national regionalism expert David Rusk returned to tie a bow on the Forum regionalism speaker series he began in 2017. Rusk also wrote 11 CFSTL white papers, examining what true collaboration could look like for the region.

In his introduction of Rusk, Forum President Joe Blanner said, “There’s been a lot of talk about regionalism and about efforts to move our region forward. We at the Forum feel that it’s really important not to oversimplify these things, but to really examine them and try to figure out a clear path that will make sense and represent progress for our region.”

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