For the past 25-plus years, St. Charles County has been the fastest growing county in Missouri. While a significant portion of this growth can be attributed to urban flight from St. Louis, with nearly 40 percent of the county's growth over this time coming from people within the region relocating to St. Charles County, the remaining growth has been driven by individuals new to the region seeking the best quality of life, including good schools, safe neighborhoods, and economic opportunities for their families. In order to preserve the factors that make St. Charles County attractive to all, a smart growth strategy is essential.
It is important to differentiate between mere "growth" and "investment." While growth can be spontaneous and unplanned, investment implies a deliberate approach that considers long-term sustainability. By being tactical and strategic, we can ensure that new developments align with the county's vision and contribute positively. Furthermore, the county should focus on areas where momentum already exists. By building upon the successes and strengths of existing communities, we can foster growth while avoiding disjointed development patterns. As a collar county to a metro region, St. Charles County has a unique blend of both urban and rural areas. Some have said we are actually two counties within one boundary. This situation has challenges when creating growth strategies. Our rural way of life outside of the golden triangle and interstate corridors is home to places like America's First Wine Appellation in Augusta, thriving hunting and fishing preserves bordering our expansive waterways, and other attributes that are uniquely St. Charles, and carry a heritage over 200 years old. This is why communication and coordination are key components of any successful growth strategy. By fostering open dialogue among stakeholders, including residents, businesses, and government agencies, we can ensure that everyone's interests are considered. This will facilitate a shared understanding of the vision for the county and promote a sense of ownership and collective responsibility.
In terms of economic development, I am encouraging a focus of nurturing small businesses. A thriving small business community provides a solid foundation for investment growth, as it diversifies the economy and creates opportunities for local entrepreneurs. Small businesses have a vested interest in the success of our area, as they are rooted in the community and employ local residents. Supporting small businesses also reduces reliance on a single industry, providing greater financial stability through a diversity of industry sectors.
While maintaining growth is important, it is equally crucial to control the pace and direction of growth. A strategic approach will ensure that the county's unique attributes are preserved, leading to long-term success. By implementing a smart growth strategy that emphasizes investment over mere expansion, focuses on existing momentum, and fosters collaboration among stakeholders, St. Charles County can continue to be a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family.