Member Spotlight - Q&A with Cara Weber
Vice President of Business Attraction
Member Spotlight Q&A
Cara Weber is vice president of business attraction at AllianceSTL, the business-attraction initiative of Greater St. Louis, Inc. that works to promote the competitive advantages of locating and investing within the 15-county, bi-state metropolitan area.
Cara works with companies and site selection consultants to highlight Greater St. Louis’ advantages for business investment. She finds customized solutions by facilitating connections and leveraging the region’s assets to meet companies’ specific needs. Cara loves opportunities to support those in the corporate real estate industry that are actively pursuing tenants, making net-new investments in the region. She and the AllianceSTL team provide marketing support, research and connections to the best regional partners who can speak to St. Louis’ strengths in areas such as talent and business incentives, then tailor a plan for success in the region. Cara and AllianceSTL work confidentially, complimentary and comprehensively.
Cara started her career in economic development in 2010 at Missouri Partnership, the state’s business attraction economic development agency. She also worked in the Site Selection and Incentives Advisory practice group at Duff & Phelps before joining the economic development team at the St. Louis Regional Chamber in 2018. In addition to her involvement with CREW-St. Louis, Cara is a member of CCIM, ULI, Missouri Economic Development Council and Illinois Economic Development Agency. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and is currently pursuing her MBA there as well.
Q: When did you decide to get into the commercial real estate industry? Was it always your focus?
A: I had planned on attending law school and took my LSAT just months before the big market crash. As I watched the world change around me, I felt that I needed to take a different direction with my career, which led me to think about what I could do to contribute to the recovery of my community in those difficult times. That was how I discovered economic development. My first job was in a supporting role, mainly helping to coordinate RFI/RFP responses on behalf of the State of Missouri for competitive economic development projects. I knew nothing about commercial real estate at the time but learned the basics for industrial and office-type users.
Q: What are some of the things you love about your job?
A: There is absolutely nothing better than getting a “win” for Greater St. Louis. The new jobs and resulting payroll that are created by attracting and growing companies in the region can mean all the difference to individuals and their trajectory for their lives. I believe that the work we do helps people further their careers, fund down payments on homes, send their kids to college and more. I look forward to our work and our region taking a more inclusive approach to economic development over the coming years as we flesh out the recommendations of the STL2030 Jobs Plan.
Q: What is your CREW-St. Louis origin? When did you join? Why did you become a member?
A: Some really wonderful people I had the opportunity to work with in my consulting and economic development roles told me about the organization. Natasha Das (Stinson) and Monica Conners (Ameren Missouri) were the ones to encourage me to join, and I am so glad they did. In my role in economic development, I place a very high value on our collaboration with the real estate community because just about every economic development project we win results in a real estate transaction — we all win together! I want AllianceSTL to be seen as an excellent service provider to the CRE community, and CREW has allowed me to forge some really great relationships.
Q: What was the first CREW event you attended and what were your impressions?
A: The first CREW event I attended was the Signature Event; CREW felt like such a welcoming and supportive community. I remember Mickey Warriner sat at my table and made me feel so welcomed and included. Wendy Timm was honored that night, and her daughter gave a speech that really moved me. As a mother of very young children dealing with the challenges of long hours and constant work travel, watching Wendy’s daughter’s pride in her mother’s work gave me a lot of hope about the future and what my career and family could be.
Q: Please name a few of the projects you’ve been involved in, specifically in the St. Louis area that you are proud of.
A: The largest “win” I’ve been involved in recently has been the Accenture Federal Services project. AllianceSTL was not involved in the real estate identification for that project but instead was tasked with making the case for St. Louis against other markets. We had to demonstrate that we had the available diverse talent among other risk and cost diversification considerations. We were successful, with AFS selecting St. Louis to place 1,400 new technology jobs in the coming years at Maryville Center in St. Louis County. Mark Palmer at CBRE represented AFS for their real estate needs.
Other recent wins have included the location of Heartland Dental and Veterans United Home Loans. Similarly, we provided information supporting the business case for the St. Louis region.
Q: What other associations or volunteer activities are you involved with?
A: I’m a member of CCIM, ULI, Missouri Economic Development Council and Illinois Economic Development Agency. I currently serve on the St. Louis Fashion Fund Impact Leadership Team.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted you and your organization?
A: 2020 was a monumental year for the regional economic development community in St. Louis. It brought about the merger of five different economic development organizations, including AllianceSTL, to create Greater St. Louis, Inc. We are grateful for the leadership of the regional business community in supporting the creation of this new organization dedicated to inclusive economic growth and improving St. Louis’ global competitiveness.
Because of COVID-19, my colleagues and I at AllianceSTL have not been able to travel outside of our market to work directly with site selection consultants and companies. We have remained active, though, and we got creative in finding ways to do “virtual” outreach. This last year has been a good opportunity for planning as the STL 2030 Jobs Plan
was developed, and now we are working on strategies to align with target industry recommendations.
Q: What else would you like your fellow CREW-St. Louis members to know about you?
A: My husband and I live in University City with our two children, Jack (7) and Mary (3), and our dog Ted (13). I am originally from a small town called Mt. Pulaski, Illinois, which is about 25 miles northeast of Springfield, Illinois, and I am the first first-born in seven generations of my father’s family that is not a farmer (yet?).