Member Spotlight - Q&A - Allison Gray of Steadfast City

June 29, 2022

Member Spotlight - Q&A - Allison Gray of Steadfast City

Allison Gray-Gunsten
Vice President & Midwest Region Leader
Steadfast City Economic & Community Partners

Allison Gray-Gunsten is the Vice President and Midwest Region Leader at Steadfast City Economic and Community Partners. Steadfast City is a consulting company focused on helping communities, businesses and not-for-profit organizations DEVELOP BETTER. With a focus on detail and analysis, Allison works alongside the Steadfast team to assist local governments, companies and not-for-profit corporations with economic incentives, development strategy, site selection, thought leadership and more. She has been working on catalytic projects in and out of St. Louis within Steadfast’s market research and planning group and also through the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program.

Allison grew up in the small town of Fairfield, IL, where, as a kid, she would dream about living in St. Louis. She is now a proud St. Louis City resident who lives with her husband Sean and spends her extra time playing outside and learning new arts and crafts.

Q:    When did you decide to get into the commercial real estate industry? Was it always your focus?
A:     I graduated with a master’s degree in economics and finance in 2008 when the Great Recession was in full swing, which wasn’t the best time to enter the business world. I knew I wanted to focus on numbers and research, but I didn’t limit my job search to certain industries. I was able to continue my college job for a year and completely lucked into a role as a research specialist at Gateway Commercial (now Colliers International). I had no idea I would end up finding commercial real estate so interesting, but thankfully, I was able to work with people who were experts in their field and who were also open to sharing their knowledge with me. I need to thank Gwen Knight for convincing me to go for a consulting research role at the St. Louis Regional Freightway, which was the learning experience I needed for my role at Steadfast City. 
Q:    What are some of the things you love about your job?
A:     Being a part of the Steadfast City team has been rewarding, fun and challenging. I get to work on impactful projects that are really making a difference across the U.S. I started when we were just a two-person office; being able to help Steadfast City grow has been an incredible learning experience. It also sounds cliché, but my job is truly different each and every day. Within consulting you sometimes have no clue what you’ll be working on in a month from now and that’s been an exciting (and sometimes scary) part of the job. Steadfast City has not only grown based on the number of employees or the cities we work in, but we’ve also been growing the type of projects we can work on and that’s been largely based on the skillset and knowledge base of the people who have joined our firm. Meeting my colleagues and figuring out what we can work together on has been an incredibly fulfilling process. 
Q:    What is your CREW-St. Louis origin? When did you join? Why did you become a member?
A:    While I’ve been attending CREW-St. Louis events for more than a decade, I used to just tag along with CREW-St. Louis members from the Colliers St. Louis office. Then, when I started at Steadfast City in 2020, I joined with my own membership. I often get to create partnerships and collaborate on projects within the real estate development world, and CREW-St. Louis is the best way to meet great women and businesses.
Q:    What was the first CREW event you attended and what were your impressions?
A:     One of my first events was the Signature Event. It was a great night that celebrated some of the most hardworking women in the industry. They always feel like such special and supportive programs that really give people the chance to spotlight some great things that are happening in St. Louis. 
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:     I sound like a broken record, but St. Louis has some great projects happening! Steadfast City has been working with Tabernacle CDC on some of their development, grant writing and fundraising projects focused on North City. I’ve been working with CareSTL Health, which is a federally qualified health center working on new developments in North City as well. Both organizations have leadership teams that are focused on big goals.
Q:    What other associations or volunteer activities are you involved with?
A:     I have been involved with the St. Louis branch of the Urban Land Institute. I’m currently serving as the co-chair of the programs committee and am on the Women’s Leadership Initiative committee as well. It’s another wonderful organization that brings people together who are working on some great projects within the St. Louis region and around the U.S. 
Q:   How has COVID-19 impacted you and your organization?
A:    I think it’s interesting that Steadfast City (and specifically our growth) has somewhat been born during COVID. I started in June 2020 as the first employee. At first, we hired people who we had strictly met online since consulting is a job that can be done anywhere as long as you have a laptop and a cell phone (and hopefully good internet). We have been able to capitalize on the work-from-home trend by hiring some amazing people who started out purely remote. Now, we have an additional office with three employees in Rochester, NY, and a combination of people working remotely from locations throughout Ohio and in Brooklyn. 
Q:    What else would you like your fellow CREW-St. Louis members to know about you?
A:     I love being a St. Louis cheerleader and tour guide. Do you have a cool project you’re working on? I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT! I spent a decade doing the quarterly stats at Colliers/Gateway Commercial, and I am still obsessed with tracking the new construction projects and the exciting developments that pop up all over the region. Do you need suggestions on where to take your college friend when she visits you next week? I’d love to give you far too many suggestions. Also, I’m always interested in hearing about people’s favorite local coffee shop, microbrewery, or wine bar, thrift store or antique mall.