Janet Wilding has more than 30 years of experience working in urban planning and helping to spur economic growth across the St. Louis region.
Wilding is now deploying that expertise in her new role as the assistant vice chancellor for economic and community development at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. She started the position on Aug. 28.
“We are thrilled to have Janet as part of our team,” said Chris Spilling, UMSL’s vice chancellor for research and economic and community development. “She’s got a great background in community and economic development across St. Louis, working on projects such as the Great Rivers Greenway, the revitalization of the Gateway Arch and the 39 North Agtech Innovation District. Her knowledge and connections will be a significant asset to our university as we continue to transform our campus and position it to meet the needs of the St. Louis region and state into the future.”
Wilding spent the past year as the vice president of business attraction at Greater St. Louis Inc., where she worked to bring together business and civic leaders with the goal of creating jobs and investment, expanding inclusive economic growth and improving the region’s global competitiveness.
But she was attracted by the opportunity to narrow her focus and help support and guide the work underway at UMSL.
“At this stage of my career, I’m really interested in trying to leverage my experience to make an impact on St. Louis, and I just feel like UMSL being an anchor institution in the St. Louis region really is doing it and also has the potential to do more in terms of really helping to redevelop North County,” Wilding said. “When I read the 2021 Master Plan and heard about some of the new initiatives under the Transform UMSL banner, I just thought, ‘That looks really interesting.’ It had the elements of things that I had enjoyed working on before. There’s a lot of real estate development going on. There’s a lot of community engagement that UMSL has done for years and that I was very interested in.
“It looked like a great opportunity and would use a lot of the different skills that I had acquired in other jobs throughout my career.”
UMSL has long been a leader in workforce development in St. Louis with nearly 75% percent of its graduates remaining in the region to live and work. The university is also expanding its efforts to help people already in the workforce learn new skills to meet the needs of employers and advance in their careers.
Those things make it important to the future health of the region.
“Workforce is the No. 1 thing all economic developers talk about – from the site selection consultants to the companies themselves to the professionals that are trying to help companies relocate,” Wilding said. “Everybody’s thinking about workforce and so the educational institutions that train people – whether that’s at the university level or the community college level or even certificate programs and apprenticeship programs – those are critical for the future. It also gives us an opportunity to make sure we are really offering opportunity to everybody in the community.”
Wilding earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and English at Saint Louis University, and she did graduate work in urban design and planning and technical drafting at the University of Washington.
As she’s advanced in her career – including five years as a senior project manager at the St. Louis County Economic Council, 11 years as the deputy director for administration at Great Rivers Greenway, 2½ as a consultant working on behalf of the Gateway Arch on the CityArchRiver Project, and six years as vice president of 39 North and Major Projects for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership – she’s learned more and more how critical it is to engage with local neighborhoods and municipalities to see projects to successful completion.
That is true of UMSL as it implements its master plan, consolidating its academic core on North Campus and clearing the way for the development of the North St. Louis County Business and Workforce District.
“There has been a lot of work in the community, at the very local level, to make sure that the community buys into what’s going on here,” Wilding said. “I think that’s just critical.”
She’s eager to help see the vision to completion.
“I really feel like this is a great fit because I’ve kind of spent my career trying to do quality of life types of projects and things that you can see, touch and feel and really experience,” Wilding said. “This is a great opportunity to work in an institution that really is an anchor in the St. Louis region and very important to people.”