Town Talk Features

Get to Know: Kathy Osborn

kathy osborn
president and ceo, regional business council 

As leader of the Regional Business Council, Kathy Osborn has a mission to make St. Louis a better place for everyone who lives here. The RBC brings together local business leaders to accomplish public policy, talent and workforce development, education reform, and diversity, inclusion and quality of life initiatives.

Since Kathy took the helm in 1999, the organization has grown to include 100 business leaders representing approximately 125,000 employees in the region. Many of the projects it takes on are difficult and arduous but necessary for St. Louis’ future, such as its recent success helping Saint Louis Public Schools regain elected control after 12 years of governance by a state-appointed board.

Putting St. Louis to work …
For St. Louis to grow, we need the right talent. The RBC Young Professionals Network provides development and networking opportunities for more than 4,200 professionals of color, most with multiple degrees, who live and work in St. Louis. And there are many jobs where you don’t need a college degree but you do need some training—that’s why the RBC is rebranding skilled careers and has developed a web portal called STL Works so people can find out more about them.

Investing in our neighborhoods …
We’re working on neighborhood revitalization in North County. It’s exciting to see people feeling optimistic about their neighborhoods as we help them take down vacant homes and make the streets safer. We’re also making sure those neighborhoods have the services they need, such as health care and access to jobs and education.

Anyone can do it …
Civic engagement can occur at all levels, from the individual who spends time organizing church events to the larger-scale projects the RBC tackles. This is important work—our country is at its best when the private and public sectors work together. The public sector has an important role but ultimately can’t do everything, so it’s necessary for individual citizens to step in and help. We’re lucky that St. Louis has a strong history of volunteerism.

Land of opportunity …
St. Louis is known as the Gateway to the West, but maybe it’s time for us to be known as the Gateway to Opportunity. We should be a place where all people have access to good education, a safe community and a rewarding job. In order to do that, we must be a more connected community and more cohesive in how we think about things. My hope is that we will address some of our complicated issues and figure out how to work together, both the city and the county and beyond.

A reason for hope …
St. Louis is becoming a more diverse and global city, which is important. I’m hopeful when I look downtown and see investments by individual businesses as well as private investments in landmarks like Soldiers Memorial and Bob O’Loughlin’s work at Union Station. Exciting things are happening here.

Above and beyond …
I’m involved in a number of nonprofit boards. Some directly relate to my work with the RBC, such as my roles on the Airport Commission and Police Foundation, which the RBC helped start. The foundation has raised millions of dollars for much-needed technology and equipment for officers in our community. I also serve on the United Way board and executive committee, which raised $14 million last year for 150 nonprofits in St. Louis.

Early impression …
When I was in high school, a teacher referred me to the Mark Twain Summer Institute. This doesn’t exist anymore, but it was meant for gifted students—which I was not. I was shocked she recommended me, but it ended up being life-changing. As part of the program, I studied utopian literature, which opened my mind and perspective on things.

Weekend bliss …
Anytime I’m not working, I like to spend time with my two grandchildren. They’re bilingual—their mom is from Guatemala—and I’m so fortunate that they live in St. Louis. My favorite spot is Forest Park. It’s a true treasure, and I love taking my grandkids there. I’m on the emeritus board of Forest Park Forever and was a board member for many years.

No place like home …
The people make St. Louis a great place to live. Right now, it’s far more diverse and eclectic than it’s ever been, and I find that exciting. While it has its challenges, it is an accessible city and I’ve always found it a good place to live. It’s the right size for individuals to truly make a difference.

Photo: Bill Barrett

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