Laclede’s Landing has long been known as a great place to dine and play, but it’s now becoming one of the city’s sought-after communities for innovative employers, such as Blue Stingray, a booming software development firm specializing in enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, e-commerce sites and custom cloud applications. Since moving to The Landing just over three years ago, the company has nearly tripled in sales and continues to increase its revenue every year.
The recent momentum on Laclede’s Landing and its ideal location attracted Blue Stingray founder and CEO Brian Rehg, who has continued to provide the vision and strategy for the agency since its launch in 2009. “It seems like every few months there’s a new tech, marketing or big branding company moving in,” said Rehg. “Between the sun beaming off the cobblestones, big open areas with huge wooden beams, and tech-friendly spaces to build off of, it’s definitely a great place to be.”
With over 25 years of experience in corporate web applications and developing enterprise internet/cloud solutions, Rehg has learned that behind every successful software solution is a team of strong engineers. Though Blue Stingray specializes in built-to-order cloud-based systems, with the team’s diverse expertise, the company has excelled in all aspects of custom software development – handling projects for Fortune 100 companies, international enterprises, and local businesses. Rehg and his team of 20 employees – including the same three that started this journey– value the importance of building long-term relationships with clients and getting to know their businesses inside and out, guaranteeing that the solutions they provide fit perfectly with their clients’ evolving business needs.
As Blue Stingray’s growth accelerates, so have their efforts to support charitable organizations and embrace a strong connection to the community. And most recently their focus has turned to an initiative aimed at helping to develop the region’s technology workforce and bolster diversity in the field. Earlier this summer, the company opened the Monocle Learning Center within its offices on Laclede’s Landing as an educational resource to assist minorities seeking education and resources regarding technology. The company is providing these resources at no cost to participants. This exciting addition also provides Blue Stingray employees an opportunity to personally give back by conducting training and support sessions.
“While St. Louis is a pretty big tech hub that offers many opportunities for programmers, there are a lot of the larger companies that are shorthanded,” said Rehg. “You look out to the minority communities and there’s nothing in their schools that lead them to the tech industry. Our goal is to train and mentor young people from underserved communities, not only in basic computer and software development skills, but also helping with resumes and interviews to lead them into a job within the tech industry.”
A group of students from Join Hands East St. Louis were among the first people to explore the new Learning Center, receiving a personal tour of the facility from Rehg and getting a chance to interact with the company’s new high-tech collaborative robot, Baxter.
Join Hands ESL is a small, community based not-for-profit organization founded in 1990 to serve children and families in East St. Louis, Illinois. The organization builds personal relationships with children and families through youth programming, mentoring programs and the Ubuntu Center for Peace. Through its various programs, Join Hands ESL prioritizes and supports the pursuit of education as a pathway out of poverty. With East St. Louis ranking as one of the poorest cities in the nation, Join Hands ESL partners and collaborates with many organizations like Blue Stingray to better serve the needs of the children of East St. Louis.
“Where we come from, not a lot of people are familiar with this kind of stuff or have ever been introduced to the tech world,” said Vanessa Wright, co-director of the Dream Path Teen Mentoring Program. “The technology workforce just continues to grow, so it’s great for the kids to be exposed to an industry that’s never going to go away.”
Rehg also mentors young adults who are interested in learning about careers in technology and believes that there is a lot of opportunity for individuals to learn technology on their own. Dominique Lewis, a student at Fontbonne University, met Rehg through Boys Hope Girls Hope St. Louis, an organization that helps academically motivated students rise above disadvantaged backgrounds and become successful in college and beyond. As a double major in computer science and computer engineering, her strong passion for technology and learning led her to a paid internship with the company. Like Dominique, other participants in the mentoring program can shadow Blue Stingray employees to see how the staff puts their programming, design, and marketing skills to practice.
Students in programs like St. Louis-based LaunchCode, which places aspiring computer programmers in tech apprenticeships and jobs, are also encouraged to take advantage of the new space to develop additional skills outside their coursework. In the future, Rehg hopes to open the doors of the facility to host open seminars, round table talks and more to discuss the endless opportunities in the tech industry with members of the community.
In the United States, there is an overwhelming demand for programmers. According to a recent Gartner study, an estimated 1 million computer programming-related jobs are expected to be unfilled in 2020. Like Blue Stingray, many tech organizations are now turning to non-traditional applicants and internal training to fill these gaps.
Laclede’s Landing is downtown St. Louis’ oldest district and only riverfront live-work-play destination. The nine-block area today features an evolving business, residential, dining and entertainment mix that makes The Landing a one-of-a-kind neighborhood. Just steps away from the Gateway Arch, Laclede’s Landing offers a historical experience with charming cobblestone streets and century-old buildings overlooking the mighty Mississippi River.