How does the president of a Federal Reserve bank stay attuned to what’s happening in local economies?
For Jim Bullard, St. Louis Fed president and CEO, one of the most powerful ways is to speak with constituents firsthand—touring the district served by the St. Louis Fed. (Our district, the eighth of 12 Fed districts across the U.S., covers all of Arkansas and portions of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.)
Bullard's regular visits around the region, called “zone tours,” are action-packed. But they’re a vital way to hear directly from Main Street.
One trip was to Springfield, Mo., this past May. Bullard and St. Louis Fed colleagues headed west on I-44 (the old Route 66) to engage with local civic leaders and garner information from those who call the “Queen City of the Ozarks” home.
The first day, Bullard met with O’Reilly Auto Parts CEO and Co-President Greg Johnson. The nationwide auto parts store actually has its roots in Springfield and was founded there about 60 years ago.
Bullard also learned about Missouri State University’s IDEA Commons, which stands for innovation, design, entrepreneurship and the arts. He heard about future development opportunities by touring MSU’s Jordan Valley Innovation Center, which houses research centers and private high-tech companies. Part of that included a visit to the eFactory, a space for startup companies including Self Interactive, an interactive development studio. IDEA Commons also includes Brick City, which is home to the university’s art and design department.
Other engagements during the Springfield trip included:
Bullard’s zone tours help the St. Louis Fed foster relationships with the communities we serve, gain insights about the economic conditions on Main Street and deliver research produced by our experts. These tours often include meetings with representatives from area civic groups, bankers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and students. In addition, Bullard typically visits local plants, campuses and business incubators.
Why is Bullard committed to touring the Eighth District? Because data don’t tell the whole story. Getting out and meeting people where they are is the best way to ensure the diverse views and economic conditions of all areas are taken into account.
“There’s no substitute for visiting the diverse communities in the Eighth District,” Bullard said. “Experiencing firsthand what’s happening on the ground helps me connect directly with the Main Street economy. We build strong connections and get feedback on business, economic and banking conditions that helps inform my analysis and the discussion at meetings where monetary policy is made.”
Other 2018 tours include: