ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- On September 18, Emerson's (NYSE: EMR) chairman and CEO David N. Farr unveiled a comprehensive, multifaceted education and employment program to support renewed community enrichment and development in the state's Ferguson and North County areas. In announcing the program, called “Ferguson Forward,” Farr told a gathering of community and business leaders at a meeting of the St. Louis Regional Chamber that the program represents “renewed commitment” to the people in an area surrounding Emerson’s headquarters – which has remained at its Ferguson location for the past 70 years.
According to a company statement, the program will be a combination of significant new funding and rebalancing existing commitments to the United Way for at least the next two years. Farr also called on other St. Louis businesses to join Emerson and double the commitment. Emerson says the new program was created to support the Ferguson community with four pillars of focus, supporting a range of ages and developmental stages. These four areas of focus include: early childhood education; youth jobs; scholarships for college, technical and trade careers; and business development training.
"Ferguson is our home and has been for the last 70 years,” Farr said. “We choose to be here and are committed to this community, especially now in its increased time of need. We believe in hope and opportunity and want to help remove barriers so that more of our neighbors can succeed.”
Emerson asserts that its new “Ferguson Forward” programs "will be targeted to assure educational resources are available when they are needed – starting from the beginning. Early childhood education improves school performance, raises math and language abilities, sharpens thinking and attention, reduces special education placement and lowers school dropout rates," notes the company. Emerson says it is already working with the New Horizons Early Childhood Education Center in Ferguson, and also is developing a plan for an early childhood learning resource center that will give support to all early childhood programs in the area.
Recognizing that "paid work experience, training, mentoring and job retention can and does have a direct and significant effect in reducing high rates of youth helplessness, violence and crime," a $750,000 funding commitment from the company will go to support youth employment in the North County area. Emerson says the “Ferguson Forward” program will also tap into MERS Goodwill Industries and the existing STL Youth Jobs program and will include funding for 100 jobs for eligible Ferguson-area youth between the ages of 16 and 23.
Through scholarship opportunities, the program will encourage education and training for important business and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines as well as training for technical and trade jobs of the future. Emerson will maintain its earlier support for the Opportunity Scholars Program through the University of Missouri-St. Louis which specifically benefits under-represented or first-generation students in the STEM disciplines. Emerson notes that it contributed $1.5 million toward past work in this successful program and will provide now another $ 1.5 million -- $300,000 a year for the next five years.
All of those funds will be directed to 30 scholarships annually for students who are graduates of schools in districts neighboring Emerson's headquarters, including those in: Ferguson-Florissant, Normandy, Jennings, Hazelwood, Riverview Gardens and Ritenour. Preference will be given to students studying business and STEM, and other disciplines also will be considered. In addition, the university will provide support services including peer-mentors, tutors and other retention services to maximize the opportunities for these students to succeed.
Further, Emerson has chosen to expand an already strong partnership with Ranken Technical College by committing $1.75 million over five years to provide scholarships for students from Ferguson and the North County area studying technical and trade skills. Additionally, Emerson has committed another $100,000 over the next four years to provide scholarships for students from the Ferguson area to attend Cardinal Ritter High School, which has a near 100 percent college attendance rate.
The fourth pillar of “Ferguson Forward” program supports business development training. Emerson employees and managers will offer their experience and counsel to men and women who are starting, growing or strengthening businesses in the Ferguson and North County area. Emerson employees will counsel on a wide range of business needs, from accounting, finance, legal, logistics, IT, human resources, marketing and more. Emerson's CEO Farr said he is hoping that more businesses will take part in this area as well.
In a press release, Emerson noted that its "Charitable Trust and thousands of Emerson employees over the years have contributed significantly to Ferguson, North County and the entire St. Louis region. In the past 10 years, they together have donated more than $250 million to altruistic causes. In the 70 years Emerson has been located in Ferguson, an estimated $700 million in charitable contributions have been made by the company, the trust and its employees."
Along with the announcement of the “Ferguson Forward” program, Emerson's Farr also emphasized the company’s commitment to growth in Ferguson by telling the group that work has been well underway for several months on a new $25 million, 150,000 square-foot facility on the Emerson Ferguson campus that will hold 200 jobs transferred from another area location. “We do it because it’s our home,” Farr said, adding that Emerson anticipates the manufacturing/fabrication jobs in it will grow over time.