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St. Louis County Executive Unveils 39 North AgTech District
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), December 11, 2016 - St. Louis County will have a new AgTech innovation district to build on the area's leadership position in this field and to attract startups and AgTech companies from around the world.

AgTech is the overarching industry of agriculture technology and its intersection with plant science. This includes the research of plants and animals; development of technical machines and chemicals to improve farming, and improving production of foodstuffs.

In a release, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said "In short, AgTech is about how we use our knowledge of plant science and the latest technology to find better ways to feed the world. There has never been a time when this work was more important."

The new district will be known as 39 North. The 39th parallel north is the physical location of the district. It is also the coordinates of the prime agricultural belt across the world.

With Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG (Bio Research and Development Growth) Park, Monsanto and the Helix Center Biotech Incubator as anchors, the district will encompass 600 acres stretching from:

  • Bauer Boulevard to the north,
  • The edge of Monsanto's campus to the south,
  • Warson Road to the east, and
  • Old Olive Street Road to the west
The goal of 39 North is to bring new AgTech jobs to St. Louis County. "St. Louis County is already recognized as a global hub of plant science research," St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said. "We have the highest concentration in the world of plant science PhDs and 39 North is a natural extension of an established industry. We will continue to attract emerging AgTech businesses with diverse talent and true vision."

The 39 North campus is wholly within the City of Creve Coeur and borders the City of Olivette to the east. A $500,000 federal planning grant awarded in May 2015 funded the development of the 39 North project. The St. Louis Economic Development partnership spearheaded the planning work that has been under way for 19 months.

"39 North will attract people and businesses from around the world," said Sheila Sweeney, CEO of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. "The discoveries made at 39 North will improve the human condition and we are excited about the possibilities for the district, including tying it in to other agricultural efforts across the state."

39 North will be geared toward the lifestyle preferences of highly-skilled scientific workers.

There will be mixed retail, residential and office space connected by walking and biking trails and green space. $400,000 in funding has been secured for the first project, designing a greenway connection from Monsanto to the Helix Center. A master plan will be completed this month.

Officials at the Danforth Plant Science Center are active supporters of the development of the district. "The strategic master plan to develop 39 North is an extension of Dr. (William) Danforth's vision to make St. Louis a world center for plant science and innovation," said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and president, Bio Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park. "By connecting regional assets, improving mobility, creating development opportunities and additional greenspace we will enhance our ability to grow, attract and retain companies and top talent."


St. Louis Region Wins National Competition to Help Build Racial and Gender Equity in Entrepreneur Startups
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), December 4, 2016 - Twelve St. Louis area nonprofit and governmental organizations are initial members of a collective that will receive $420,000 over two years from the prestigious Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to help female and historically underrepresented entrepreneurs of color in high-growth sectors.

The twelve organizations, known as the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective, are one of 12 recipients of the Kauffman Inclusion Challenge grant nationwide out of 376 applications. The Collective will help ensure that St. Louis' high-tech, high-growth entrepreneurial pathways are open for all to participate and benefit.

BioSTL will serve as the backbone, organizing infrastructure for the Collective. Initial members of the Collective that have committed to a more intentional and rigorous process of building an equitable entrepreneurship ecosystem are (in alphabetical order):

Arch Grants; BioSTL; Center for Emerging Technologies (CET); Cortex; IT Entrepreneurship Network (ITEN); Missouri Small Business Development Center; Prosper Women's Entrepreneurs; St. Louis Economic Development Partnership; St. Louis Makes; St. Louis Regional Chamber; T-Rex; and Venture Café.

In a release, Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore, head of the Inclusion Initiative for BioSTL, said, "Entrepreneurship is a pathway to prosperity for all communities, but especially for communities of color and women in St. Louis who have been historically disenfranchised or underserved." BioSTL is a nonprofit that focuses on transforming St. Louis' regional economy by building on local strengths in the medical and plant sciences, and the organization that conceptualized and submitted the grant on behalf of the Collective.

"Together, we want to help ensure there is gender and racial equity in the start-up community, which means an entrepreneur's success cannot be predicted based on their identity," Dr. Watkins-Moore stated.

The purpose of the first-time ever Kauffman Inclusion Challenge is to grant funds to Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs) that help female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color achieve higher rates of success. In awarding the Collective a grant, Kauffman signaled that the group has the potential not only to transform the way St. Louis supports underrepresented entrepreneurs, but could also serve as a model for replication in similar regions across the country. "Entrepreneurship in America should be available to everyone, yet women and minorities continue to face more obstacles to starting businesses when it comes to accessing funding, education, mentors and markets," said Victor Hwang, vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation.

"The Inclusion Challenge grants will enable these outstanding support organizations to expand their services to empower more entrepreneurs and help them succeed. The nation and our economy as a whole will benefit from more entrepreneurs generating income and wealth in traditionally underserved markets."

St. Louis has been recognized as one of the fastest growing start-up scenes in the nation. Since 2008, BioSTL and other Collective members have been committed to intentional activities that build diversity and inclusion in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. However, women and people of color remain highly underrepresented, with few stories of them successfully navigating the high-tech entrepreneurship ecosystem to grow their business. Members of the Collective will leverage this funding to amplify the impact of individual programing. By intentionally changing the way they work both individually and together, the Collective aims to build on diversity and inclusion activities and drive towards race and gender equity in entrepreneurship.

The importance of racial equity in policy, program design, and resource allocation - as a step beyond diversity and inclusion - became the focus of the Ferguson Commission report after the unrest in Ferguson in August 2014. The Collective is working to purposefully align its work with the report and organizations working to apply a racial equity lens in other areas of the community.

This alignment provides a framework that can be used to advance gender equity and address other identity-based inequities that may exist. The Kauffman grant will help the Collective gather regional baseline data and build ongoing tracking systems, receive individual anti-bias training for ESOs, complete a needs assessment and pilot new activities.

The Collective membership is expected to broaden and, over the course of the work, members will engage a wide range of partners working to build a robust entrepreneur start-up community in St. Louis.


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