What features over 15,000 jobs, more than $1 Billion in company investments in the last 13 years, and is poised to grow dramatically? The Saint Louis Plant and Life Science Economy.
Imagine a place where ideas and innovation thrive and are supported by dollars, millions of dollars that create thousands of jobs, a world without hunger, new sources of medicine, and new products that eliminate the need for fuel derived from petroleum – all without choking the planet. Here is the great news, that place is right here, in our back yard. In the middle of St. Louis County, Missouri to be exact, where hundreds of plant science PhDs, IT experts, engineers and entrepreneurs are working to find sustainable solutions to Grand Challenges. And entrepreneurs and investors from across the world have noticed.
This thriving hub of scientific discovery and commercialization is poised for even greater things. Over the next year, regional leaders, property owners, and key stakeholders will complete a strategic master plan to create a 600-acre Innovation District. A place not only to work, but also to live and to relax. The possibilities are great; imagine lanes for bicycle commuters, a community garden, a brew house, coffee shops and other retail enterprises that will thrive from the new employment and products and services that will make a lasting positive difference in our region and our world. And the Danforth Plant Science Center has a critical role to play.
By many measures, the Danforth Plant Science Center has had a remarkable start. What was less than 20 years ago an aspirational idea articulated by Dr. William H. Danforth; to build a new enterprise and leverage existing regional strengths in plant science and technology to create a plant science network more valuable than the sum of its parts, has today been a major driver in the establishment of the region as a global leader in plant science research and commercialization. Our region has become a place in which best in class plant research is conducted, 700 bioscience companies provide 15,000 jobs, $1 Billion has been invested, the Danforth Center is expanding, the Bio Research and Development Growth (BRDG) Park is nearly full and the Helix Center incubator was 100 percent occupied in just two years. New ag-tech companies have been launched and thrive, and ag-tech companies from across the country and world have established research and development headquarters; creating jobs, wealth and other economic opportunity in our community. Our region’s focused sense of purpose, determination and initial accomplishments provided the evidence to convince the U.S. Economic Development Administration to invest $500,000 to craft a strategic master plan for future growth.
We have had a great start indeed, but we are still very much in the early stages in which much more planting than harvesting is our reality. And having a master plan won’t change things overnight. These kinds of lasting endeavors take time to take root and thrive. Hundreds of years ago when the great cathedrals like the Notre Dame in Paris or St. Peters Basilica in Rome were conceived as a reflection of faith and creativity, the patrons, designers, craftsman and laborers who built the grand structures that we still marvel at today, understood that great projects were not completed over the course of a few years, rather they were built over generations. People who worked on them knew they wouldn’t be finished until their children, grandchildren and generations beyond were born. What allowed them to make these long-term investments in their communities was that they knew that what they were part of would be lasting and transformative for many generations beyond their own lives.
Building a Cathedral in medival times provided opportunity for generations of people at a variety of skill levels, but all who shared a sense of purpose. Creating a vibrant economic ecosystem to ensure a strong future for our children and grandchildren requires no less, and the larger purpose is equally motivating, to sustainably feed and fuel the nine billion people in our world.
Join us in our quest: www.danforthcenter.org