Guest blog by Matthew S. Erskine , U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
Today, I was pleased to join St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and colleagues from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOL/ETA) at an event to spotlight federal investments that are catalyzing the growth of the critical, job-creating St. Louis biosciences cluster.
The day was focused on the partnership between the St. Louis County Economic Council, the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment, and the St. Louis Minority Supplier Development Council to establish the St. Louis Biosciences Jobs and Innovation Accelerator  project.
With more than $1.8 million in federal investment, including $702,765 from EDA, $973,015 from SBA, and $150,000 from the DOL/ETA, this project will work to accelerate the growth of the region’s biosciences cluster and spur the formation of new companies and associated job creation.
EDA’s funding for the project will bring early-stage technologies into the commercialization pipeline by addressing identified gaps and challenges, including access to a skilled workforce of experienced entrepreneurs that are needed to enable companies to grow.
The SBA investment will help The St. Louis Minority Suppliers Development Council coordinate services for eligible 7(j) small businesses to include business training and counseling, commercialization of research and development (R&D), export readiness, and exposure to the bioscience industry. DOL/ETA funding will allow the St. Louis Agency for Training and Employment, the city’s workforce investment board, and the county’s workforce development division to provide on-the-job-training for individuals hired by bioscience start-ups, as well as established bioscience companies.
Through entrepreneur capacity-building and worker skills training, the project will further a grow-our-own strategy, which will accelerate the development of successful bioscience companies and increase the number of high-wage jobs.
The project is testament to the strength of a regional biotech cluster that is growing here due to the presence of dynamic public-private partnerships and collaborative strategies that bring together business leaders, universities, non-profits, government officials, and other strategic partners.
Also, participating in the event were leaders representing the co-applicant winners of EDA’s inaugural i6 Challenge  in 2010 and, importantly, representatives from the businesses that the project has helped to spur since its inception.
The i6 winning BioGenerator project has deployed and leveraged the $1 million i6 grant, which was matched by $1 million from BioSTL, to create eight bioscience companies in just this past year alone. These companies will grow and others will be created thanks to the i6 investment; a truly great success story.
Building on this cluster represents a proven, cost-effective strategy for fostering sustainable growth.
By bringing together business leaders, government officials, universities, and non-profits to collaborate, we are helping communities capitalize on shared strengths, multiplying their economic power and creating jobs.
This approach is helping to create economic ecosystems that can withstand, and even thrive on, a changing world economy; ecosystems where our nation’s innovators and entrepreneurs can cluster together and really flourish.
President Obama knows that in this environment, it’s got to be about better programs. And, it’s got to be about smart money.
Smart money looks to leverage other capital, including private capital. Smart money is competitive, requiring a concrete strategy and plan and real buy-in in the community as an essential prerequisite.
Smart money looks to do more with less through improved coordination and leveraging assets. Smart money looks to obtain the best return on investment.
I congratulate the St. Louis County Economic Council, the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment, and the St. Louis Minority Supplier Development Council for their winning Jobs and Innovation Accelerator proposal and our 2010 i6 winners from the BioGenerator for their great work.
Expect to hear more about the continued successes of these partnerships in advancing the St. Louis region’s biotechnology cluster to create the jobs of the future.