Growing Midtown tech sector may soon be getting another boost

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- More concrete evidence of an emerging tech sector in Midtown St. Louis was on display Tuesday, as Senator Clair McCaskill met with entrepreneurs and tech workers to see what she could do to help their cause. And while visiting the Cortex innovation community, she pointed out that the area’s boom has reached a point it may lead to a small Metrolink expansion.

Those looking for proof that talk of a tech boom in St. Louis is more than just talk need look no further than the Biogenerator lab inside the Cortex building on Forest Park Avenue. The facility is a shared space for small businesses with big ideas, and looks every bit the part of a 21st century, tech incubator.

Those seeking more proof can look to Dougan Sherwood. Sherwood, at Cortex Tuesday for the McCaskill visit, will lead the St. Louis expansion of the Cambridge Innovation Center, or CIC. It is that group’s first expansion outside the Boston area in its 15 year existence.

If you have an Android phone, CIC played a role. The Android operating system was developed by a business housed in their Cambridge, MA facility.

Sherwood says CIC is coming here because St. Louis has the same feel Boston carried a few years ago. For starters, they’re betting the high dollar renovation of a huge three story building behind Cortex that it will work.

“The city has all the makings and underpinnings of a really strong innovation ecosystem,” he said in an interview.

Specifically, he points to the university system here, which he believes is ready to make the step of commercializing academic research. Combine that with the commitment of the city to assist and even fund start up incubators, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

“These things all eventually spoke to us and told us there is something interesting going on here and we wanted to be part of it,” he said.

Back at Cortex, Senator McCaskill was touring the facilities, holding a Q and A with entrepreneurs and tech workers, and being lobbied for help on that small Metrolink expansion.

The current line runs directly behind the Cortex and CIC buildings, and McCaskill is on board to help fund a new station there for what all involved are convinced will be a large influx of new workers.

“Now the federal government has a piece that we can help with which would be a Metro rail station here,” she said. “That would help the flow of people coming to and from jobs here.”

Cortex’s president, Dennis Lower, says his facility is housing the seeds that will be the future of St. Louis’ economy.

“Now the federal government has a piece that we can help with which would be a Metro rail station here.   That would help the flow of people coming to and from jobs here.”


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