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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Missouri Gets 26.9 Million Federal Money for Small Business

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Mo. gets $26.9 million in federal money for small biz

Tim Logan and Lisa Brown  
STLtoday.com 
March 22, 2011 
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Last fall, the federal government said Missouri would get $26.9 million to help boost small business. Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon outlined exactly how.
Most of the money, allocated through the Treasury Department's $1.5 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative, will be used to plug what's long been called a gaping hole in Missouri's high-tech sector: Early-stage financing for startups.
In a visit to the Center for Emerging Technologies in St. Louis, Nixon said that $16.9 million of the federal money will be used to create a new set of state funds to help high-tech startups grow, "from seed capital to venture capital." The other $10 million will be put into a loan fund for general businesses with fewer than 500 employees, to help them expand.
The high-tech funding has long been a priority of St. Louis-area business groups and high-tech incubators, who note that Missouri spends far less on state seed capital than most of its neighbors. That in turn makes it more likely that medical and biotech companies must leave Missouri to attract the kind of private venture capital they need to grow. This federal money is a chance to start to change that, Nixon said.
"Seed capital, early-stage funding, venture capital, these are all areas where there are huge needs," he said. "These are the areas where dollars are directly needed."
Marcia Mellitz, vice president for business development at the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences, agrees. She and others have been pushing for this kind of money for years, and, while it wouldn't replace broader initiatives like the proposed Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, it's a big step in the right direction.
"If you don't invest in these companies, they're not going to grow here," she said. "This fund enables us to make some big investments in companies where we're going to see a return."
The other loan program - the Grow Missouri Loan Participation Fund - is geared towards small businesses of all kinds, to help them expand and add employees.
Both are designed to attract private investment as well; the Treasury Department hopes that $10 in private money will come for every $1 in public money. The public money must be lent out within two years. Businesses can apply beginning April 8.

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