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The What’s Right with the Region Awards celebrates businesses and organizations that often toil in obscurity but nonetheless provide essential services to better their community.
FOCUS Saint Louis creates structured programs designed to bring St. Louis’ businesses and community advocates together with non-for-profit organizations, social services and community organizations to create a network of inspired leaders with a shared vision for establishing and supporting missions with impact.
What started off as a professional coaching program has turned into a fellowship of committed alumni and dedicated volunteers that meet to honor the work of members every year. This year’s honorees included many civic mission drive organizations, as you might expect.
- The Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel is dedicated to empowering Missouri Bar Members to work pro-bono to help relieve the critical lack of resources in the Missouri Public Defender’s office, an office in need of 350 attorneys to meet caseload.
- Better Together, a group formed to advocate for municipal reform and reduction with the hope of bringing St. Louis City and County together again.
- Pattonville School District, honored for its high grades and statewide ranking in spite of budget constraints.
In an endorsement of the work that centers of innovation bring to the City, the workforce and the broader community, T-Rex was honored for its unique non-for-profit approach to co-working and its work as a catalyst fostering collaboration between the City, regional businesses and the innovation community it serves.
T-Rex estimates that the economic impact to St. Louis from their 200 plus incubated companies is roughly 2,200 jobs and $350 million since their founding in 2011.The award is just another indication that the City’s investment in entrepreneurship and innovation is netting significant gains.
Each year the event also highlights the work of single individual for a Leadership Award and this year that award went to Cortex President and CEO, Dennis Lower.
His work to create a innovation district represents what’s possible to achieve with the right vision: a revitalized neighborhood, hundreds of tech centric businesses bringing 4300 jobs, and the locus for no less than seven innovation centers and accelerators (The Center for Emerging Technologies (CET), Venture Cafe, Sling Health/MedLaunch, Capital Innovators Accelerator, and the Ameren Energy Accelerator, as well as the future home of BioSTL).
Cortex’s continued growth was further marked by the public unveiling of the new 4240 Duncan building and Venture Cafe’s Innovation Hall. That building boasts 180,000 more square feet of office space, anchor tenant Microsoft and an event and co-working space designed to encourage “serendipitous collisions”. Plans for cortex include a metrolink station (under construction) and additions in retail, hospitality and fine dining.
“What we have tried to do in Cortex,” Dennis said, “is to create an environment where collaboration can occur, where silos can be broken down, because the best innovation can be done when all cultures, races, ages and genders are included in the innovation process.”
Cortex’s success represents a clear recipe which other cities can and should emulate, but apart from the combined public and private resources required to build it, their will always remain a crucial piece to its actualization: leadership and the vision those leaders bring to the job.