The Rundown
9:49 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Business & Economy Rundown: Putting The 'Fun' in 'Fundraising'

If you are a regular listener to our radio airwaves, you may have noticed that St. Louis Public Radio has been asking for your financial support  to help keep our station up and running.

AB InBev could be gearing up for a major acquisition.
Credit (via Flickr/ChrisYunker)

There are a million reasons to become a member and if you enjoy reading this Rundown, then that is one of the reasons. If you haven’t yet contributed, I encourage you to do so.

That’s the end of my pitch to try to get you to contribute… so read on!

It was pure coincidence that St. Louis Public Radio's Maria Altman had a feature Monday morning that was also about raising money -- but not for public radio. Rather, she explored the option private firms now have to advertise for potential investors, thanks to a change in Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

One motivation for the story is the interest in how start-ups grow. We hear so much about how St. Louis is becoming a hot-bed of entrepreneurial activity. This recent article in Policy Mic highlights nine area entrepreneurs who say why they moved to or stayed in St. Louis. A common theme is the array of financing available from groups focused on seeding small firms. 

The article points to the experience of Steve Marciniak, co-founder of TrakBill:

“Although a $50,000 grant from Capital Innovators brought Marciniak and his business partner to St. Louis, the rich array of funding sources and the highly networked startup community has kept them here. After their three month Capital Innovators program wrapped, the duo scored a grant from Arch Grants and a round of funding from Cultivation Capital.”

But once a start-up gets as much of that initial funding as possible, where does it go for the second round of funding? There is a hole in the funding spectrum that could force several of these start-ups to follow the money out of St. Louis. This is an ongoing problem, and one rule change from the SEC doesn’t solve it. Still, it's an interesting aspect of growing our start-up economy. I’m sure it’s a story we’ll revisit in the future.

From small fries to the big guys

Two major developments caught our attention this week that had nothing to do with entrepreneurship, but a lot to do with competition and big business.

Rumors are brewing (pun intended) that Anheuser-Busch InBev is considering the acquisition of rival, SABMiller. This would be a huge deal and one that would require the ginormous company that would emerge to divest a lot of its U.S. operations, lest the government accuse it of being a monopoly.

The reason for the rumors are two-fold. First, AB InBev doesn’t really have any other likely takeover targets. Like a thirsty baseball fan on a hot day, AB InBev has been slurping up other breweries both large and small. Last year it acquired Mexico’s Grupo Modelo. In January, it announced it’s ready to take over Oriental Brewery in South Korea. And that’s not even counting all the micro-brews it’s swallowed up -- including Chicago-based Goose Island (which apparently has been a sweet deal for the Goose Island folk).

It seems odd that anyone is projecting that AB sales are expected to decline. But I guess it’s all relative.

Meanwhile, farther south of Anheuser Busch’s original brewery, another deal is going down that could mean fisticuffs (of the financial variety) between two hospitals.

The St. Louis Business Journal reports that BJC Healthcare is moving into St. Anthony’s Medical Center’s neighborhood in south St. Louis County. (SSM's St. Clare in Fenton already had already moved into some of St. Anthony's territory.)

When I asked St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum what he thought of BJC’s move, he said, “Maybe this is the start of a south county rivalry between the two hospitals — and maybe that will mean they’ll try to woo consumers by emphasizing certain services.”

Jason also speculated that they wouldn’t try to lure customers by offering 50 percent discounts on basic procedures.

Finally, in a completely unrelated story, St. Louis President of the Board of Alderman Lewis Reed has submitted a petition to the White House asking that the Veterans Administration not relocate from downtown St. Louis to Overland.

It's a Hail Mary move on Reed's part. Not only does the petition have to gain more than 100,000 e-signatures before the White House will consider it, but Reed is also going up against the VA and the General Services Administration, whose lease on a privately owned building is over in June.  

Reed is hoping the petition will convince the VA not to remove so many workers -- about 800 in all -- out of downtown. But the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports, the GSA's decision is part of the government's policy of keeping employees in GSA-owned buildings.

Around 640 VA employees will move out of the Veterans Benefits Administration office on South 18th Street at that time. And another 180 will leave their offices at the Robert A. Young Federal building.