The expansion of a center to help launch businesses is aimed at sparking an economic rebound in a north St. Louis County community. A ribbon cutting is set for Monday at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership business center in Wellston.
The $2.5 million in space essentially doubles the size of the center, which originally opened in 2005 at an old Wagner Electric Co. site. The company used it for carpentry work and a storage lot. Wagner shutdown in the early 1980s and the property was vacant until the Partnership started work on what is also known as the St. Louis Enterprise Center-Wellston.
The expansion could be vital for job creation in a community that has fallen on tough times.
“The Wellston community had an incredible, thriving business district really at the intersection of Martin Luther King and Kienlen,” said St. Louis Economic Development Partnership Vice President Ginger Imster, adding it’s among the communities to have experienced a historic level of disinvestment.
“There hasn’t been that commercial development in the area of the scale that the neighborhood really needs and the leaders and residents want.”
Imster hopes the expansion changes that mindset and attracts private investors to develop more business and commercial property in the area.
The center’s growth is a response to increased demand. Entrepreneurs in the area needed more space so they could remain in Wellston.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration has pumped $2 million into the expansion and the other $500,000 is from the St. Louis County Port Authority.
A public-private partnership helped get the center open in 2005 in an effort to spur investment. Edward Jones combined with several government programs including Housing and Urban Development funding, Greater St. Louis Empowerment Zones financing, brownfield cleanup programs and Community Development Block Grants.
That cooperation has helped several companies receive a boost from the center over the past 13 years including:
The electrical contractor was founded in 2006 and is certified by the St. Louis Minority Business Council, Mid-States Minority Development Council and the St. Louis Airport Authority as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE)
Global Environmental Inc.
The construction, environmental remediation, environmental consulting and safety firm now operates out of Berkeley. The HUBZone Certified and Woman-Owned Small Disadvantaged Business was launched in 1991
A data solutions company focusing on data analytics for helping business solve problems. It started in 2007 and lists the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the St. Louis Public School System among its clients.
An education component is becoming even more important as the center moves forward with the new space. Along with providing more flexibility for early-stage companies, the expansion could help present more career options for area youth.
“Home health, construction trades, professional services - it's an interesting mix,” is how Imster described many of the companies involved with the center.
“And there are entrepreneurs who absolutely embrace the notion that they can be partners in demonstrating to local youth that there is professional opportunity for them right there in their backyard."
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