As the 20th century wound down, St. Louis had an identity crisis.
The giant companies that had powered the economy for decades were running out of steam and being sold. The region lacked the dynamism that was creating new industries in places like Silicon Valley, Boston and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.
Bill Danforth, the retired Washington University chancellor, decided it was time to change that. He leveraged his family’s Danforth Foundation to pursue a vision of St. Louis as a leader in both agricultural technology and medical technology.
More than two decades later, Danforth’s strategy is bearing fruit. The latest example: Benson Hill, an agricultural firm in Creve Coeur, is going public in a transaction valued at $1.35 billion.
Benson Hill, founded in North Carolina, was lured here in 2013 by the assets that Danforth and others began building years before: World-class research facilities such as the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, seed capital funding, available lab space and a skilled workforce.