Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tech accelerator invests in six more companies -

Capital Innovators, a technology accelerator fund based in St. Louis, has announced investments in six area companies, including two that previously won funding from the Arch Grants.

The companies will move into T-Rex, the technology incubator space in downtown's Railway Exchange Building, for an intense 12-week mentoring program. Capital Innovators will invest $50,000 in each company.

The fund, launched a year ago, had previously invested in 13 startup companies. Judy Sindecuse, president of Capital Innovators, says the companies have increased in value by 150 percent and have attracted $10 million in follow-on investment. They employ 120 people.

Sindecuse announced the latest accelerator class on Tuesday night. The companies are:

  • AdFreeq, a socially integrated classified advertising service launched in Columbia, Mo.
  • Food Essentials, which is compiling a database of nutritional information from food labels.
  • IDC Projects, a developer of mobile games.
  • SEA, a price-comparison app for online shoppers.
  • Tunespeak, a social network for music fans to connect with their favorite bands.
  • Viewpoint, a developer of enterprise collaboration software.

Food Essentials and IDC Projects both won $50,000 Arch Grants prizes in May. That contest, designed to attract startups to St. Louis, also houses its winners in the T-Rex space.

Capital Innovators partner Hal Gentry said the fund had 110 applications for the latest class.

Doctor blasts St. Louis health director for letting MAC smoke -

ST. LOUIS • No other city in the country has enacted a smoking ban and then willingly broken the ban to make an exception for one business, said Dr. Michael Siegel, who has tracked tobacco laws for 25 years.

Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, said city health director Pam Walker’s decision to allow smoking at downtown’s Missouri Athletic Club is the first of its kind.

“I’ve never seen a health department essentially fight to provide an exemption for an entity,” Siegel said.

He doesn’t even consider Walker’s decision an exemption. If the city scrapped the existing law, wrote a new bill, added an exemption for the MAC, and got it passed into law by the Board of Aldermen, that’d be one thing, Siegel said.

“This is simply looking the other way,” he said. “They’re essentially saying they’re not going to enforce the legislation for this particular business.”

“It really sours the entire integrity of the health department, I think,” he said.

Siegel said he’s a strong anti-smoking advocate, as is Walker.

But on this point, he and anti-ban supporter Bill Hannegan agree.

“It really makes no sense to distinguish one business and essentially give them a free ride,” Siegel said.

“For some reason the city is backing down.”

Siegel has written a blog on the subject for the past eight years, discussing situations around the country.

Tuesday, it featured the city. He called Walker’s decision “the worst kind of hypocrisy.” 

Ballpark Village to open in 2014 after state board OKs incentives -

JEFFERSON CITY • St. Louis' long-awaited Ballpark Village has been lauded, touted and mocked in the years since its plans were first announced.

But after more than a decade of talk, work is expected to begin this fall on the 10-acre project adjacent to Busch Stadium, and officials are aiming for a spring 2014 opening date.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Development Finance Board approved its share of $17 million in state and local incentives for the first phase of the project â€" one of the final steps before construction could start.

"It's been a challenge," Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said. "I've never had anything in my career where it's taken that long and had so much invested emotionally and time-wise into something."

Future phases of the project also could receive city and state subsidies â€" up to $183.5 million total â€" as long as benchmarks on retail, office, residential and other offerings are met throughout Ballpark Village's completion.

DeWitt called the latest step "a big relief."

"We've been close in the past in a few occasions. Not this close because some things got in the way prior to getting started," he said.

The first phase of Ballpark Village is a dramatically scaled-back plan from the original concept and covers only two of the project's eight square blocks. It will include a Cardinals Hall of Fame, Anheuser-Busch-themed restaurant, shops and an event plaza with a retractable roof to host concerts and other programs. Other tenants are expected to be announced in coming weeks.

The work also will include streets and sewers to prepare the surrounding ground for future phases, which DeWitt said had been among the prior hang-ups. But the Cardinals don't have any office or residential users lined up for those phases, and for now, that land will be used for parking.

"I think there will be a lot of interest, and some of those conversations we've had over the years will pick up once we start turning dirt and get to work," DeWitt said.

When the old Busch Stadium was torn down seven years ago, Cardinals leaders promised that the hole left in its place would be transformed to a mixed-use development to compliment the new stadium and revitalize the area. Today, it's a parking lot and a softball field.

The Cardinals had used the village concept as a bargaining chip in obtaining public money to subsidize the new stadium. The organization agreed to pay penalties if the development did not come to fruition but has received extensions during the economic downturn.

In the years since, the project has gone through numerous modifications and delays, with businesses such as Centene Corp. ditching plans to locate at the site.

It was at times supposed to have an aquarium, residential high-rise, office space and underground parking garage, among other amenities.

Under the latest outline, office space could be added in phase three and the first residential units in phase four. Those are targeted for 2016 and 2017, respectively.

DeWitt said the project's many skeptics are "free to be skeptical for another couple months."

"You can't be skeptical if we're out there with shovels. Have at it for another couple months. We're comfortable that we'll be getting started in due course," he said.

State finance board member John Mehner of Cape Girardeau wouldn't discuss his lone vote against the proposal on Tuesday.

"I'm a member of this board and the board has approved it, so the project will move forward," he said after the meeting.

Finance board chairwoman Marie Carmichael of Springfield praised the project and its developers for "right-sizing" their phase one request. The group previously had sought $23.7 million for the first phase.

"It's going to be a great project for the state," Carmichael said.

She also noted that since its earlier inceptions, the developers have accepted more of the risk, including securing the bonds themselves â€" something DeWitt also described as key to moving the development forward.

"All things considered, this is the way these projects should be handled," Carmichael said.

Tim Townsend of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report from St. Louis.

Shooter of Rock Hill policeman wants to withdraw plea - KSDK

Clayton, MO (KSDK) - A former Tennessee man who entered a 'no contest' plea to charges of shooting and seriously injuring a Rock Hill police officer has filed a motion to withdraw the plea in St. Louis County.

That means sentencing is delayed until at least next week for 39 year old George Jones who entered the Alford plea last month in the case involving the paralyzing injuries suffered by Officer Matt Crosby in April 2010.

Under an Alford plea, Jones does not admit guilt, but concedes the prosecution has sufficient evidence to convict him of the charges he's facing.

Crosby and another officer responded to the Stanford Place apartment complex at Manchester and McKnight on a domestic assault.

When they confronted Jones;  who was visiting a female acquaintance at the complex, Jones came out shooting at police and severely injured Crosby.

Another officer opened fire and injured Jones who was then taken into custody.

Jones is charged with several assault crimes, armed criminal action, and resisting arrest in the case.

Judge Gloria Clark Reno has scheduled a hearing next week for Jones as she considered the motion to withdraw the plea.

Jones was previously convicted in Tennessee on charges of aggravated robbery and assault and was on parole when the Rock Hill shooting occurred.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

St. Louis brew earns a spot in Bud's Brewmaster package -

Later this fall, a patch of south St. Louis will be getting its very own Budweiser.

An experimental brew from A-B's brewery here was selected as one of the three beers that will hit shelves as part of Budweiser's Project 12 in late October. Dubbed 63118, after the brewery's zip code, the deep golden pilsner from brewmaster Jim Bicklein was chosen out of variations on Bud conceived at each of A-B's 12 U.S. breweries. Alongside it will be a deep-amber lager from Los Angeles (91406) and a bourbon cask lager from Williamsburg, Va. (23185).

Earlier this year, all 12 A-B brewmasters were asked to come up with a unique take on A-B's flagship brew, using the company's proprietary yeast as an ingredient and its classic flavor as an inspiration. Six of the 12 were chosen for sampling and tasting at Budweiser events and concerts this summer. And, of those, three were selected to be sold. They'll be available in a sampler 12-pack starting in late October.

It's been a neat experiment, and well-received by Bud fans, said Rob McCarthy, vice president of Budweiser.

"We've never done anything like this before," McCarthy said. "With all this feedback from consumers, I guess you can call this the largest focus group in Budweiser history, maybe even beer history"

It's also part of a broader effort to revive interest in the classic brand among younger drinkers, who have turned in droves to more flavorful craft beers. By showing that Budweiser can be more than just classic Light American Lager, they hope to open some eyes.

Will it work? Who knows. But in the meantime, St. Louisans will be able to enjoy a beer named for a patch of their hometown.

Showcase Italia highlights Italian in every day life -

Annette Graebe knew that Collinsville's Italian Fest was "looking to bring something unique to Main Street."

Thanks to a new partnership with the Italian American Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis, that 'something unique" will be a display that its organizers hope will highlight the businesses and products that bring Italy into the every day life of festival visitors.

"Our purpose was to show the presence of Italian influence in our daily lives and also to bring forward some exciting products from businesses nearby," Graebe said. "I just thought it was something different."

"Showcase Italia," as the display is titled, will be on view in the windows of the Miner's Institute on Main Street until Sept. 23. The display features Italian products from businesses in Collinsville as well as from The Hill community in St. Louis.

The Italian American Chamber of Commerce is a national group that promotes businesses of Italian origin. The local chapter, based in St. Louis, began about two-and-a-half years ago. The group has participated in events in St. Louis. This is its first year taking part in Italian Fest.

In addition to the chamber members contributing to the display, Collinsville businesses boasting Italian roots will also contribute, Graebe said. Collinsville's Italian-rooted business community includes Spirito's-The Italian Store, Ravanelli's Restaurants and Viviano's Heating and Cooling â€" to name a few.

Chris Saracino, president of the local chapter of the chamber and The Hill Business Association in St. Louis, said his organization was approached by Graebe and Italian Vice Counsel Joe Cologoviani about partnering with Collinsville.

"Annette had done some work with Joe and had the vice counsel over in Collinsville for some things," Saracino explained. "She knows about the IACC and said 'Maybe you guys can help us get products you'd like to display and help us promote the chamber?' So we're very excited. We're looking to promote, in this window display, all Italian products that we import or export to Italy and their every day usage in our lives that you probably don't even recognize."

The display includes products from the every day â€" Italian bread, cheeses and pasta â€" as well as products like home goods, fashion and other areas.

According to Saracino, at least 10 St. Louis businesses are committed to showcasing their wares at the display. Those businesses include Bertarelli Cutlery, Girasole, a gift store, and New World Pasta, one of the largest pasta making plants in the nation.

"When you think of the different products of Italy, you think of restaurants, but there are so many other contributions," Saracino said.

If you go

Showcase Italia

Where: The Miner's Institute, 204 W. Main St., Collinsville, in the windows of the theater and available for viewing day or night

What: Display of Italian products and businesses from members of the Italian American Chamber of Commerce-St. Louis and Collinsville community

When: Display now to Sept. 23

Veterans History Project looking for military members - KSDK

Veteran Basil Armstrong.

By Art Holliday

St. Louis (KSDK) - The Missouri Veterans History Project has captured the histories of more than 300 former military service members, including 86-year-old Basil Armstrong.

Armstrong enlisted when he was 17. When asked how much a teenager knew about world politics and Adolf Hitler, Armstrong admitted it wasn't much.

"We didn't have television then. We did have radios and the newspapers. Well, I probably wasn't interested in newspapers. So I really didn't know much about it. I knew that war was shooting at people," he said.

The Army paratrooper was among the first American soldiers to set foot in "The Eagles Nest," Adolf Hitler's mountain retreat. Armstrong said he sat down with history project volunteers because of his family.

"I really don't know too much about my parents and my grandparents," said Armstrong. "And I think I would like to have my kids know what I did and how I started out."

Armstrong's story and many others will be preserved by the U.S. Library of Congress and the State Historical Society of Missouri.

State Representative Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) formed the all-volunteer Missouri Veterans History Project after funding was cut from the state budget a couple of years ago. Schupp hopes to attract corporate funding to hire an executive director and grow the program statewide.

"We're looking for people to help fund the program," said Schupp. "We'd like to be able to hire one executive director. So, I'm asking businesses, corporations who care about our veterans and our state's history and this nation's history to step up and say we'll help you."

Veterans interested in sharing their stories, volunteers, and corporate supporters can call 314-616-5009 or 573-522-4220. They can email, or go to the project website

The project is open to all Missouri Veterans of any age who served at any time, in any capacity.