Photo Credit: Kevin A. Roberts

Cortex responsible for $2.1 billion in regional business activity in 2018


A comprehensive study of the Cortex Innovation Community shows that the District has become a global model for innovation districts and a major economic driver for the region.  Cortex will unveil details of the Cortex Impact Report at a 3:00 PM press conference today in the Havana Room in the @4240 building, 4240 Duncan Avenue.


Ohio-based economic development research firm TEConomy Partners conducted the study that spans a sixteen-year period from when Cortex was launched in 2002 through 2018.  The extensive study highlights the progress Cortex has made in its three primary objectives of creating new jobs, generating new tax revenue, and becoming the most racially, ethnically, culturally, and gender-inclusive innovation district in the U.S.


“In 2002, the area we now know as Cortex was a tired industrial district with vacant buildings, empty lots, and worn public infrastructure,” said Hank Webber, Board Chairman of Cortex.  “We founded this initiative with the mission of building a community of technology entrepreneurs and innovation companies. And now, as the report shows, we are not only transforming the regional St. Louis economy, but we are recognized as a national and global best practice among urban innovation districts.”


Today the 200-acre innovation hub is home to more than 425 startups and companies, with a tech-related labor force of more than 6,000 people. In 2018, the direct District economic output was $1 billion, with a combined regional output of $2.1 billion. By 2018, Cortex companies had attracted $392 million in entrepreneurial investment capital and contributed to $950 million in neighborhood retail and residential redevelopment.


The underperforming industrial area has been transformed into a buzzing, mixed-used district containing tech buildings, retail businesses, meeting event space, open civic spaces, a light-rail commuter station, and a bikeable-walkable path that is the first segment of a citywide trail that will connect Cortex to neighborhoods across the city. 

In addition, Cortex has invested time and resources to develop and support inclusion and equity programs, including creating a standing Board Inclusion Committee, a $1.25 million allocation for sponsorship and support of equity programs and projects, co-founding the $10 million STL Contractor Loan Fund which provides loans and mentoring for women and minority-owned construction businesses, co-sponsoring the St. Louis Public Schools Collegiate School for Medicine and Biosciences, and the Square One Bootcamps – a training program that has supported 271 first time entrepreneurs launch their tech businesses, with 48% women and 47% people of color founders.


In 2014, the City of St. Louis approved tax increment financing (TIF) for the district.  “Using TIF as a development tool has enabled us to incentivize developers and create and maintain the district’s sidewalks, streets, lighting, public structured parking, and the Cortex Commons – a community park open to all,” said Dennis Lower, President & CEO of Cortex.  “This study shows that in the last five years Cortex has generated net new taxes of $40.7 million beyond what would have been generated in this area without this development. We feel that’s a great return on the investment made by the people of St. Louis.”


The creation of eleven innovation centers and activators within Cortex has sparked the interest of many sectors of the entrepreneurial and startup community. From the first innovation center to join Cortex, the biosciences-focused Center for Emerging Technologies, to the newest Elevate/Elevar African American/Hispanic Accelerator, Cortex has transitioned from its origins as a medical and bioscience research campus to a district that supports all tech sectors who seek to change the world through their creative, innovative technologies.  


At full buildout, the tech innovation hub will be home to 600 companies, 15,000 permanent jobs, and include more than four million square feet of new and rehabilitated facilities generating more than $2.5 billion in facility investment.

Find out more details about the Cortex innovation Community's impact on the region by visiting cortexstl.com/impact_report.


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