ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – From civic officials to the startup community, St. Louis is wrapping its arms around Bayer’s $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto. Many wonder how the blockbuster buy-out will impact home-grown Monsanto’s influence in the region.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger says he met with Bayer executives in June when they were still in hot pursuit of Monsanto. He’s encouraged by Bayer’s decision to place its seed-and-traits headquarters and North American crop science headquarters in St. Louis County, which is recognized as an international bioscience hub.
“[Bayer officials] understand and recognize that Monsanto is a key part of the St. Louis region and that leadership group that I met with indicated that they recognize how important the company is to our community,” Stenger says.
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann says he and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant are also committed to the region, citing the region’s collaborative ecosystem.
“We have a heritage of good corporate citizenship, if you look at supporting and working with the communities we live in and do business in,” Baumann says.
Grant says he personally “looked out” for St. Louis, while negotiating with Bayer.
“I’m a St. Louisan and I’ve lived there for the last 20 years or so and raised my family there. So as we discussed this deal, that was a particularity important piece,” he says.
Stenger says he’s received reassured from the Bayer executives, but acknowledges those kinds of promises haven’t always worked out for the St. Louis region in the past.
Many see the entry of Bayer into this market as an opportunity to form new connections.
BioSTL President and CEO Donn Rubin says because of the acquisition, “[there’s] an entire new set of connections and relationships to be harvested for our startups, for our universities [and] for our community.”
Rubin adds St. Louis is now much better equipped to handle a Monsanto buy-out than we were a decade ago — or even at the turn of the century, when Monsanto was acquired by Pharmacia and Upjohn.
(Only three years later, Monsanto became independent again; spun-off after Pharmacia was gobbled up by drugmaker Pfizer. Will the infamous Monsanto name survive this transition too? Grant says that has yet to be discussed.)
“I think if this had happened a decade ago, we would have wringed our hands and said ‘gosh, we’ve got to build an ecosystem to be able to compete!'” Rubin says.
Although loss of a headquarters is not the best scenario, Rubin says any employees who leave Monsanto will still have plenty of opportunity in this region.
“The fact is we have this great ecosystem that is not just Monsanto. It’s lots companies small and large,” he says.
Younger bioscience companies from Israel and Ireland have put their North American headquarters in the region, along with German seed firm KWS, strengthening St. Louis’ reputation. Bayer is also big in pharmaceuticals, which Rubin says could be another opportunity for the region to grow. He notes that many laid-off Pfizer workers wound up starting their own businesses in the area.
The County Executive says Bayer would be smart to take note.
“I think we are offering some real options to Bayer that they can’t find anywhere else,” he says.
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