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Agency hopes to lure interest among Metro East startups

    A St. Louis-based nonprofit with money to give away to smart startups is hoping to attract interest from entrepreneurs on the Metro East side of the river.
    Ben Burke, director of entrepreneurship at Arch Grants, said he has recently held conversations with supporters of incubator-style projects in Belleville and Alton in an attempt to better understand those efforts and to build on what the organization has done during its first three years in St. Louis.
    Working in conjunction with donors big and small and through numerous partners, Arch Grants has raised over $3 million and distributed it via a regimented startup competition to entrepreneurs who agree to locate in the region in exchange for funding.
    “We’ve been doing it for three years and funded 55 startups. Of those 55 startups, 50 are still in business, and 49 of them are still in the St. Louis region. We’re pretty happy with that,” Burke said.
    This year’s competition attracted 600 applications from around the world, of which 20 were chosen to receive $50,000 each.
    “This last class of applicants was from 21 countries and 38 states. Of the 20 that were selected, around 12 were from outside the St. Louis region. We had three international applicants, which is our biggest number. Two were from London and one was from Colombia, South America,” Burke said.
    Although Arch Grant’s “region” technically includes Metro East, the organization has had little opportunity — or much reason — to make much of a foray into this side of the river, until lately.
    This year, two substantial projects began in Metro East that fueled the overall interest. Burke has had conversations with supporters of the Turner Hall accelerator project in Belleville and the Alton Area Business Development Association, which is pushing a food hub incubator project in Alton. Both ventures have been detailed in depth by the Illinois Business Journal.
    “We’re super hopeful there are some things that will come on line very soon in Metro East and kind of inner-wrap so that we can be more intentional about being active in the whole region,” Burke said.
    Arch Grants is in the middle of a tech-startup initiative that has gained St. Louis international attention. It is located in the T-REX building on Washington Avenue, a hotbed of co-working space and home to several entities devoted to entrepreneurial activity, including more than 100 startups and a mix of nonprofit and for-profit entrepreneur support organizations, including iTEN, Capital Innovators, Cultivation Capital and SixThirty.

P01 milesMiles    EDWARDSVILLE — Madison County’s new administrator of Community Development hopes to apply years of economic development experience to a multipronged, major effort to transform lives.
    Frank Miles says it may take the rest of his public service career to get done all the things he’d like to do in his new role, which began in June.
    “Somebody said seven years. That’s probably about right,” he laughed.
    Joking aside, he’s formulating an ambitious plan that calls for taking Community Development well beyond its traditional services of housing and social services and into the region at large.
    He’s going to rely heavily on his many contacts. Few people have the background — or the connections — that Miles does in Southwestern Illinois, where he’s worked with movers and shakers for more than 30 years.
    Now 54, he started in 1987 in the city of Edwardsville as a graduate student working in planning and development, responsible for downtown renovation. He worked with developer Ralph Korte on what became the new Mark Twain office buildings on Main Street. That project helped launch a serious transformation of the downtown core that continued with the construction of the County Administration Building and more.
    Miles, who became the city’s assistant planner and, by 1990, the city’s director of development administration, was in the middle of a lot of it and still looks back on that transformative era as a major accomplishment.
    His foray into an ever-widening circle of government experience began when newly elected Madison County Circuit Clerk Matt Melucci named Miles his deputy in 1992. Together, they worked to automate an office that had largely gone unchanged for 50 years.
    From there, he became administrator for the city of O’Fallon and was there from 1994 to 1999.
    The St. Clair-Madison County experiences and his longtime political connections made him a natural for the next job, as district chief of staff for U.S. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, from 1999-2006.
    Miles eventually went on to a series of other prominent posts: director of planning at Madison County (from 2006 to 2010); Madison County treasurer (2010); business manager at America’s Central Port (2010 to 2013); and finally, executive director at Southwestern Illinois College (2013-14).
    The latter is where he was when County Chairman Alan Dunstan asked him to serve as head of Community Development upon the retirement of longtime director Walter Hunter.
    It’s all been good experience for what Miles proposes to do now, which is expand the services — and the impact — of Madison County Community Development.

    EDWARDSVILLE — From the phone at your ear to the carpet under your feet, there’s a little petrochemical in much of what you use on a daily basis.
    Despite that, there is a general disconnect between the consumers who use the products derived from petroleum and natural gas and the industries that manufacture them.
    Representatives of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers group came to Illinois recently to open a line of communication on behalf of its membership, which includes four refineries and seven petrochemical facilities in the state, affecting some 3,500 workers.
    The group spent two days in the region as part of its push for a fact-based discussion on environmental regulations that affect business.
    Representatives met with members of Leadership Council Illinois, toured a local foundry of railcar giant Amsted Rail, which helps move its products, had lunch with representatives of Wood River-based Economy Boat Store (a huge user of diesel fuels) and met with various others before sitting down for an exclusive interview with the Illinois Business Journal at Bella Milano Restaurant in Edwardsville.
    It was a long-overdue, catch-up session, representatives said, acknowledging that the association hasn’t done all it should to reach outside the D.C. Beltway in recent years.
    “Part of the reason we’re here is that policymakers and the general public don’t understand the importance of the petrochemical industry. Look around this restaurant, just about everything in here has some component derived from petrochemicals,” said Sarah K. Magruder Lyle, vice president of strategic initiatives for the manufacturers’ group.
    Indeed, the petrochemicals business produces chemicals and derivatives that are used to make a wide swath of everyday products, from hospital gloves to medications and from paints to adhesives. Much of what is produced becomes a feedstock for use in making other products. Oil-derived benzene, for instance, goes toward making detergents, solvents, nylons and more. The ethylene from natural gas liquids goes even further, contributing the products from hardhats to medicine.
    America’s refining and petrochemical companies employ and support more than 2 million people, she said. The industries are expected to support almost 3.9 million jobs by 2025. The average petrochemical salary is around $88,000, while refinery jobs typically pay in excess of $111,000.
    The stakes are higher now than ever, especially with the potential for developing industries to take advantage of what she said is abundant natural gas produced from shale.


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Simmons-MFM-2014-Check-PhotoPictured from left: John Simmons, chairman of Simmons Hanly Conroy; Linda Reinstein, president and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization; Jordan Zevon ADAO spokesperson, and Julie Gundlach, mesothelioma survivor.

More than 800 participants attended National Mesothelioma Awareness Day event sponsored by Simmons Hanly Conroy and others

    ALTON — The 6th Annual Alton Miles for Meso 5K Race & 2K Fun Run/Walk in Alton raised more than $27,000 for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, a non-profit dedicated to securing a global ban of asbestos and providing support to victims of asbestos-related diseases.
    More than 800 participants attended the race, hosted by Simmons Hanly Conroy, on Saturday, Sept. 27, in honor of National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
    During the race, Linda Reinstein, president and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, talked about the importance of Mesothelioma Awareness Day for patients and families.
    “More than 10,000 Americans die each year from preventable asbestos-caused disease,” Reinstein said. “While promising mesothelioma research continues, prevention remains the only cure. Events like Miles for Meso increase awareness that asbestos remains legal and lethal in the USA today. ADAO sincerely thanks Simmons Hanly Conroy for their continued support of protecting asbestos victims’ civil rights and public health. For each life lost to asbestos-related diseases, a shattered family is left behind.”
    Simmons, chairman of Simmons Hanly Conroy, has overseen some of the biggest verdicts and settlements in the history of asbestos litigation. Since the firm started in 1999, it has helped thousands of families across the country impacted by mesothelioma enforce their legal rights. However, the firm's dedication to victims of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases extends far beyond the courtroom.
    "This is the sixth year we’ve hosted a Miles for Meso 5K race and every year it keeps getting better and better,” Simmons said. “The amount of support shown by the entire community is both inspiring and moving, and we want to thank everyone who attended. You are helping to make a difference in the lives of those harmed by asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.”
    More than 600 runners and walkers completed Saturday's race. Over $2,000 in cash prizes were awarded to the top five overall men and women finishers. Miles for Meso custom medals were awarded to the top three finishers in 5-year age groups. Michael Jordan of Evansville, Ind., won first place overall in the men’s category. He completed the 5K in 15:15. First place overall in the women’s division went to Jackie Pirtle-Hall of St. Charles, Mo., with a time of 17:26.
    The Alton event included an activity area for children and a dog adoption event hosted by Hope Rescues, along with free food and drinks for runners, walkers, supporters and their families. The event also featured an acoustic performance from singer-songwriter Jordan Zevon.  ADAO spokesperson Jordan is the son of musician Warren Zevon, who died of mesothelioma in 2003.
    The Alton race was just one of three Miles for Meso races that took place during September for National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  Nearly 300 people attended the Bruce A. Waite 5K Race in Ontario, Ohio on Sept. 20 and over 300 people attended the John Pavlick Miles for Meso 8K on Sept. 14. Both races benefited the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a national charity focused on peer-reviewed research and patient support programming. Together, all three September Miles for Meso races raised over $50,000 for mesothelioma cancer and awareness. Miles for Meso events around the country have cumulatively raised over $400,000.
    Since 2009, the Alton race has raised $150,000 for mesothelioma research. The money is raised through a combination of registration fees, personal donations and sponsorships including the event’s Platinum Sponsors Acropolis Technology Group and the Bridge Church and Gold Sponsors: Fathom, First Clover Leaf Bank, Jenner & Block, Stratos Legal, The Tedrick Insurance Group, Sokolove Law, PohlmanUSA Court Reporting and Classic Graphics.
    About the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
    The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization is the largest independent asbestos victims’ organization in the U.S. It was founded in 2004 to give asbestos victims and concerned citizens a united voice, to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and to work towards a global asbestos ban. ADAO is dedicated to preventing asbestos-caused diseases through national and international education, advocacy, and community initiatives.  
        For more information, visit http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/
    About Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC
    Simmons Hanly Conroy is a leading national law firm in complex litigation and has represented thousands of clients throughout the country on issues involving toxic exposure, consumer rights and public safety. The firm is dedicated to its clients and has pledged nearly $20 million to cancer research. Additionally, the firm focuses on intellectual property infringement, pharmaceutical injury litigation, and contingent fee business litigation.
    For more information, visit http://www.simmonshanlyconroy.com