Richard C.D. Fleming
President and Chief Executive Officer
St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association
Originally published September 2000 in St. Louis Commerce
High tech begets high tech. This is particularly true when it comes to the St. Louis Regional Technology FAST 50, an award that recognized the region’s 50 fastest growing high-tech companies that develop and/or provide technology-based products or services…
…Sonacom, a FAST 50 winner this year as well as in 1998, recently spun off two companies: Sonacom AV Interactive (SAVI), which targets high-end users of customized audio-visual presentation and conferencing technologies and Sonacom Internet Solutions provides filtered bandwidth and Web development services to small and mid-sized companies.
…And that’s not to mention numerous other St. Louis FAST 50 companies that are expanding throughout the U.S. as well as internationally. Many of these companies have managed to make the FAST 50 year after year. In fact, most of them are repeat winners, with only eight newcomers this year. Six companies—Cornerstone Solutions, The Mattson Jack Group, SSE, Solutions Consultants, GA Sullivan and Wave Technologies—are on the list for the fifth consecutive year.
The program, now in its fifth year, has already provided a number of benefits to the region. Most noteworthy was its impetus in the creation of the Technology Gateway Alliance, which just celebrated its 2nd year. In just a short time, the Alliance–the fastest growing technology alliance in the nation–boasts many accomplishments as well. The most recent include:
* Planned and produced TechFair 2000, which featured more than 100 experts who discussed technology breakthroughs.
* In partnership with the Missouri Venture Forum and the RCGA, created opportunities for funding start-up companies through InvestMidwest Venture Forum, which convened some 400 regional and national venture capital firms and other qualified investors to consider deal-ready proposals by 20 select start-ups.
* Launched TechTour 2000, a traveling networking event that will be held quarterly. Participants identify technology resources, while making contacts and learning about facilities.
* Joined with EMC Corporation, Ernst & Young, Influence, Sonnenschien Nath & Rosenthal, Washington University’s Olin School of Business and the RCGA as a founding sponsor of St. Louis’ First Tuesday, a unique networking forum for regional high-tech entrepreneurs to connect with venture capitalists.
* Supported Envision CEO Steve Lowy’s effort to create the “Technology is the New Spirit of St. Louis” Mural.
* Attracted more than 300 member firms and more than 700 volunteers to its ranks. In fact of those companies on this year’s FAST 50 list, 33 are Technology Gateway members and 44 are RCGA members.
Even more significant is the FAST 50 stats. Average 1999 revenue for the group was close to $170 million, representing an average growth rate between 1995 and 1999 of $459%. Together, they employ 11,000-plus people in the metro area. And, the average amount each FAST 50 company plans to spend on research and development in 2000 is approximately $1 million. The statistics confirm what we already know–technology companies are thriving in the region.
All told, the dramatic growth of high tech firms in the region is helping establish St. Louis as a center for fast growing “New Economy” firms, complementing St. Louis’ continued strength as a headquarters location for mid- and large international companies.