County Helix Fund Will Write Bigger Checks But Could Soon Run Dry

By on March 20, 2017

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  The St. Louis County Port Authority has more than doubled the amount of money its startup investment arm can invest in young companies.

But it’s not clear yet whether the port authority will seed the Helix Fund with more capital so it can invest beyond a few more deals.

The board of the port authority, which collects about $5 million annually in rent from the River City Casino and can spend it on projects throughout St. Louis County, approved a measure Tuesday allowing the Helix Fund to invest as much as $250,000 in individual companies. Former rules limited the fund to investments of no more than $100,000.

“We have had opportunities we have not been able to participate in,” said Dustin Allison, general counsel for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, which staffs the St. Louis County Port Authority.

Created in 2010 with port authority funds, the Helix Fund was designed to provide seed capital for early-stage plant science companies in St. Louis County. The port authority agreed to provide about $3 million, or $500,000 per year for six years, to create the fund. That funding arrangement expired last year.

“It was really for seed funding for businesses, and over the last six years it has been in existence, the marketplace has changed, and we now see gap funding as the best place” to use its funds, said Sheila Sweeney, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership.

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