The possibility that Anheuser Busch might be swallowed by InBev is certainly not good news for St. Louis. The Busch family and their brewery are woven deeply into the region’s fabric and contribute substantially to the community.
But there is a positive side to having locally headquartered corporations bought by outside firms. It demonstrates that St. Louis has nurtured once fledgling businesses so well that they become irresistible attractions to even larger ones. When Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, wanted to expand its defense industry capabilities, it wooed McDonnell Douglas. When Nestle, the world’s preeminent food processor, sought a greater presence in pet foods, it pursued Ralston Purina.
While St. Louis understandably mourns the loss of local control, it should also celebrate the firms that have come of age here, some over decades and others — like Anheuser Busch, over more than century. The most important thing is to help grow another batch of successful ventures. And that is happening. Edward Jones and then his son Ted build one of the world’s largest brokerage operations with a novel approach—storefront financial advisors. Jack Taylor also used a neighborhood philosophy to build Enterprise Rent-a-Car, now a international giant. More recently, Barrett Toan envisioned a more efficient and effective way to distribute prescription drugs and Express Scripts was born.
The lesson is clear. Life goes on and businesses move on. The key for St. Louis is to keep the pipeline full.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.