Year In Brief: NGA delivers economic development win for St. Louis

The city of St. Louis scored a major economic development coup when the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced April 1 that it had selected north St. Louis over three other contenders for the location of its new western headquarters.

The project, which St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay had identified as his top economic development priority for 2016, means 3,100 jobs will stay in St. Louis and a $1.75 billion development is bound for a neighborhood that has struggled economically.

The Year in Brief offers a look at the business stories that were most important to Missouri in 2016, and that will continue to shape the state in 2017 and beyond.

The federal intelligence agency currently has its western headquarters in south St. Louis, but city officials feared the NGA would pick a site outside the city limits for a new facility.

The April announcement followed a tug-of-war between the St. Louis site and the other contenders, most notably a location near Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois. In early March, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner pledged $115 million in transportation and infrastructure improvements if the NGA chose St. Clair County. St. Louis officials countered a day later, offering their 100-acre site for free.

Even after April’s announcement, which the agency called preliminary, officials continued efforts to sway the NGA. But NGA Director Robert Cardillo finalized the decision in June, ensuring the largest federal project in St. Louis history.

The decision did not meet universal praise. Residents of the north St. Louis neighborhood that will house the facility voiced skepticism and distrust for the plan, even as officials expressed optimism that the project would help revitalize the neighborhood. 

Days after the NGA’s final decision, St. Louis developer Paul McKee announced plans to move forward with a 500-unit residential development near the site.

In September, the agency announced a $12 million contract with the University of Missouri to train NGA employees. The five-year deal with MU’s engineering school is expected to host 1,800 working students in St. Louis and Washington.

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