Scott Air Force Base proves to be a population magnet

News-DemocratFebruary 16, 2011 

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A sign welcomes visitors through the Belleville Gate entrance at Scott Air Force Base.

SSGT CHAD R. GANN, USAF — Chad R. Gann, USAF

— Last year, Robert "Ted" Tedford took a job as a systems analyst for a defense contractor at Scott Air Force Base. For Tedford, a recent Air Force retiree, the decision to relocate his family to the metro-east was easy.

"I like the area. I like the people," said Tedford, 45, who grew up in Arkansas. "It reminds me of where I grew up. Another thing that keeps me here is the job market."

As the results of the 2010 U.S. Census show, plenty of other people are thinking like Tedford.

Lured by the boom in highly skilled jobs caused by Scott's steady expansion, as well as good local schools and easy access to Interstate 64, thousands of other families have moved to eastern St. Clair County in the past decade, making it one of the region's fast-growing areas.

The towns ringing Scott have all shown impressive growth since the 2000 census:

* Lebanon: 4,418, up 25.4 percent.

* Mascoutah: 7,483, up 32.2 percent.

* O'Fallon: 28,281 up 29.1 percent.

* Shiloh: 12,651, up 65.5 percent.

Walter Denton, O'Fallon's city manager, attributed his town's hefty growth to its location off I-64, its school system and the relatively low crime rate.

Other pluses are a growing commercial and housing sector, new schools and churches, and improved infrastructure, such as the addition of Frank Scott Parkway to relieve traffic off U.S. Highway 50.

"Most of the people who live in O'Fallon work at either the Air Force base or in St. Louis, and it's easy to get to both places from here," Denton said.

"We work hard to try to have that small-town feel and sense of community, which I think people enjoy. I think it's a combination of all those things."

Scott Abner, Lebanon's mayor, also credited Scott's growth for the population gains his city posted.

Plenty of active duty and retired military personnel opt to live in Lebanon. "It's a great place to live," he said.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 239-2533.

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