ST. LOUIS — St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern says ongoing local transportation expansion will continue to create potential opportunities for economic growth.
"We are in a great part of the country, where all of the highways in the country come together," Kern said.
The County Board chairman was one of four St. Louis-area government officials to discuss the State of St. Louis, a regional forum conducted Friday morning by the St. Louis Business Journal at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in downtown St. Louis. In speaking on a panel that included St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann and Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, Kern said the region's success depends on the future cooperation between his home county, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County and the states of Illinois and Missouri.
"We need to get together on transportation logistics, which is the future of this region," he said. "When we talk about the Mississippi River having a little water problem, that is an extremely serious problem."
Aside from mentioning the current record-low depths of the Mississippi River and problems it poses for river barge cargo transportation, Kern also pointed to the ongoing construction of the new Mississippi River Bridge that is expected to open by 2015. Also by that time, at least 75 percent of the St. Louis-to-Chicago high-speed rail corridor is expected to be open for travelers. These trains will travel at speeds of 110 mph and reduce travel time between the two cities by more than an hour.
Kern also said a sales tax created to help pay for levee repairs in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties has been a success. He said millions in levee improvements should also be completed in two years.
Jobs and revenue also highlighted Kern's comments. He said the economy remains challenging and the county's revenue streams are getting back to 2008 levels.
Job creation continues to be in demand, Kern said, and "jobs follow infrastructure." He mentioned the long-standing employment that Scott Air Force Base continues to provide as the third-largest employer in the region and largest job provider in the metro-east.
"It's a very important base with quality jobs," he said. "Fourteen-thousand people work at the Air Force base. They not only work here, they retire here."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.