Economic fast lane: Illinois 3 corridor generates $20 billion annual revenue

News-DemocratJune 23, 2013 

The metro-east businesses located along the Illinois 3 corridor are a major economic engine for local jobs and revenue.

New research into the industries and services along the 60-mile long corridor that connects three counties from Alton in the north to Waterloo in the south finds these businesses generate more than $20 million a year for the metro-east economy and more than 215,000 jobs that provide $9.2 billion to payrolls each year.

The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, a member-based economic development organization that serves St. Clair and Madison counties, conducted the study in a partnership with Heartlands Conservancy to measure the corridor's economic impact in the metro-east. The findings point to the region's manufacturing and wholesale trade industries as well as transportation options by way of major interstates, railways, airports and the Mississippi River.

The study found that the direct impact along the corridor includes 1,380 business with at least 10 employees with a combined annual revenue of $6.3 billion. Most of these businesses are in Alton, Granite City, Sauget, East St. Louis and Wood River and employ a total workforce of 75,000 with an annual payroll of $3.3 billion.

The transportation industry located with in the corridor includes 73 business with 10 or more employees, which accounted for approximately $350 million in annual revenue. These business provide 4,400 jobs with almost $200 million in annual wages.

The 95 businesses within the corridor's manufacturing industry accounts for approximately $1 billion in annual revenue, providing 9,000 jobs with $400 million in annual wages.

The wholesale trade industry within the corridor includes 65 businesses accounting for approximately $500 million in annual revenue and providing 5,000 jobs with more than $200 million in annual wages.

This economic impact is felt beyond St. Clair, Madison and Monroe counties. Only half of those employed within these companies along the corridor reside in the three-county region. The study found that some live as far away as 260 miles north, 100 miles to the south, 130 miles to the east and 65 miles to the west. Approximately 10 percent of these workers live in Missouri.

Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois Executive Director Ellen Krohne said that despite being aware of the industry and warehousing that dot the corridor, she was surprised by the total amount of jobs and revenue these companies generated as revealed in the study.

"That is a very large impact," Krohne said. "We knew about the large companies there, but not as a group and how they impact our region."

She pointed out those such as the Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery in Roxana, U.S. Steel in Granite City and Monsanto in Sauget.

In Cahokia, Jet Aviation, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics located at St. Louis Downtown Airport, employs between 12,000 to 15,000. Jet Aviation public relations and communications manager Charlie Bosworth said the aviation service company brings in about $75 million in business from customers to the region each year.

Sauget Properties Chief Financial Officer Jay Dinkelmann said a $23.5 million FedEx distribution under construction in Sauget is the latest investment along the corridor. The 181,000-square-foot ground distribution center on 45 acres at the Sauget Business Park that will create 175 new full- and part-time jobs.

"The Route 3 corridor generates economic impact not only for Sauget, but for the all of Southern Illinois with its mix of heavy and light industry," Dinkelmann said. "In Sauget, there is heavy and light industry warehousing and distribution. The Route 3 corridor provides opportunities for many jobs. The economic impact is good for the region."

Also making an economic impact are Dial, Procter & Gamble, Hershey Foods, Unilever and other companies that occupy more than 13.5 million square feet of distribution space at the 2,300-acre Gateway Commerce Center in Edwardsville and Pontoon Beach. Spokesman Terry Stieve said each warehouse employs between 800 and 1,200 workers at peak times during the year.

The business park was established in 1998, but Stieve said it would have never been possible without the region's access to major roadways like Illinois 3 as well as railroads, airports and the Mississippi River. Over time, Madison County Transit has added bus stops to each of the buildings in the distribution center.

"Without the new modern infrastructure, there would never be Gateway Commerce Center," Stieve said. "It was the infrastructure that created Gateway Commerce Center. It's the infrastructure that allows for that kind of truck traffic."

In Granite City and Madison, America's Central Port includes a business park that generates a $282 million a year for the region, a separate study has recently found. The 1,200-acre site supports more than 1,450 direct and indirect jobs --a 36 percent increase in the port's overall economic impact in Madison County since 2007 -- and pays workers $70 million a year in wages.

Some of the cost for the $704 million new Mississippi River Bridge under construction includes an interchange at relocated Illinois 3 leading to the new bridge.

Krohne said the study sheds light on the roadway's economic impact in the region that underscores continued infrastructure investment along the corridor, including an ongoing years-long effort to secure levee repairs in the area.

"As we get closer and closer to the American Bottoms levees repairs, we want to make sure the world know Route 3 is open for business, the American Bottoms is open for business and we have a good affordable property along the corridor to be able to grow the region."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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