Metro-East News

Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti tours Scott, predicts area will get new home for spy agency

Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti predicted Thursday that a nearly 200-acre site next-door to Scott Air Force Base will become the new home for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and 3,000 workers employed there.

“Again, from seeing everything that I’ve seen these few hours that I’ve been here, I think we are the ones who are going to land that,” said Sanguinetti, the chairwoman of the Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee.

Sanguinetti, whose job as panel chairwoman is to protect the state’s military installations from budget cuts, met with a reporter at the passenger terminal of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. She then embarked on a four-hour tour of nearby Scott, the home of the U.S. Transportation Command, the Air Mobility Command and other major military units.

Mark Kern, the St. Clair County Board chairman, made headlines last month when he informally announced the county would donate the 182-acre site to NGA in return for the agency promising to build a facility there.

The St. Clair County site is one of four in the St. Louis area that NGA is considering as a replacement for its current facility, an aging collection of warehouses south of downtown St. Louis. The agency is scheduled to pick the winner of the site competition a year from now.

Sanguinetti, a Republican who came into office only two months ago after being elected on the same ticket as Gov. Bruce Rauner, acknowledged she has a lot to learn.

So far, she said, she’s been impressed by everything’s she’s heard about Scott. Sanguinetti also acknowledged the threats to Scott and the state’s other two major military installations — The Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago and the Rock Island Arsenal — posed by the prospect of Congressional cuts to the federal budget.

But while budget cuts to Scott are a threat, “I’ll have you know that this site is a superstar. A lot’s being done here,” she said. “I see a lot of good things coming out of this base.”

Sanguinetti, who until last year served on the Wheaton City Council, said she was also impressed by the way that St. Clair County was able to work out intergovernmental agreements with Scott concerning shared responsibilities and land use.

“Just seeing government working together,” she said. “That’s nice. Coming from Springfield, you don’t see government working together so well. Breath of fresh air.”

Sanguinetti took over as chairwoman of the base support and development panel from former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who last year presided over the publication of a report that showed that Illinois’ military and defense industry supports $13.3 billion in economic activity in the state. The report also showed how military and defense spending generated 150,000 jobs and about 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product

Scott, the Rock Island Arsenal near the Quad Cities of northwestern Illinois and the Naval Station Great Lakes, located outside Chicago, support 85,000 jobs and contributed $9.1 billion to the state economy, according to the report.

Scott is the the St. Louis region’s top employer and biggest generator of economic activity, with a $3 billion annual impact and supporting 13,000 jobs, including 5,500 active duty military positions.