The prospect of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency moving next to Scott Air Force Base just seems too good to be true, and the logic of that location over the Missouri prospects seems clear.
Free land, a major military headquarters, security, interstate access and few neighbors makes the spot next to Scott and MidAmerica Airport ideal for the needs of the 3,100 employees and the 800,000-square-feet, $1.6 billion facility that will replace NGA’s aging, landlocked South St. Louis location.
By contrast, the proposed North St. Louis site that Missouri leaders seem to be backing has a lot of costs involved, including $130 million to obtain enough land, plus the time delay of dealing with willing and unwilling sellers of a patchwork of properties. After the land is obtained, there would be neighbors just outside the perimeter.
It would be easy to think this was a done deal: St. Clair County wins. Boy, would that be a mistake.
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“It makes so much sense, you’re afraid something’s going to happen,” said St. Clair County Board member Craig Hubbard, R-O’Fallon. “There is that fear out there that politics will come into play.”
Hold on to that fear.
Don’t think the current political climate doesn’t allow for a big federal project like this to be the catalyst for turning around an impoverished area. U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, claims the NGA in North St. Louis would infuse $1.4 billion a year into the area. Then there’s the $2.4 million in payroll taxes that would be lost if Missouri leaders let the NGA slip away to Illinois.
Using federal dollars to redevelop an area so close to the embers of Ferguson has a real appeal to those who see government as societal architect. Those on the side of government efficiency and taxpayer accountability need to ensure we don’t wake up one morning to hear Hubbard saying “holy moly.”