Bi-State Development is one of our region’s greatest assets, and at the same time, one of its best kept secrets. After giving hundreds of presentations to thousands of Illinois and Missouri residents as Bi-State Development’s President and CEO, I am convinced that it is vital that our organization’s mission, capabilities and accomplishments become better known.
Many people I talk with are surprised to learn that operating the Metro public transit system is only one part of our economic development mission. They did not realize that in the early 1960s, there were 15 different bus companies and they all had one thing in common — they were going broke. Leaders in the region said they needed reliable public transportation by a reliable partner, so they came to us. In 1963, we acquired all 15 companies and turned them into one award-winning regional transit system known around the world for its efficiency and reliability.
Others have no idea that we own and operate the third busiest airport in the State of Illinois behind O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport. Our St. Louis Downtown Airport, with as many as 8,500 takeoffs and landings a month, is the second busiest airport in the bi-state area. Located on 1,000 acres in Cahokia and Sauget, the airport closest to downtown St. Louis is home to 26 businesses, generating 3,700 jobs and providing an economic impact of $584 million annually to the region.
Most people don’t know that when they take their family and friends to the top of the Gateway Arch, they are actually buying their tickets from a Bi-State Development employee and have been since 1967. When the Arch was being built, the National Park Service needed a reliable partner to finance the purchase of the trams. We facilitated the financing and have been operating the trams ever since. In addition, we have expanded opportunities for tourism and recreation by purchasing and operating the Gateway Arch Riverboats as well as other St. Louis riverfront attractions.
Recently, we added two new enterprises: the Bi-State Development Research Institute and the Regional Freight District. The Research Institute will help the region’s leaders make highly informed decisions about economic development opportunities. The freight district’s mission is to position the bi-state region as a premier national freight gateway and multimodal freight hub. It is rightfully being referred to as one of our region’s most promising opportunities, and we are proud to be chosen to respond to this regional challenge.
Even before I joined Bi-State Development in October 2010, the power of the bi-state Compact between Illinois and Missouri was clear to me. Ratified by Congress in 1949 and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1950, the Compact gives Bi-State Development broad powers to serve as a regional economic development engine, and for 65 years we have done just that.
Since 2003, our Company has used the name Metro, a brand identity that we are proud of and will keep for the public transportation system. However, to better identify with our many services to the region, we are recalling our proud heritage and will again call our company Bi-State Development so there is no confusion about what we do every day. We provide real solutions to regional challenges. Every day, in so many ways, we help keep the region moving.
John M. Nations is the President and CEO of Bi-State Development.