Public-private partnership driving STL NGA-West HQ bid
ST. LOUIS – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft Environmental Impact State this morning on the four potential sites for the new headquarters for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
NGA is headquartered in Springfield, Va. and has two major locations in St. Louis and Arnold, Mo. The NGA’s new facility would expand its current employee base to approximately 7,000 employees. The average NGA salary is $75,000, and generates $2.4 million in revenue for the City of St. Louis through the earnings tax. The agency wants to move from its current South St. Louis City home and to build a new high-tech facility in the surrounding area. Three of the four potential sites are located in Missouri.
In a letter to the NGA, Mayor Slay said, “The NGA is vital to our City’s economic health, and its relocation to North St. Louis will reinvigorate a significant urban area of our community. Conversely, losing the NGA would be a devastating blow to our City’s economy. The many benefits to the future of both St. Louis and NGA are immeasurable, promising and exciting.”
The City dropped a draft briefing book yesterday summarizing the proposal for the $1.6 billion state-of-the-art North St. Louis facility. The book lays out a plan for a 99 acre site at the intersection of N. Jefferson and Cass Avenues. An updated book will be released later this year responding to today’s impact statement.
“We are dedicated to retaining the NGA’s 3,100 well-paying jobs, creating new construction jobs with this massive project, and creating a new anchor to help catalyze development in North St. Louis,” Mayor Slay said. “If we are successful, it also means keeping millions of tax dollars in state and local economies.”
The proposed NGA site in North St. Louis is strongly supported by multiple federal initiatives in and around the site including, Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2), Promise Zone, and Choice Neighborhood.
Public comments will officially close on November 23, 2015. The final decision on the new location reportedly will not be made until next year.
St. Louis-area senators pioneered a bill this spring to provide $12 million in tax increment financing (TIF) for the project and have been advocating for the location throughout the year.
“St. Louis cannot afford to lose jobs right now,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. “We need to be creating jobs, not driving them away. These 3,100 jobs are essential to our area, and I will do everything in my power to keep them here.”
Statements shared that the state TIF for the site will receive a one-to-one return. The TIF money will be used to make the site ready, including demolition, configuring water and sewer, and other public infrastructure. The measure state would contribute no more than 50 percent of the withholding revenues by the state from NGA up to $12 million per year.
Senate Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, offered the measure and said it could represent the largest development project North St. Louis has seen in decades.
“Not only is NGA critical to our national defense, but it currently employs more than 3,000 people in high-tech, high-paying positions in St. Louis,” said Richard. “We are in direct competition with states like Illinois to keep the NGA in state. If we were to miss out on this opportunity to our neighbors, Missouri will lose more than $8 million per year in income taxes alone. The chance to grow won’t exist.”
Richard’s amendment was added to House Bill 514, a bill handled by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale. All St. Louis senators supported the bill.
“This is a bipartisan plan that will give the state the best chance to keep the jobs and tax revenues in Missouri,” Richard said. “This could also catalyze future development in neighborhoods that have seen disinvestment for decades. This opportunity is not something we can just sit back and wait for it to happen. These efforts are a win/win for the entire Show-Me State.”
Sen. Gina Walsh echoed Sen. Richard’s comments, saying, “The federal government provides good jobs with excellent employee benefits, and we want them to know we’re serious about keeping their business and jobs here in the Show-Me State.”
“I’m so pleased that my district has the opportunity to benefit from the high-caliber jobs the NGA provides. This is exactly the type of economic development that has the ability to generate a reliable stream of revenue for the local economy for years to come,” said Sen. Nasheed.
The measure approved by the Legislature would provide state tax-increment financing, or TIF, for the area of north St. Louis bordering a former public housing site. The state could contribute up to 50 percent of withholding revenues from the agency, up to $12 million per year.
Nixon was in Washington, D.C., in the spring making a case to keep the site in St. Louis.
However, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner shared recently in a radio interview that he would be actively “making the case” for the Illinois site.
FEDERAL DELEGATION ASSIST
Congressman Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, was quick to show support for the site this morning.
“The just-released Environmental Impact Statement confirms what I have said from the beginning of this competition, the Northside site in the City of St. Louis would advance NGA’s vital mission, yield maximum economic benefits for the massive federal dollars invested, and would boost our entire region by transforming a distressed neighborhood near downtown St. Louis.
“I also want to commend Northside Regeneration for their vision and risk-taking which helped assemble this outstanding site. And I want to applaud Mayor Slay and his team at the City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Development Corporation for creating an unprecedented public-private collaboration as we strive together to achieve this #1 economic development priority for our community.”
The report states that St. Louis would receive major benefits from the new HQ and would be significantly hurt by the loss of $2.19 million in earnings tax.
There would be “long-term beneficial effects to individuals who are relocated. In addition, the City of St. Louis is complementing these efforts with other federal redevelopment programs to develop a sustainable community in the broader Northside Redevelopment,” according to the report.
“The selection of one of the Missouri sites would be in keeping with the long tradition of the NGA and its predecessor organizations residing in the Show-Me state,” wrote Missouri’s U.S. Senate delegation in a March letter to NGA Director Robert Cardillo. “Missouri is proud to play a central role in proving critical intelligence to our warfighters that help keep our country safe.”
Blunt and McCaskill added that because most of the NGA West employees live in Missouri already, keeping the headquarters in the area would ensure the least disruption for them.