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Commentary Detail

Aerotropolis Bill Could Change St. Louis' Economic Future
Commentary by: Richard Fleming
Aired May 10, 2011

A recent front page USA Today article on Aerotropolis noted development projects next door to airports are back in vogue in the U.S., as cities look to attract export-oriented and high-tech businesses amid uncertain economic recovery.

The Aerotropolis bill, now before the Missouri General Assembly, is about providing the missing piece of a multi-modal transportation system thatís been sorely missing from our region and State for decades - about bringing new business and industry, and tens of thousands of manufacturing and assembly jobs to the St. Louis region that arenít here today. Itís about development of a flourishing industry cluster on a scale we donít currently have - about generating vital new revenue streams for Lambert International Airport to better attract new passenger traffic. Itís all about St. Louisí recapturing global relevance as an international center of commerce and trade.

RCGA commissioned a now-completed independent economic evaluation by Princeton-based BLS and international logistics authority Institute St. Onge, both widely considered to be among the most knowledgeable in the field of logistics and economic development in the nation, to quantify the incentive that is the heart of this legislation.

This analysis documented that, if the State invested the entire $300 million as part of the Aerotropolis measure in facility tax credits over the next 15 years, over 13,800 new permanent jobs and 23,000 construction jobs would be created, with total economic output of $22 billion. Thatís comparable to the current economic impact of all of Scott Air Force Base. Further, taxpayers receive the accountability that credits will not be granted until AFTER these jobs are created and operations are up and running and employing people in the region and State.

St. Louis has had a history of being bold at times Ė such as funding Charles Lindberghís historic transatlantic flight back in 1927, and the bold move to construct the Arch in 1965. Sadly, St. Louis also has stumbled in the midst of other great civic opportunities in the past. In the 1860s, the naysayers of the time said NO to the railroadsí request for a bridge across the Mississippi River. St. Louis ended up building the Eads Bridge far too late in the game to matter for winning the railroad hub. That lack of foresight gave this momentous opportunity to Chicago.

Bottom line, once again history beckons. Successful passage of this Aerotropolis legislation has the potential to change the course of St. Louis' and Missouriís economy for the next 100 years. Itís a transformational opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Richard Fleming

Richard Fleming


In July 1994, Dick Fleming was recruited to St. Louis as President and Chief Executive Officer of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA), the bi-state region's chamber of commerce and economic development organization, where he currently serves. He oversees a staff of 50 and an annual operating budget of over $12 million. Locally, he serves on the board or committees of World Agricultural Congress (founding Board member); Chancellorís Council at the University of Missouri at St. Louis (UMSL); Center for Emerging Technologies; CORTEX; Arts & Education Council (vice chairman); Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences (founding member); Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois; St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association; St. Louis Sports Commission; United Way of Greater St. Louis; and Downtown Now! (founding co-chair). He graduated from Loyola College with an undergraduate degree in political science and philosophy; from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce with an M.B.A; and, concurrently, from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Fine Arts with a masters degree in city planning. Dick and his wife, Sarah live in the city in the Central West End with their two daughters, Caitlin and Tess.

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