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Slay in D.C. for mayors’ conference; talks NGA with Missouri delegation

(courtesy NGA)
An aerial view of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at 3200 South 2nd Street. Several buildings from the original federal arsenal survive from the 1830s. Most of the NGA's work takes place in the large buildings near the river.

Mayor Francis Slay tweeted on Tuesday that he’s “knocking on doors” in Washington, D.C., regarding the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The mayor is in the nation’s capital for the annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors. In an interview Tuesday, he said he often uses the opportunity to check in with Missouri’s congressional delegation, and this time is no different.

"Certainly one of the most important things I’m here to talk about with our delegation, Claire McCaskill, Roy Blunt and Lacy Clay, is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the effort to move them to another location," Slay said.

The facility is currently at 3200 S. 2nd Street, south of downtown St. Louis, and houses 3,100 employees. The city is offering the NGA 100 acres on the near north side, but it’s just one of four sites the agency is considering, including land near Scott Air Force Base.

Missouri’s congressional delegation has supported the city’s efforts, but Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois has been pushing hard for the Metro East, where officials in St. Clair County say they'll give land to the federal government for free. Slay said the city is working hard to engage officials with the NGA and the Army Corps of Engineers as they evaluate the sites, but he said they can’t ignore politics.

"You know it’s in a political environment," he said. "The role politics will play, we really don’t know; we certainly think it may have at most minimal impact, but we don’t want to take anything for granted."

Keeping the NGA 'has always been a lot more important to the city and its future than football.' - Mayor Francis Slay

The NGA is expected to make a decision this spring.

The mayor's latest lobbying efforts come as the city digests the news that the Rams will relocate to Los Angeles next year. Plans for a new $1 billion stadium in St. Louis were roundly rejected by NFL owners in Houston, who voted to allow the Rams to move to LA.

Slay said he views work to keep the NGA as much more important.

"I’ve said all along this has been and is my number one economic development priority for all the right reasons," he said. "This is about keeping jobs here, economic impact and has always been a lot more important to the city and its future than football."

The NGA has said the new facility will be a $1.6 billion project. Meanwhile, employees at the south city facility pay about $2.4 million a year in city earnings taxes.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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