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Economy & Business

Illinois, Missouri prepare for NGA decision

An aerial view of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at 3200 South 2nd Street, the current headquarters for NGA West.
NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL-INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
An aerial view of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at 3200 South 2nd Street in St. Louis.

The likely winner of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency's new facility will be made public this week. A report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Friday will include the preferred location for the NGA's new west headquarters.

The top choices are believed to be farmland near Scott Air Force Base and an area of north St. Louis that would involve the city acquiring property through eminent domain.

Leaders from Illinois and Missouri have been upping the ante in recent weeks in an effort to attract the spy agency and its roughly 3,000 jobs. That includes offers of free land and infrastructure improvements on both sides of the river.

“This is ready to go - shovel ready - within a few weeks we can kick it off,” Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner told a news conference shortly after meeting with NGA officials earlier this month in the Metro East.

The proposed site for the N-G-A in St. Clair County.
Credit St. Clair County
The proposed site for the N-G-A in St. Clair County.

“We don't have the issue of buying additional parcels or environmental remediation of any scale or historic preservation of any significance.”

Although the proposed site in north St. Louis is not as close to being ready for spy agency development, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is stressing the city’s technology and entrepreneurial communities as a good fit for the NGA.

“In places like Cortex and T-Rex, entrepreneurs are helping to make St. Louis one of the top startup cities in the nation,” Nixon said earlier this month after meeting with NGA leaders.

“At world-class research hubs, like Washington University, Saint Louis U and the Danforth Science Center, scientists, engineers and mathematicians are developing solutions to the world's most-pressing problems.”

The headquarters is currently in south St. Louis. The NGA has been in the city for more than seven decades. Its new headquarters is expected to be a $1.75 billion facility.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman reported this month that some in the proposed city location are not happy with the plan. A handful of protesters showed up this month outside the mayor’s office when Missouri leaders were stating their case during a news conference.

The city has taken around 30 property owners to court in eminent domain proceedings.

Our Durrie Bouscaren attended a news conference this month with Illinois officials who touted their package to lure the NGA to that side of the Mississippi. In addition to the offer of development-ready farmland,  Gov. Rauner also highlighted plans to make millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements in the area. That’s despite the fact Illinois lawmakers have yet to agree on a budget for the current fiscal year and beyond.

The proposed site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis.
Credit (courtesy NGA)
The proposed site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis.

The announcement of the preliminary decision will be followed by a public comment period. A final decision on the new NGA location will come in late spring or early summer.

Officials in both states have been concerned that the decision will be based on politics, instead of what would be considered the best overall option for the spy agency and overall St. Louis region.

They have been told by NGA director Robert Cardillo that the decision rests with him and not someone in a high political office.

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