As NGA shifts into new construction phase, it’s also eyeing a more diverse workforce
The new campus for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency moves into a new phase of construction this month when workers finish the exterior of the main building.
Work on the site in north St. Louis will turn to its interior, which will house the federal agency that provides the U.S. military with geospatial intelligence and services that include aeronautical charts and maritime and topographic maps.
“The reason this site was selected is the idea that we can build a facility for the purposes of our mission, which we don’t have today in St. Louis,” said NGA West Executive Sue Pollmann.
NGA’s current location near the Anheuser-Busch brewery can’t easily accommodate visitors without their providing advance notice and passing background or other security checks, she explained.
“Here we will have an unclassified area to bring those people in to work on maps, processes and the technology behind those processes,” Pollmann said. “To be able to do those kinds of things side-by-side, we feel, is a game-changer.”
The roughly 3,100 people who work for NGA in St. Louis will likely start moving into the new space in late 2025, with that move completed in early 2026, she said. And with that Pollmann said she expects to see other private developments around the site, like restaurants and retail or office space.
“There are opportunities when you look at the number of vacant lots and desire of people to see a recharge on the north side,” she said.
St. Louis released a plan in September to ensure development of this kind builds economic opportunity for majority Black and brown neighborhoods that hadn’t historically seen investment.
This includes the new NGA site, and Pollmann added that the agency is also committed to growing diversity among its employees by establishing connections to more parts of St. Louis. She said NGA established an education partnership agreement with Harris-Stowe State University a few years ago.
“That allows us to work very closely with them on their geospatial programs to ensure they’re graduating students that can come work for us,” Pollmann said.
She added the agency has connections with local elementary and high schools and programs like Rung for Women, which has been successful in training women who want to break into more specialized careers.
“When they finish the program, they have a credential that positions them for success in the industry,” said Rung for Women President Leslie Gill at an event last month. “That is what we’ve done for geospatial.”
DaMisha White is one example. Through Rung for Women, she transitioned from a delivery driver to a 3D geospatial technician at Maxar Technologies, which has contracted for NGA.
“They offered me a certification for ArcGIS and geospatial intelligence, which really built my confidence,” White said. “They also brought in people who worked in the field, which made me feel like I already had a connection.”
The developers of the new site are also largely meeting their goal of having a diverse workforce build the new facility, said Eugene Morisani, who is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team involved in overseeing the project. They want about 14% to be from a minority background and more than 6% to be women.
“Six percent doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you walk around this job site, it’s very noticeable how many women are out there doing carpentry and pipefitting and plumbing and all of that trade work,” he said.
These goals around diversity were baked into the process used to select contractors, Morisani said.
“What are your plans? What strategies will you employ to do this?” he said. “And twice a year we check in on the numbers to see how we’re doing. Something that you measure tends to get better.”
Morisani added the Corps is already using these same principals for future projects, including a new hospital at Fort Leonard Wood.
Eric Schmid covers economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.