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St. Louis County Council to consider support of Boeing incentives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 6, 2013 - The Missouri General Assembly isn’t the only legislative body going into a special session because of the quest to nab Boeing’s 777X.

The St. Louis County Council will be holding an unusual Monday session to consider a resolution that, according to St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Denny Coleman, will “express support" and spell out the incentives for the project.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley wrote in a subsequent letter that “it is time for the county government to step forward and do our part." That's especially the case, he said, after the Missouri General Assembly passed legislation in special session aimed at luring production of the commercial aircraft to the St. Louis area. 

In a telephone interview, Dooley said the resolution being considered by the council is essentially a letter of intent that St. Louis County would offer its own incentives – including tax increment financing and tax abatement – if Boeing decided to steer 777X production to Missouri.

“The purpose of this meeting is to do exactly what the legislature did. It’s to get on board, to do whatever it takes to get these good high-paying jobs in St. Louis County. Period,” Dooley said.

Earlier Friday, the Missouri House sent legislation to Gov. Jay Nixon that could potentially provide up to $1.7 billion in incentives to Boeing over the next 23 years.)

Dooley said that he hasn’t requested a special council meeting during his tenure as county executive. He said it was necessary because Missouri’s answer to Boeing’s request for proposal is due Dec. 10.

Boeing is already a major employer in St. Louis County, its facilities close to Lambert St. Louis International Airport manufacture military aircraft. Coleman estimated in his letter that if Boeing picked Missouri for the 777X's wing fabrication and assembly, body assembly and final assembly and delivery facilities, it would create 8,000 new jobs. Landing only the wing fabrication and assembly facility, Coleman said, would create about 2,000 jobs.

Both Dooley and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay testified in favor of Sen. Eric Schmitt’s legislation. And St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann expressed support for the push on this week’s edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, noting that many people who would work on the 777X live in his fast-growing county.

Still, several states are competing for the work, and the Seattle Times reported that Washington state is willing to shell out billions in incentives to keep Boeing.

Asked what he thought Missouri's chances were, Dooley said “if the state legislature has already passed it and we passed the resolution Monday night, we’re in the mix.” He cited Boeing’s presence in St. Louis County, an airport at the company’s “disposal” and access to major roads.

“We can’t guarantee anything. But I can guarantee you we’re in the mix,” Dooley said. 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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