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Government, Politics & Issues

Richard to Slay: 'Do what you've got to do' to keep NGA in St. Louis

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Senate leaders are getting behind a push to persuade the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to stay in St. Louis.

The federal spy agency is planning to move to a new site from its current home south of downtown. Mayor Francis Slay wants the NGA to move to the north side of St. Louis, on a site just north of where the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex once stood.

Slay told a state senate committee Tuesday that losing the agency would hurt the city financially.

"Of course, the jobs are (already) here," he said. "If any of the other sites do not get selected, they won't lose anything, (but) we certainly will if we don't get selected. We can meet all the needs that they have."

The Senate rules committee is considering a non-binding resolution asking the NGA to build its new headquarters in St. Louis. President Pro-tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, told Slay that they'll back him up.

"Whatever you've got to do, go get it, and we'll back you up on the cost. I don't care what it is, you go get it, OK?" Richard said. "Pass it on to Sen. (Roy) Blunt and Sen. (Claire) McCaskill. Do not lose this deal over an interchange, on an exit ramp, on infrastructure. Go do what you've got to do."

Illinois officials, meanwhile, are pushing hard to persuade the NGA to relocate to a site in St. Clair County near Scott Air Force Base. The county would donate the land free of charge.

There are two other potential sites in St. Louis County, but Executive Steve Stenger has thrown his support behind the city's bid.

In addition, Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill into law last year to help the city keep the NGA in St. Louis.

If the agency chooses north city, the state would hand the city half of the facility's employees withholding taxes; up to $12 million a year. Right now, Missouri gets about $8 million from the NGA's 3,100 employees, meaning the city would get about $4 million.

A decision on the agency's location is expected in late March.

Maria Altman contributed to this report.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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