© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Local politicians rejoice at news that NGA will stay in St. Louis

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay is flanked by federal state and local political leaders as they celebrate the initial decision to keep the NGA in St. Louis.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay is flanked by federal state and local political leaders as they celebrate the initial decision to keep the NGA in St. Louis.

Federal, state and local officials are celebrating the news that the federal government has picked a site in north St. Louis for an expansion of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

"History has come full circle in North St. Louis," said U.S. Rep Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis), whose district includes the new location. "A great federal failure will now be replaced by a transformative federal success. After decades of disinvestment and depopulation, and after the national disgrace of Pruitt-Igoe, the NGA has made a powerful, positive choice that will once again place North St. Louis at the center of jobs, innovation, technology, economic development and defending freedom."

The city’s site includes 100 acres just north of the former Pruitt-Igoe housing development and would mean moving about 200 residents and a handful of businesses.

Clay's colleague Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) also called the decision a victory for the region.

"Missouri has been home to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) for more than 70 years and their decision to stay here and move to North St. Louis City is a big win for the nearly 2,000 NGA West employees who live in the state," she said. "NGA West will continue to perform its critical role in our national security within a community that understands its needs and strongly supports its mission."

In her own statement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) applauded the "sustained and bipartisan" effort to keep the agency and its 3,100 jobs in St. Louis.

“I’m thrilled that the NGA has decided to keep its more than 3,000 employees and its proud 72-year legacy on the front lines of American intelligence right here in Missouri where it belongs. This is great news for the skilled and dedicated workforce at NGA, and for the entire St. Louis region—where it’ll be a boon to a community that’s already making enormous economic strides with a number of urban revitalization programs. I’m glad NGA leadership and the Administration listened to our sustained, bipartisan arguments for the benefits of the unparalleled infrastructure, experience, and the talented workforce Missouri provides to continue the NGA’s critical mission of protecting our national security.”

McCaskill's Republican counterpart Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said in a statement that he met several times with NGA director Robert Cardillo in the last year to "underscore the benefits of maintaining the NGA site in St. Louis."

"Director Robert Cardillo and the NGA made the right decision in selecting North St. Louis as the preferred site for the new NGA West campus. Missouri is home to more than 3,000 dedicated, highly-skilled NGA personnel who, for more than 70 years, have provided critical intelligence and combat support to keep Americans safe. The North St. Louis location will allow the NGA to continue its mission, and recruit the next generation of intelligence professionals seeking the type of urban, car-optional lifestyle the city provides. In addition, the North St. Louis site provides unparalleled access to graduate school opportunities and high-tech neighbors, is a designated Promise Zone, and is convenient to Lambert Airport and the NGA’s other facility in Arnold, Mo. I’m glad the NGA recognized North St. Louis as the best location for the new west headquarters, and I look forward to continuing to work with the agency as the project moves forward. The leadership of Mayor Slay, Senator McCaskill, Congressman Clay, and leaders in Jefferson City has been essential and united. Our continued support during the comment period will be important."

Governor Jay Nixon also applauded the announcement as a "shining example of what is possible when Missourians work together across regional and party lines for the good of their communities."

"The NGA’s decision is a testament to the city’s innovative workforce and infrastructure, and the tireless leadership of Mayor Slay, our entire congressional delegation, the Missouri Department of Economic Development and the many other business and civic leaders who were involved in this effort. I also want to thank members of the Missouri General Assembly for passing legislation last year to support the development of the north St. Louis site and pave the way for this transformational investment in the region’s future."

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger called the NGA's decision "wise."

"We have supported this location throughout the process because it is the best for the NGA and the entire St. Louis region. Building its new facility in St. Louis benefits both the agency and its employees. Because the vast majority of its workforce lives in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis, this site is the most accessible of the finalists. The location of the new facility positions the agency for the long run, placing it in the middle of a growing technology hub. It also creates momentum for growth and revitalization in the area. We look forward to the construction of the new facility and the benefits it will bring for all area residents."

Reaction from the Illinois side of the river was much more subdued. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said in a tweet that the announcement was "disappointing news, but the future of Scott (Air Force Base) remains bright."

"I will continue working with leaders at home and in Washington to ensure that Scott remains a major player in our nation's defense," he said in another tweet.

St. Clair County chairman Mark Kern told the Belleville News-Democrat that,"We believe we have the best site, we continue to believe that, and will continue to work towards that goal."

The agency will take comments on its preferred site for 30 to 60 days.

"We will go through the report line by line, and take a look at the reasoning and will make comments on the ones we don’t agree with," Kern told the newspaper.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.