As the people of St. Louis mourn the loss of their NFL franchise, the St. Louis Rams, administrators and representatives of St. Louis are pushing to revitalize the city any way they can.
One option for increased revitalization efforts in St. Louis is the construction of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new facility. The NGA uses satellites to produce images and maps for the United States government and the military. Located in downtown St. Louis, the current NGA West facility is small, outdated, and vulnerable to a domestic terrorist attack. For those reasons, Director of the NGA Robert Cardillo is hoping to move the organizations western headquarters to a newly updated, safer location.
As it stands right now, Cardillo has the choice of two locations for the new NGA West facility. One of the facilities would be a 182-acre lot positioned near Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois. The other location would be to build the new NGA West facility in the St. Louis Place neighborhood, a neighborhood in northern St. Louis notorious for its poverty levels, unemployment and crime rates.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is one of numerous politicians actively supporting a new NGA facility inside the city limits of St. Louis. Due to its current location in downtown St. Louis, supporters of this location believe that the agency should stay in the community that it has existed in for so long. U.S. representative William Lacy Clay is another notable supporter pushing for a new NGA facility in St. Louis. Clay believes that with the use of executive orders and federal funding, the new NGA facility would ignite an economic renaissance in a city in need of a catalyst.
St. Clair County is a popular potential location because it is not only double the size of the lot proposed in St. Louis, but is also located in close proximity to an air force base. The St. Clair County location fulfills the NGA West needs of protection, and the large plot of land would allow the government to build a state of the art facility away from the commotion and threat of a heavily populated metropolitan area. Supporters of the move to St. Clair County reference the protection and practicality of the agency and facility above economic renewal. The NGA is, “not an urban renewal agency”, stated U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, “They are an imagery agency for war-fighters.”
While no decision has been made yet, NGA director Cardillo plans to make his initial decision by the end of March and plans to finalize his decision in the following months. If Cardillo decides to move the NGA West headquarters to St. Clair County, the city of St. Louis will lose not only a sizable employer, but also the potential of consistent construction jobs over the next four years, just months after losing the Rams franchise.
This debate raises and interesting perspective as to whether the federal government and the NGA West will support the local community it has existed in for decades, or if it will move on to a new location in the interest of national security.