Capital Meeting Focuses on Aerotropolis Project

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JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers meeting for the special session in Jefferson City Wednesday night centered on a proposal to turn St. Louis into a major, international air cargo hub.  Wednesday night's jobs committee meeting focused mainly on one big topic - the "aerotropolis project."

The idea is that the project would develop Lambert Airport into a hub for international trade and cargo shipments, mostly with China, where Lambert could see Chinese air cargo planes on its runways.  The bill is expected to create 20,000 jobs.  It will cost $300 million dollars in warehouse and small assembly investments and $60 million in state funded incentives. Proponents of the project said it would have a net savings of $1.5 billion.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay attended Wednesday night's meeting in support of the idea. Mayor Slay predicts the project could create 5,000 direct jobs and 11,000 construction jobs. He defended the project funding and Lambert's debt.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James was also in attendance and backed up Mayor Slay. Mayor James said Kansas City residents are having a tough time competing with the state of Kansas and the airport hub would help.

In opposition of the project, Senator Rob Shaaf, R-St. Joseph, said, "I think the aerotropolis program is going to be a huge tax payer subsidy to bring Chinese goods to Missouri while at the same time, shipping jobs to China, I don't want to be a part of that."

In favor of the bill, Senator Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, argued, "I think we're at a point where we didn't pass the jobs bill last session, we have three economic bills here focused on creating jobs, and I think it's incumbent upon us to pass one of these bills and get it into law. I think it's what we were elected to do."

In Wednesday night's meeting, legislators heard three different bills, each addressing both the tax credit incentive and the "aerotropolis project."  If they finish the committee meeting Wednesday night, they should be discussing those topics on the senate floor Thursday.