St. Louis, Gateway to the West, to Become Gateway to East too

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 22:44

Growing up in St Louis Missouri offered a life very different than that I have found in Shanghai.  Very. Yet, it is a city that shares a lot in common with some of the more interesting, and successful cities, I have found in China.

Located at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, St. Louis is pretty much right in the dead center of the continental United States, and is a city with a long history as a trade port and industrial center.  It is a city that has transformed over the last 20 years from almost a pure manufacturing based economy (cars, automobiles, beer, and chemicals) to one that was highly focused on services (banking, real estate, insurance, financial services, etc), and has been dinged pretty good over the last few years as things fell off.

So, when I hear the recent announcement that the Mayor had just returned to St. Louis from China, with 4 MOUs to turn Lambert International Airport into a Chinese cargo hub, it peaked my interest:

Ten days ago, a group of local leaders flew to Beijing, hoping to get a Chinese airline or two to think seriously about launching cargo flights to St. Louis.

When they flew back Saturday, they had deals in hand with four of them.

Perhaps working a bit slower pace that I am used to on China time (who needs to study anything.. JUST DO IT!) the one hurdle that seems to stand in the way.. a hurdle that shoudl come as no surprise:

The main question is whether there’s enough demand for Midwestern-made goods to fly back to China. That’s key to creating jobs here, and to attracting high-value cargo to St. Louis, rather than the passenger hubs like Chicago, where much of it now flies in the bellies of passenger jets.

To which I offer the following thought: Over the last few years (5-10 really) St. Louis has lost a lot of manufacturing jobs.  Its exposure in auto and airlines were particularly destructive to jobs when Boeing (formerly MacDonald Douglas) packed up, when TWA was bought out by American, and when GM/ Ford began shuttering their plants. And that is really jsut the beginning of the issues that are faced economically, but that is not the entire story.  St. Louis, and the surrounding areas, have a solid base of infrastructure and people that will entice manufacturing back, however (and this is where my China experience I think kicks in), the Mayor needs to take some tips from his Chinese counterparts and begin offering up some serious incentives for firms (domestic and foreign) to enter the area.

Setting aside huge tracks of land is simply one step.  Tax breaks need to be given.  Rent free periods need to be included.  The works.

For those of you from the Lou, stay tuned.

I have a few people I am chasing down to learn more about this project, but in short, it is my belief that this could be a chance for St. Louis to really benefit through opening its Gateway to the East.

That with the increased trade, would not only come jobs, it would offer St. Louis (and surrounding areas) a chance to revitalize large sections of the economy that have taken a beating over the last cycle.

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2 Responses to “St. Louis, Gateway to the West, to Become Gateway to East too”

  1. anon says:

    March 31st, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    southwest also yanked their hub from STL a few years ago…the lambert east terminal is a ghost town

  2. Rich says:

    March 31st, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    @anon

    I can remember when Lambert was booming from Ozark, TWA, and MAC as a kid. The city just let it go over the years, and in their infinite wisdom built that East terminal for Southwest when there was half of the main terminal open and badly in need of a paint job.

    R