Local leaders gather for 'State of St. Louis' event

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by Laura Hettiger / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 7:27 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 16 at 11:44 AM

The highest ranking officials in the St. Louis metropolitan area came together to present the “State of St. Louis” on Thursday morning. The event, sponsored by the St. Louis Business Journal, was a localized “State of the Union” address giving the four speakers a platform to lay out the challenges and opportunities facing the area.

Before the event, News 4 reached out to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann and Mark Kern, St. Clair County Chairman. Although Mayor Slay did not respond, below are the highlights the three executives sent to News 4.

Dooley told News 4 residents should be excited about the current state of the city.

“We have momentum in the St. Louis metropolitan area as we move forward in 2014 in the 21st century, we have a lot to be thankful for,” he said. “And quite frankly in the year 2014, this year, we hope there will be a lot of hiring going on. The signs of growth that these companies are saying we are hiring people.”

Dooley said 2013 was one of the best years in county history. Companies located in St. Louis County announced more than 5,000 new jobs. More than $1 million was raised in private investment.

Monsanto invested $400 million in Chesterfield, creating 675 jobs, while Boeing added between 800 and 1,000 new high-skill jobs in Hazelwood

RGA created 300 new jobs and Express Scripts added 1,500 jobs with the Medco acquisition.

In St. Charles County, Ehlmann admits his staff identified successes and possible shortfalls facing St. Charles County in 2014. He pointed out that work will soon finish on two big projects: the Emergency Radio Communications System that will launch this summer and the third phase of the Route 364 Page Avenue Extension, which will be ready by November.

According to Ehlmann, the road work will “make commutes easier and create more opportunities for growth in the area.”

That growth is something he plans to focus on during 2014, specifically growing opportunities for younger adults in St. Charles County.

“The more we can do to meet the needs of our citizens age 18-31 by creating opportunities for jobs and housing, and even entertainment, the better our county will be,” Ehlmann said in a statement.

Ehlmann also said citizens can expect a 1 percent growth in sales tax collections. This will go toward maintaining revenue for building permits and also recording fees.

As for local industry, the General Motors Assembly Plant nears completion in Wentzville. It is a $380 million expansion. The company also plans a $133 million stamping plant in the area.

In Illinois, St. Clair County officials are managing the largest county south of Chicago and  are doing that by slashing the 2014 budget by $9 million compared to the 2013 budget. Over the last four years, officials tout that they have cut costs by $45 million.

Even with the cuts, the County Executive anticipates abating the County’s share of property taxes this year.

Below are the pinpointed growth areas in St. Clair County for 2014:

I-64 Corridor with 6 lanes thru O’Fallon/Shiloh

MidAmerica Airport cargo growth. Rieder Road

I-255 Corridor (Dupo & Sauget)

IL-15 Corridor thru Belleville

Belleville’s East End

Former Stockyards site (now in Fairmont City) and Gateway Motorsports Park in the City of Madison (within St. Clair County)

One of the biggest problems facing the area has to do with the federal defense cuts happening at Scott Air Force Base. It is the largest employer in the county and the fourth largest in the entire St. Louis region. The annual economic impact of SAFB is $3 billion.

 

To anticipate, plan for and deal with the potential of looming cuts, the Scott AFB Retention and Expansion Task Force has been implemented. The hope is to find missions that could happen at Scott and retain existing operations.

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