(KMOV) – A China cargo airlines flight landed at Lambert Airport Friday afternoon loaded with about 110 tons of goods.
Some St. Louis leaders hope the flight will lead to bigger plans – a so-called China hub, or the St. Louis Aerotropolis. City and regional leaders hope the aerotropolis will bring jobs.
However, News 4 has been investigating this project for months, and found there are legitimate questions on its viability, and many might be outraged to know how many tax dollars are being spent on consultants working on the project.
Over a two-year period, one China hub consulting company piled up $192,000 in expenses. The bill for one first class flight from London to several cities in Asia and back to London was $14,000. Sources say that was paid for with a mix of public and private funds.
The Aerotropolis, as the project is called, would be a network of warehouses that would support cargo flights, and with tax breaks, it would make it cheaper for companies to come to St. Louis instead of existing international hubs such as New York and Miami.
Some critics question the need for millions of dollars in tax incentives, and they say there are millions of square feet of vacant warehouse in other places and that other Midwest airports have better systems and more experience than Lambert does with international cargo.
Local leaders dismiss criticism and say this first flight is an important milestone in a project with the potential to transform the St. Louis economy.
Aerotropolis supporters were hoping a special session of the legislature would approve $360 million in tax credits as incentive to build new warehouses and manufacturing facilities. The legislation has stalled in the special session and its future appears bleak.