Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mid-America St. Louis Airport lands Boeing plant, China traffic


Cash-strapped State of Illinois plans to sink another $2.3 million into a project at its largely-vacant airport — Mid-America St. Louis Airport — near downstate Mascoutah.

The state will give Chicago-based Boeing the cash to allow the aero-space manufacturing giant to set up shop at the 12-year old airport that has seen so little use during its tenure that from outer space it must resemble a giant paper weight.

The taxpayers of St. Clair County which have been footing bill to keep the airport open, as well as providing millions of dollars in incentives to spur air traffic, will also contribute $3.5 million to turn the unused cargo terminal into use for Boeing's defense program, employing about 75 people.

The lease has not been finalized with Boeing, but the St. Clair County Board has already approved its portion of the up-front cash. Boeing is expected to lease the facility and repay the investment over the next ten years as it opens a $7 million manufacturing plant.

County Board Chairman Mark Kern told the Belleville News Democrat that the board was comfortable that a company of the stature of Boeing has made a commitment to the area, and that they look forward to working with them.

Others, especially the taxpayers of St. Clair County, are a little more skeptical as evidenced by the more than three dozen comments that follow the online version of the story .

Mid-America could land Chinese trade route

Thursday, a cargo jet from China landed at Mid-America in a test run that could result in long-term cargo service from the East. The landing was considered a success. The plane's cargo shipment off-loaded onto trucks bound for cities throughout the country.

Five years ago, Mid-America established a Foreign Trade Zone, which provides special customs procedures to U.S. plants engaged in international trade.

Mid-America St. Louis has also become a U.S. Port of Entry to accommodate a customer that imports flowers and other perishables from South America. The county spent $3 million to outfit a cargo terminal with refrigeration.

The board is considering building another warehouse.

Competition across the river

In Missouri U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-MO and Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-MO are part of a delegation enroute to Beijing in an attempt to secure cargo opportunities between China and St. Louis' Lambert Field.