St. Louis leaders going back to China for more cargo hub talks
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 12, 2010
by Tim Logan
At the very least, St. Louis civic leaders are racking up lots of frequent flier miles with their China air cargo hub project.
Another local delegation is heading to Beijing next week, this time to try and pitch Lambert St. Louis International Airport to specific Chinese airlines as a site to base cargo operations in the U.S. They leave next Friday and return the following weekend.
It's the latest step in "The Big Idea" project, the region's two-year-long bid to turn Lambert into a Midwestern hub for air freight traveling to and from the world's fastest-growing economy. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, top Lambert officials and the leadership of the Midwest China Hub Commission will be making the trip next Friday to Beijing, Shanghai and possibly more cities to meet with as many as six or seven Chinese airlines.
"We want to get in a serious process of joint study between ourselves and a Chinese airline about what it would take to get them landing in St. Louis on a regular basis," said Mike Jones, co-chair of the Hub Commission and a top aide to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.
The meetings are being facilitated by the air cargo consulting firm the Hub Commission hired last year, and by Steven Perry, a British Chinese trade guru who's been working with St. Louis for two years now. They're a chance for both sides to plumb the demand for true two-way trade, said Slay.
"In order to make this work, it's got to go both ways," he said.
It'll be Slay's second trip to China on the cargo project (he said he's likely paying for his travel through campaign funds) and the fourth or fifth visit by members of the Hub Commission. They've also hosted a string of visits by Chinese authorities and business groups to St. Louis.
The idea is to launch flights by this fall, though at this point it may take longer to get things started.
"Right now it's very promising," said Slay. "I think by the end of the year we'll have a better picture of just how this will work out."