Midwest Cargo Hub Gets New Funding
Vice President, Marketing & Communications
St. Louis, April 4, 2012 -- Local efforts to transform Lambert-St. Louis International Airport into an international cargo hub are back online with $3 million in new resources. This strategic investment will be used to attract freight business to Lambert.
"This is a new life for a project that is vital to the success of our region and the state as a whole," said Denny Coleman, president and CEO of St. Louis County Economic Council, the organization responsible for facilitating the funds.
This investment occurs as the Midwest-China Hub Commission transitions into phase two of its existence. Dan Mehan, the Commission's newly elected Chairman, says it now will be known as the Midwest Hub Commission. The new name reflects the group's updated mission to attract international cargo shipments from points around the globe. Mehan, who serves as president/CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, takes over for retiring Chairman Mike Jones, chief policy advisor to St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley.
"This is a lifeline for the team working to jumpstart the cargo routes at Lambert Airport," Mehan said. "Speaking in my role as head of the Missouri Chamber, I can tell you businesses across this state need the cargo hub project to succeed."
The investment was made possible by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The Department of Economic Development approved a $3 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the Lemay community. County and local officials developed a plan to make use of these CDBG funds, meeting specific legal requirements for the CDBG program.
"Growing Missouri exports is a top priority for Governor Jay Nixon's administration," said Jason Hall, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. "Last year, Missouri businesses set an all-time record by selling more than $14.1 billion in Missouri-made goods and products around the world. By selling more Missouri-made goods overseas, we are creating more jobs and more business opportunities here at home."
The CDBG grant enables St. Louis County Port Authority to use $3 million to support air freight incentives at Lambert from its casino lease revenue. The Port Authority funds will be facilitated by St. Louis County Economic Council with leadership and direction from the Midwest Hub Commission. World Trade Center St. Louis will provide expertise in international cargo logistics and play an advisory role in this process.
Included in this second-phase strategy, St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA), has contracted with an air cargo specialist who will work full-time lining up opportunities for international air freight that originates in the St. Louis area.
"We've known throughout this entire process that backhaul was going to be key to our success," said Steve Johnson, a member of the Midwest Hub Commission and executive vice president of Economic Development for RCGA," until now, we've not had someone dedicated to finding that backhaul. We believe this is an important step in relaunching international air cargo flights from St. Louis."
Lambert Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge reiterated the team's rallying cry at the 2008 formation of the Midwest-China Hub Commission.
"Lambert needs cargo and the state of Missouri needs Lambert," Hamm-Niebruegge said.
The cargo team at Lambert already is working on how to best utilize the funding.
"We are ready to go," Hamm-Niebruegge said. "These funds put the muscle into our argument that St. Louis is the right place to move cargo around the world. We have capacity and we are happily uncongested, unlike most other United States cargo hubs, such as Chicago and New York."
"We continue to fight to remake the airport. Lambert needs cargo to grow our regional economy," said Tim Nowak, executive director of World Trade Center St. Louis.
"We have a new mission and some fresh ideas for this project." said Dan Mehan "I'm excited. I appreciate the support of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, St. Louis County Economic Council, St. Louis County Port Authority and our other partners who made this happen."
About St. Louis County Economic Council
Founded in 1984, St. Louis County Economic Council serves as the County's economic development agency, driving growth and prosperity in the most economically important county in Missouri. As the only economic development agency in the state to hold the esteemed Accredited Economic Development Organization from the International Economic Development Council, it provides a broad range of services to foster economic development. Please visit www.slcec.com for additional information.