Illinois boosts incentives in hopes to lure NGA relocation

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MASCOUTAH, IL (KPLR) - A visit Friday from the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency had political leaders in the St. Louis region scrambling to upgrade their proposals to attract the national spy agency. The NGA needs to build a new Midwest facility. The current one is located in south St. Louis in aging historic buildings.

The NGA means at least 3,100 high-paying tech jobs to whichever community it resides. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay met with NGA director Robert Cardillo Friday morning. Slay is promising a major announcement Monday morning in connection with the city's proposed north city location.

Cardillo also spent time in Illinois with a bipartisan group of top leaders. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner told reporters after the meeting he believes his state presented a compelling offer. St. Clair County has already provided 180 acres of land with the promise of 200 additional acres at no cost to the federal government. The property is two miles from Mid-America Airport and adjacent to Scott Air Force Base, one of NGA's largest customers.

Illinois is promoting that proximity as a major safety advantage. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) said it would eliminate the need to transfer information via a fiber optic cable under the Mississippi River as is now done.

NGA provides critical information to members of the U.S. military around the world, whether they are on a battlefield or providing humanitarian assistance.

Despite Illinois's lack of a state budget, the governor said there would be no difficulty providing up to $115 million for infrastructure improvements. $50 million has already been committed to major road projects near the site. Rauner promised funding for utilities, as well as a $5 million grant to study extending the MetroLink light rail system to the NGA location.

The governor also promoted the University of Illinois as a partner with NGA.

"The university graduates more computer scientists and engineers then many top universities combined," Rauner said.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said 10 years ago, the Defense Department seriously considered moving the St. Louis NGA operation to property near Scott Air Force Base in southwestern Illinois, but that did not take place because there was no funding for the project.

NGA officials have promised to announce a decision by April 1. There are two other sites in Missouri under consideration: one in Fenton and another in south St. Louis County.

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