By CARL GREEN
Collinsville, IL – While St. Louis has been working to improve its site offering for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency relocation, Illinois officials have not been holding back, either, in strengthening their offer of land by Scott Air Force Base.
Illinois backers pulled together two U.S. senators, two Congressmen, the governor, legislators, chairmen of both major Metro East counties and top union officials on March 4 to make their case.
That linked up bitter political rivals from both sides of the state’s ongoing legislative gridlock.
They promised some $160 million for road improvements and public transportation to aid in the project, which would move the satellite spying headquarters from the St. Louis riverfront to farmland adjacent to the Air Force base. Of that, $54 million is appropriated for roads.
The NGA is now expected to reveal its location choice on or about April 1.
One of the leading movers behind the Illinois bid is state Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), who told the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council on Thursday, March 10, that while it took some cajoling to get him there, Gov. Bruce Rauner made a strong sales pitch for the Illinois site.
“He did come down and he gave a hell of a presentation,” Hoffman said. “That’s what he does – he does business deals like that.”
Dale Stewart, executive secretary-treasurer of the Council, said he believes Illinois’ bid still is strong despite St. Louis officials’ pledge to provide their site free of charge.
“I think we’ve got a good chance, and I’m sure St. Louis is trying their best to have a good chance at it,” he said. “Either way it goes, it’s going to be a lot of work. Hopefully both sides can work with each other – it’s going to take a lot of Trades to do this project.”
St. Clair County is offering 182 acres next to the Air Force Base at no charge and with up to 200 more acres available for future expansions.
Stewart credited Hoffman and other legislators with working in advance to secure the transportation funding, even though Rauner presented it at the meeting with NGA Director Robert Cardillo.
“As far as I’m concerned, Rauner didn’t have anything to do with it,” Stewart said. “He just came and took credit for it.”
He said former Gov. Pat Quinn had promised $2 million in state funding to assist efforts to land the NGA. “When Quinn lost, that money stopped, and it hasn’t been there,” he said.
STICKING TO THE POSITIVE
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said the group merely pointed out positives about the Illinois bid to Cardillo without trying to run down the St. Louis plan.
“There was no compare and contrast going on here,” he said. “He made it clear at the beginning of the meeting that he wanted to hear us make our best case, and I think we made a powerful case.”