ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — It was a five year effort that cost $4 million dollars — much of it tax dollars — but there’s no sign of a China Hub at Lambert Airport and now one of the key players is admitting St. Louis lost the battle, if not the war, to bring overseas goods through the Gateway City.
What went wrong? “I’d say we didn’t deliver the back half of the deal,” explains Midwest China Hub Commission Chairman Mike Jones, in an interview with KMOX recorded last week.
Jones says the Chinese stopped coming to Lambert after only a couple flights, because it wasn’t profitable for them and the Missouri legislature failed to pass a tax break package for new warehouses to support the hub.
“We made it tough for them, if not impossible, to make a long term commitment to the hub,” Jones said.
Now organizers of the failed effort are watching with envy as Illinois considers a China hub of its own. St. Clair County officials are debating whether to issue a half-billion dollars worth of bonds to help attract international cargo flights to Mid-America Airport in Mascoutah.
“How can Illinois do that when they’re broke?” asked Jones. “They may be broke, but in Missouri, we’re cheap. When you’re broke sometimes that makes you able to come up with a plan. But when you’re cheap, when you’re trying to get something for nothing, then you usually always come out a loser.”
A bill that mirror’s last session’s legislation providing tax breaks for warehouse builders transhipping international goods has re-appeared in the Missouri legislature, but the China Hub commission is no longer funded and Jones is faced with the question was it all worth $4 million.
“Yes – if we were successful,” says Jones. “This would have redefined St. Louis from a commercial asnd economic standpoint, not just inside the country, but around the world.”
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