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St. Louis Port Authority looks to use powers beyond riverbanks

Jacob Barker, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Economic development activities beyond the river are mainly left to other agencies in St. Louis while the port authority focuses on projects along the riverfront. It has recently overseen grants to improve rail access to its river terminal and offered tax breaks to Italgrani, a grain company looking to expand on the south riverfront. In 2013, it oversaw the completion of a $19.5 million upgrade, largely funded with a federal grant, to the municipal river terminal, the only public port on the Missouri side of the river in the region.

Driving the city port authority's interest in the expansion is a new state law that allows ports to set up special economic development districts called Advanced Industrial Manufacturing Zones. Missouri port authorities can set them up within their boundaries and use them to capture half of the state withholding taxes paid from new jobs added there, provided those workers make at least the state's average wage.

That revenue can then go to the district's budget to support infrastructure and economic development work.

The St. Louis Port authority already set up one of those zones covering its existing riverfront boundaries. The St. Louis County Port authority has also set up advanced manufacturing zones within its boundaries, as have the Jefferson County and Kansas City port authorities.

A report to the St. Louis port board said larger projects -- those that add more than 50 jobs and pay at least $50,000 in wages -- would be most suitable to include in any future advanced manufacturing zones.

Matthew McBride, chair of the city's port authority, said the proposal to expand the entity's boundaries "makes sense."

"I think this would be good to take advantage of the (Advanced Industrial Manufacturing Zones) statute," he said at the port board's Tuesday meeting.

The board unanimously approved the expansion resolution. It still needs approval from the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.

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