Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and officials from the Boeing Company will announce today the Chicago-based defense contractor’s plans to build a production facility at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah. The facility will be used in the manufacture of the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray, an unmanned aircraft that can refuel fighter jets in the air, extending their combat range, according to the company’s website. Here’s what we know so far about the development, the MQ-25, and its potential impact on the metro-east economy.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL THE NEW FACILITY EMPLOY? Boeing plans to move 150 jobs from the St. Louis region and create 150 new jobs for engineers, mechanics and support staff once the facility opens.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE NEW FACILITY? Boeing was awarded an $805 million contract by the U.S. Navy in 2018 to engineer and produce four test MQ-25 Stingrays. The unmanned aircraft (tankers) can refuel fighter jets in the air, extending their combat range, according to the company’s website. A test Stingray, known at T-1, already successfully refueled three different Navy aircraft in the skies above Scott Air Force Base. The Aviationist reports the Navy now wants to buy more than 70 of the drones. At least some part of those drones will be produced at MidAmerica. Exactly what work will be done there is not clear.
WHERE WILL THE FACILITY BE AND WHEN WILL IT BE READY? Boeing already has begun moving dirt for the 300,000-square-foot facility, according to spokesman Kurt LaBelle. It will be built on 34 acres that the company is leasing from MidAmerica, which is owned by St. Clair County. The airport is east of Scott Air Force Base. Boeing leased land near Illinois 4, just south of the airport’s entrance. The company expects the facility to be completed by 2024. WHAT WILL THE FACILITY COST THE TAXPAYERS? Boeing’s plan to build the MQ-25 facility was made possible in part by an EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) agreement with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, according to a department news release. Boeing will receive tax credits valued at $8.7 million. Those are the only public dollars known so far to be committed to the project.
WHAT DO THE TAXPAYERS GET IN RETURN? The St. Clair County Public Building Commission, which oversees MidAmerica, approved an agreement Aug. 31 to allow Boeing to develop 34 acres of airport land and lease it for 20 years. The agreement includes an option for three 20-year renewals, totaling 80 years of possible tenancy. Boeing will pay $65,000 in rent the first year, then about $450,000 annually, according to MidAmerica Director Bryan Johnson. Total rent after 20 years amounts to more than $8.6 million, which Johnson said will be reinvested in the airport. Additionally, two more 34-acre parcels of MidAmerica land could be available for lease to accommodate any further Boeing expansion at the airport. Boeing also is promising to invest at least $200 million in the airport project over 15 years under the agreement’s terms.
Reporters Teri Maddox and Mike Koziatek contributed to this article.