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St. Louis County Could Offer Boeing Up To $1.8 Billion In Tax Incentives

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St. Louis County is prepared to offer up to $1.8 billion to Boeing if the company steers production of the 777X aircraft to the county. 

The St. Louis County Council unanimously approved a resolution pledging local incentives – including tax increment financing and tax abatement – if Boeing moves production of the civilian aircraft to the the county. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said the swift action was necessary to meet Tuesday’s deadline for the state to respond to the company’s request for proposal.

After the council approved the resolution, Dooley told reporters that local incentives could be as high as $1.8 billion if the Chicago-based aerospace company located its entire 777X production facility in the county. That price tag could decrease if Boeing  steers part of the aircraft’s production – such as a wing fabrication and assembly facility – to the county.

“The key to it is if nothing’s done, then nothing’s lost,” Dooley said.

The county’s resolution comes days after the Missouri General Assembly passed legislation for a massive state incentive package. Gov. Jay Nixon is expected to sign that bill – which his administration estimated could cost around $1.7 billion over 23 years – on Tuesday in St. Louis.

Before the vote, Dooley, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Berkeley Mayor Ted Hoskins told council members that it was essential for county and local governments to support Missouri's bid. Representatives of business, labor and civic organizations also urged the council to approve the resolution. Nobody spoke against the resolution.

Dooley – who worked for Boeing and McDonnell Douglas before he became county executive – said landing the 777X could bring enough jobs to affect the entire state.

“Every congressional district will be impacted by this proposal,” said Dooley, adding that numerous suppliers around the state could benefit. “You couldn’t ask for a better corporate sponsor than the Boeing Corporation.”

Before Monday’s meeting, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Denny Coleman estimated that the entire project would create roughly 8,000 new jobs. Landing only the wing fabrication and assembly facility, Coleman said, would create around 2,000 jobs.

“This is the largest economic development project I have ever worked on in my nearly 40 years as a professional,” Coleman said on Monday. “It is a wonderful project for the region, as has been noted.”

The chase for the 777X civilian aircraft has spread across the country after a Washington state-based machinist union rejected a long-term contract offer from Boeing. Besides Missouri,other states – including Utah, Texas, South Carolina and Kansas – are vying for the company’s business.

"The key to it is if nothing's done, then nothing's lost." -- St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley

Because advanced manufacturing jobs are rare, Slay said, many states are “in the mix.”

“But I can tell you that in order to do it, this is a business deal. Incentives are going to have to be presented and also offered. And they’re going to have to be competitive in order to land these jobs,” Slay said. “The stakes are big, depending on what Boeing decides.”

Still, both Missouri and St. Louis County’s incentives are likely to fall short of other states. Washington state’s legislature, for instance, passed a package that totals over $8 billion. And while Boeing’s plants in the St. Louis area have constructed Boeing’s defense products for years, some industry observers have expressed doubts about whether Missouri is a serious contender for the work.

But Dooley brushed aside the idea that Missouri doesn’t have “a chance,” adding that the region’s workforce that builds Boeing’s defense products provides the “best leverage."

And he added that he was in the competition for the aircraft “not just because it’s the right thing to do, we’re in this competition to win it.”

“These jobs are meaningful jobs for the St. Louis metropolitan area,” Dooley said. “We cannot afford to pass this up. This is a generation of jobs. I want to be able to tell folks that you can have a job for the next 20 to 30 years doing work for the Boeing Corporation. And I want to be part of that process as we go forward.”

Boeing is expected to make its decision in mid-January. 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.