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St. Louis Geospatial Leaders Launch GeoFutures To Shape Growing Industry

Drawings by a joint venture between McCarthy Building Companies and HITT Contracting show an aerial view of the new western headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis.
Provided | McCarthy-HITT
Ever since the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced its new western headquarters (pictured in a drawing above), many organizations have created their own geospatial plans. A new initiative aims to bring them all together.

Business, academic and civic leaders are coming together to plot the future of the geospatial industry in St. Louis. 

A new initiative announced Thursday — GeoFutures — is intended to provide a framework for how to drive investment in location intelligence technology and the workforce to support it.

“We want St. Louis to be seen as the international hub of innovation and expertise in the geospatial industry, period,” said Patty Hagen, executive director of startup incubator T-Rex.

Hagen is one of nearly 30 members of an advisory committee that will meet monthly to oversee the initiative. Other members include executives from major corporations like Enterprise and Boeing, as well as academic researchers from St. Louis University, among others.

Over the past few years, many of these organizations have built up their own geospatial programs. But with so many different applications of location intelligence technology, Hagen said it’s important to bring all these perspectives into one room.

“We’ll create new partnerships that we haven’t even thought about by connecting in a better way with one another,” she said. “And we’ll be able to get to this vision that will really serve our community in an inclusive way moving forward, because that’s a really important aspect.”

Andy Dearing, president of Spatial STL Advisors, is leading the project. He’s the former CEO of geospatial software company Boundless Spatial.

“Everybody is putting together some sort of a plan, and there is talent that’s sitting around there,” he said. “It’s just putting that whole plan together and making sure that, one, people understand how that exists today, and then also where the industry is going in the future with more sensors, more information.”

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is preparing to break ground on its new western headquarters in north St. Louis. GeoFutures will also receive guidance from former NGA directors Robert Cardillo and Tish Long.

Otis Williams, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corporation, said that what started as a campaign to keep the NGA in the region now requires a more strategic plan to grow jobs and new businesses.

He said the geospatial industry currently supports more than 26,000 jobs across the St. Louis region and has an economic impact of nearly $5 billion — though he sees opportunity for more.

“We don’t know yet what the total impact of the transformation will be, but it is one of those things that we know already serves as a significant attraction for new businesses and startups,” Williams said. 

This week, two geospatial firms announced plans to build offices in St. Louis: Maxar and T-Kartor.

Members of the GeoFutures advisory committee are expected to release their plan in March, ahead of St. Louis University’s Geo-Resolution conference in St. Louis. 

They will also share the information at the largest geospatial industry conference later in the year, in Tampa. St. Louis has been selected to host that conference — the GEOINT Symposium — in 2023 and 2025.

Follow Corinne on Twitter:@corinnesusan

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Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.