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Boeing pushes $5 million into manufacturing workforce incubator in north St. Louis

A rendering of the glass-walled St. Louis Regional Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center.
Fox Architects
The St. Louis Regional Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center plans to locate its center building, pictured in this rendering, in the Vandeventer neighborhood in north St. Louis.. Regional business leaders hope the facility will help establish St. Louis as a manufacturing hub.

Leaders from Boeing announced a partnership on Friday with the St. Louis Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center on Friday to foster a more diverse workforce and position St. Louis as a national hub for manufacturing.

The announcement comes with a $5 million dollar grant to build a 130,000 square foot facility in north St. Louis that will offer hands-on training with high-tech manufacturing for local residents, said Steve Nordlund, vice president ofBoeing Phantom Works .

“The competition for talent is absolutely fierce these days,” he said. “This facility will expand this talent making St. Louis an even larger pool of highly skilled workers for aerospace and other high tech industries.”

The new facility will combine workforce development, advanced manufacturing research and development and production capabilities, said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s former CEO and current chair of the board of directors of the manufacturing innovation center.

“That will not only benefit big companies like Boeing, but also help build supply chain and manufacturing startup businesses,” he said.

Greater St. Louis Inc. CEO Jason Hall compared it to what the Danforth Plant Science Center does for biotech industry.

“It’s like that for manufacturing, where you get new techniques, the future of new materials, workforce training,” he said.

Muilenburg added that the innovation center is already working with Ranken Technical College and Rung for Women when it comes to workforce development, which will help the center bring good paying jobs for those in parts of the St. Louis region that have been overlooked.\

“It’s about investing in the community,” he said. “We will be developing diverse, equitable economic job and growth opportunities. Thousands of jobs at maturity, tens of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector and no other sector creates more ripple benefit back to economic growth than manufacturing.”

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones echoed this sentiment, highlighting the new facility’s planned location in north St. Louis. She explained it creates an easier pathway for residents in north city and north St. Louis County to find solid employment.

“St. Louis cannot succeed together if one half is allowed to fail,” she said. “It’s this kind of investment that will make our neighborhoods safer and stronger in the long run.”

To Jones, north St. Louis is a good location for this kind of facility given the existing talent and potential in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Our children can’t be what they can’t see,” she said. “Imagine what our babies will see when they see this facility in the middle of north St. Louis. This is a big freaking deal.”

This new investment from Boeing also fits into a larger goal from some of the region’s business community to make St. Louis a hub for advanced manufacturing and innovation.

St. Louis recently secured a $500,000 Build Back Better challenge grant, allowing the region to apply for more funding, Hall said. The new manufacturing center will only enhance the region’s prospects in securing more money, he added.

“It will benefit all of manufacturing and send a message to the world: while we’re onshoring manufacturing, St. Louis is the place to be,” Hall said. “Just as we’ve done in geospatial and ag tech, we are doubling down to be the place where the future of manufacturing is created.”

Eric Schmid covers economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.

Eric Schmid covers business and economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.