Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center in north St. Louis begins construction
A multimillion-dollar center to drive innovation in the manufacturing sector broke ground in north St. Louis on Tuesday.
The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center will serve as a hub for research and development into new materials and the industrial production methods required to make them. It will also provide workforce training for those kinds of jobs.
It’s a combination that sets St. Louis apart from other parts of the country and world, said board Chair Dennis Muilenburg, who is also a former CEO and president of Boeing.
“When I had the position I had at Boeing, I had the privilege of looking at advanced manufacturing centers around the world,” he said. “I can assure you what we are doing in St. Louis is unique and will transform the region and the country.”
The center is being built at a time when the federal government is encouraging companies to establish higher-tech manufacturing domestically.
“St. Louis will be emerging at the very forefront of this resurgence of manufacturing in the state and across this nation,” Muilenburg said.
He added AMIC will enhance established regional sectors like aerospace, geospatial and biosciences, with its capacity to develop and prototype new ways of manufacturing, as well as provide a local workforce that understands those new techniques.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also noted the benefits of this combination of resources.
“If you don’t think CEOs and businesses don’t pay attention to what you’re doing on the infrastructure in your state and what you do in workforce development, you’re kidding yourself,” he said. “They’re not going to come here if you’re not highlighting those things and really doing something about it.”
Parson also touted the collaboration among the private sector and local, state and federal governments to secure funding for the center. The state contributed some $15 million; other funding included $7 million from the St. Louis region’s successful Build Back Better Grant and a $5 million commitment from Boeing.
“If you’re going to be successful in this state, whether you’re in St. Louis or anywhere else, it’s always about partnerships,” Parson said. “That’s the way I believe things should work, we should all be partners and have a little stake in the game.”
Tuesday’s groundbreaking marked the beginning of construction that likely won’t be completed until 2025, said AMIC CEO Kory Mathews. But he added that doesn’t mean programming will take that long to start.
“AMIC is a lot more than a building,” Mathews said, adding that programming and resources are expected to launch early next year.
That includes taking stock of the equipment already available at universities and colleges in the region and publishing the information in a single database for companies to use, he said.
“We want to be able to take advantage of the existing research, equipment, laboratory space, etc.,” Mathews said. “Oftentimes industry doesn’t know all that universities have and universities don’t know all that industry needs.”
For other leaders at Tuesday’s groundbreaking, AMIC and its placement in the Vandeventer neighborhood represent a strategic investment in north St. Louis communities.
“It’s just the shot in the arm that our community needs,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones. “This is a labor of love and a long time coming and a really big win for north St. Louis.”
Jones noted how this kind of development can help revitalize the workforce and greater community in a part of the city that hasn’t seen many investments like it in the past. Part of that includes getting local children involved in the advances coming from the new center, she said.
“Imagine kids being able to walk over here after school or ride their bikes through this neighborhood to see what ideas they can make up,” Jones said. “That’s really exciting for me because I didn’t have those kinds of opportunities growing up, and we’re going to make sure that our kids take full advantage of this facility.”
The visibility and accessibility of the new center can help children living in north St. Louis discover new career possibilities, said Democratic state Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins, who represents the district that includes AMIC.
“That’s the beauty of it, having the conversations with residents who live here in the meat of the neighborhood,” she said. “The Vandeventer neighborhood has a lot of kids who don’t know about these opportunities.”
Collins is a product of similar youth programming at the St. Louis Science Center that wound up shaping her decision to pursue a career in public health before getting into politics, she said. The availability of AMIC to youth could be just as influential, Collins added.
“We were once little kids who didn’t even know that we could have opportunities like this,” she said.
For now, AMIC is mostly a large field nestled between an alley and city street. And that means those living in the nearby neighborhoods don’t see its impact yet, said the Rev. Charles Norris, a pastor at St. James AME Church.
“Day-to-day people are trying to make it,” he said. “We’re in a neighborhood that is a food desert, a health desert. It’s become an education desert because most of the kids get transported to go to schools in other neighborhoods.”
But building activity can help change that, Norris added.
“When you see it, you can feel it,” he said. “And when you feel it then you might want to be a part of it.”