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Report Gauges Impact Of Military Spending Throughout Illinois

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon talked to reporters Thursday in Belleville about the impact of military spending throughout the state.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

A new report shows that Illinois’ military and defense industry contributes roughly $13.3 billion to the state’s economy – a figure that officials say could serve as a deterrent against federal cutbacks. 

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation helped produced the study, which looks at the statewide impact of military installations, Department of Defense contracts and National Guard facilities.

(Read the report here.)

The report shows that Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East contributes about $4 billion to the regional economy. The base also supports around 40,000 jobs in the St. Louis region.

Simon told reporters Thursday at Eckert’s Country Store in Belleville that the statistics within the study could provide a strong case to prevent military cuts from the federal government.

“Illinois has the benefit of being in a very rich and diverse economy,” Simon said. “We don’t think of ourselves as a military installation state. But this report tells us that we really ought to know that the defense spending is a very important driver for our economy. And that we ought to respect that and make sure we take concerted efforts to defend it and expand it where possible.”

According to the report, Scott Air Force Base has plenty of strengths to protect it against cuts – including its role in assisting air mobility operations. It went onto say that because the base “does not host fighter jets or space launches, its value may be overlooked and undervalued by members of Congress and members of the public.”

“Nevertheless, its operational mission to enhance global mobility represents a core value and critical competency of the Air Force,” the report states.

Simon also said it helps that U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, have a good working relationship. She said that should shield the base from becoming a lesser priority when Republicans take over the U.S. Senate next year.

“I think we’re actually very well cared for in that way in a bipartisan basis,” Simon said."

Promoting Scott for NGA’s new headquarters

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Simon touted Scott Air Force Base as the superior choice for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to locate its new facility. The NGA announced earlier this month that the base was one of four finalists. Other potential sites are located in north St. Louis, Mehlville and Fenton.

“It’s very exciting, because it’s an enormous economic opportunity for the base, for the area,” Simon said. “It’s one of those opportunities that this study helps reinforce our search for those opportunities that fit our regional well. And that’s one of those very nice fits because of Scott, because of all the opportunities and because of all the support for Scott here.”

One of the potential drawbacks to the Scott Air Force Base site is that NGA employees that live in Missouri would either have to commute or relocate. But Ellen Krohne of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois said many NGA employees already reside in the Metro East.

“The other good thing about this location is that there’s public transit,” Krohne said. “MetroLink comes right to the base. People that live in Missouri would be able to get here. So I think there’s some strong reasons for those employees relocate here to Scott Air Force Base.”

The NGA and the Army Corps of Engineers are scheduled to hold public meetings on the sties later this month.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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