3 min read
Posted on 04.14.14
  • 3 min read
  • Posted on 04.14.14

Global markets couldn't care less if "Ballbury's" council or "Shrewin's" mayor opposes the City of St. Louis someday reentering St. Louis County as its 91st municipality. Capital flow is indifferent to petty political dysfunction. It simply doesn't have the time or interest to take notice of a local conflict over whether- of all things! - the region's largest and most diverse city should have the opportunity to become a part of Missouri's most populace county.

The money men and women are too busy leading a revolution in freight movement and logistics. Their eyes are focused on the map, and they know how to read it.

Lucky for us.

They see St. Louis is situated at a strategic midpoint of North America, near the U.S. population center and at the confluence of its two greatest rivers. They see it is surrounded by vast expanses of the world's richest agricultural land, and as a world center of agricultural and food science. With a little digging they will learn that, even with the decline of American manufacturing, the region retains much of its industrial critical mass and potential for industrial development, including in aerospace, energy production and chemical manufacturing,

Freight movers and shakers know St. Louis is one of two centers that connect 6 of the 7 largest railroads, that it serves as the nation's second largest inland port (and 18th largest, overall) and accommodates both east-west and north-south freight movement through a major trucking hub, which links 7 Interstate highways and 11 river crossings - including the recently opened Stan Musial-Veteran's Memorial bridge.

(They may not know that Missouri and Illinois put in place an interstate compact in 1949. Or that it is modeled after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and provides a framework for intergovernmental cooperation on a monumental scale, including the authority "to plan, construct, maintain, own and operate bridges tunnels, airports and terminal facilities.")

The geography that put St. Louis on the map 250 years ago, in other words, keeps this community in play. It provides us with a natural advantage as an economic gateway and staging ground. The advantage is ours to keep or lose. The outcome depends on whether this community chooses to expend energy and resources litigating local grievances, or decides to work together to develop, improve and coordinate its considerable assets into a durable competitive edge.

Those who control the global course of cargo movement are watching. We can hold their interest. But only if we show we have the political will to match our powerful geography - and can build bridges that break through municipal borders and county lines, that span rivers to reach distant cities with complementary commercial interests, creating opportunity by connecting workers, innovators and entrepreneurs to the world marketplace.

(Photo: The two public docks at St. Louis' Municipal River Terminal, north of downtown, have direct access to the St. Louis Terminal Railroad Association, Interstate 70 and the new Stan Musial-Veterans Memorial Bridge.)