St. Louis is a city that was founded, grew, and prospered because the Mississippi River is such an important transportation corridor. Pierre Laclede noticed the river location in 1763 and predicted that his trading post here would become "one of the finest cities" in America.
He was right. St. Louis is the northernmost shipping point on the river that doesn't freeze today's weather notwithstanding. We are also the northernmost terminal on the river that can be reached without passing through locks.
Our history as a commercial center and the roads, rails, bridges, and runways that converge here ' reflects those realities. And the Arch sits within 500 miles of a third of the country's population.
I told you recently about plans to refurbish the St. Louis Municipal River Terminal. Years and river currents have made much of the terminal uncompetitive. Today, the US Secretary of Commerce came to town with a federal grant of $15.6 million dollars to help St. Louis rebuild a crucial dock. His presence is welcome and timely. Expansion of the Panama Canal's capacity could make a better prepared St. Louis a key inland distribution point over the next decade for new bigger cargoes to the Gulf states' ports. That ' like the proposed China air hub could mean construction jobs and permanent commercial jobs through the bi-state area.
I thank Secretary Gary Locke for coming.