|SW Ohio In Running For Air Hub|
UPDATE 9/27 1:01 pm --NextSTL.com. reports a non-stop Shanghai to St. Louis cargoliner has made its first flight to Lambert Field. But the Chinese say they won't stay in St.unless tax incentives materialize. Ohio is still in the running for the hub. The Chinese consul general says they will go where they get the best offer. The story by Frank DeGraaf contains lots of new information about the project and its potential financial impact.
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican conservative who once said he was "tea party before there was a tea party," might be looking at landing the largest economic development project in recent state history. And it all seems to be happening because of fellow conservatives in Missouri. They are balking at approving about $400 million in state tax credits for the "China Hub," a Chinese-St. Louis air cargo corridor that is supposed to terminate at Lambert Airport. It is envisioned as opening a massive new international trade gateway with the giant Asian economy. St. Louis business interests and economic development officials were predicting up to 10,000 new jobs, along with warehouses and other spinoffs. In effect, it would be a port, and it has a grand name: "Aerotropolis." Not quite the Panama Canal, but a huge trade deal..
Suddenly, the fallout in Missouri has given Ohio an opening to grab it. Economic development officials in Cincinnati are trying to offer the project a home in Ohio, and they are pointing to Wilmington, where DHL abandoned its giant air cargo airport two years ago. It is sitting there waiting. State officials are also in on the action. The word in Jefferson City, Missouri's capital, is that SW Ohio and Denver have emerged as potential sites for the China Hub. When The Daily Bellwether called a well-placed Cincinnati City Hall source Thursday, the source said, "We're going after this. The Kasich people, the Chamber, we're all moving. Is anything going to happen? I think some doors are open to us that weren't until a few days ago. We can give it a home in Wilmington at a place where people want jobs and an airport is empty and waiting. Will it happen? It seems to be up to the people in Missouri. All of a sudden, they seem to hate tax incentives. It's like the streetcar fight, but on a much bigger scale."
The opening involves opposition to the state tax credits, or what some are calling "snake oil economics." Foes in the Missouri legislature, which has been in special session this week considering economic development matters, are concerned that the tax credits are giveaways. They note that an earlier project with the Chinese for a zero-calorie sweetener is failing. There are few of the promised 600 jobs and construction of the factory is slowing. The Columbia Tribune reports the sweetener plant's problems are making lawmakers wary of Chinese partnerships. The Columbia Missourian/ carried an interview Wednesday with Rob Mayer, a Republican state senate leader and sponsor of the China Hub tax breaks: "I'm not optimistic at all. I guess you could say it is on life support."
If you want to learn about the China Hub, this website operated by the Midwest China Hub Commission has the history and the economic development proponents activities, including their dealings with Chinese officials. Some of the flavor of the debate is here at the St. Louis Beacon, where you can easily find counterarguments. And there is a additional info at China Law Blog, which points out that tax breaks don't always guarantee that businesses will thrive.nextstl.com says the first cargo plane from Shanghai has landed at Lambert Field, but the Chinese say they could go to Ohio if tax breaks don't materialize.