Lambert Airport's China Hub Is Dead, But May Live at MidAmerica Airport

Feb 27, 2012 at 10:48 am
Lambert St. Louis International Airport
Lambert St. Louis International Airport
Midwest China Hub Commission Chair Mike Jones all but admitted defeat in the battle to pry tax breaks and public money from Missourians in order to build a dedicated aviation center at Lambert St. Louis International Airport. Jones blamed Missouri for being "cheap" as the main reason why the proposed $360 million tax break for Aerotropolis never came through, thus killing the plan.

From the beginning, the China Hub plan seemed to be touted only by politicians and the members of the China Hub Commission, while aviation experts doubted the plan would ever reap the jobs and economic benefits being promised. Air cargo consultant Michael Webber cited the proximity of St. Louis to Chicago's O'Hare Airport as one of the main reasons why the plan could never succeed: O'Hare is the dominant air cargo hub for the midwest, and Aerotropolis' eight flights a week were never going to be enough to make St. Louis a more desirable destination for air cargo shippers than Chicago.
So it's more than a little surprising to see that MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in St. Clair County, Illinois, has announced plans for a China Hub of its own -- along with its own fleet of 747s to carry the load.

Midamerica's planned Strategic Air Cargo Inc. has a "highly experienced development team" that the group's chief, Gary Andreas, won't name publicly, and St. Clair County has already backed the $550 million bond issue to raise funds for the project. The good news is that Strategic Air Cargo Inc. will not be asking for financial incentives from the county or the public; the bonds will be purchased by private investors and businessmen.

The bad news is that MidAmerica Airport is about fifteen miles closer to O'Hare than Lambert is, which would seem to make MidAmerica's proposed hub slightly less feasible than Lambert's was.