ST. LOUIS – New manufacturing investments in the St. Louis region totaling more than $2.2 billion, and cooperative partnerships to improve flood control on the region’s navigable waterways, were major topics Thursday during FreightWeekSTL, a week-long transportation conference held annually in St. Louis.
Three global manufacturing companies are currently investing more than $1 billion in new facilities or expansions in different parts of the St. Louis region, and another $1.2 billion investment is planned on the downtown St. Louis Riverfront.
Representatives of the companies responsible for these investments were featured panelists during FreightWeekSTL 2023 and shared details on the myriad factors driving their decisions to invest in the region, providing tremendous insight to help continue this growth trend.
The panel was moderated by Mary Lamie, executive vice president of Multi Modal Enterprises for Bi-State Development, which operates the St. Louis Regional Freightway as one of its enterprises.
“You each represent different industries that have chosen to locate or expand in different parts of our region, but you all have clearly communicated that you have something in common,” Lamie said. “You found what you needed to grow right here in the bi-state St. Louis area – a welcoming, collaborative environment, available and reliable workers and an abundance of land with excellent multimodal infrastructure needed to support your operations.
“We’re thrilled to highlight your growing presence in the region, the new jobs you’ll be creating, and the substantial long-term positive impact your investments will have,” she added.
The panel discussion highlighted plans by Good Developments Group to develop Gateway South directly adjacent to the Gateway Arch, anchored by a design and construction innovation district driven by prefabricated modular manufacturing; American Foods Group’s new beef processing plant in Warren County, Mo.; James Hardie Industries’ first Missouri facility coming to Jefferson County, and Tyson Foods plant expansion underway in Caseyville, Illinois.
Alec Jadacki, a partner with Good Developments Group, kicked things off with an overview of the Gateway South Development, to be located on approximately 100 acres directly south of the Gateway Arch on a site known as Chouteau’s Landing.
Jadacki said the development will be parsed out into three separate sub-districts, with the main one being the Design and Construction Innovation District.
Another component will involve recreation and residential, mixing in green space, sports courts, and a skatepark with the goal of driving foot traffic which contributes to a safer environment.
The final piece will be an entertainment district focused on food and beverage as well as construction themed entertainment tenants.
“But the main idea is trying to co-locate some advanced modular manufacturers,” Jadacki said. “When you think E S G, this is kind of the future in reducing carbon [emissions] and speeding up the process. The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, these took about a year to construct, but more recently, the Freedom Tower, it took about seven years, so we’re kind of going backwards. Construction is 15 percent of the world’s G.D.P so, obviously something needs to change or there needs to be some advances in the technology.
“And when we’re talking modular now – and the next generation of it, picture a Lego block,” he said. “Essentially, they’re building these blocks onsite, co-located with their suppliers, soup to nuts. So, it’s literally an entire apartment, live ready, bathroom, kitchen, wall panels, flooring that’ll get brought to a construction site and dropped on top of a podium, ultimately creating the final structure.”
Partners in the development include universities, trade schools, accelerators, incubators and nonprofits.
“The idea is really to create a center of excellence,” Jadacki said. “Silicon Valley is the tech hub of the country, and we want Missouri, and specifically St. Louis, to be the construction capital of the country.”
Their plan for the site also includes repurposing some of the existing buildings that have long been abandoned and leveraging the infrastructure running through the site with the goal of bringing what was once a thriving riverfront industrial site back to life.
“One of our investors came up with a term that we’ve adopted and love: ‘multimodal heaven,’” he said. “We have direct access to the road, river and rail. So there’s obviously major efficiencies and synergies that can be gained if everything is planned correctly ahead of time.
“Working with the various rail companies, St. Louis Port Authority, and the St. Louis Regional Freightway, we have high hopes for utilizing all three modes of shipping in the future,” Jadacki added. “If you really think about it, there’s not really a place in the country or maybe even the world where you could set up all three shipping channels within a stone’s throw. So, that was the major draw for us.”
Tyson Foods has invested a total of $228 million in the expansion of its operations in Caseyville, which is set to be completed toward the end of this year. According to Christopher Rogers, Plant Manager for Tyson Food’s Prepared Foods Division, that $228 million is on top of $48 million that the company had already invested in the site in the past four years.
“The plan is to add 270,000 square feet to the existing facility to increase our automated warehousing and robotics capabilities,” said Rogers. “A great example of this being the AGVs or automatic guided vehicles that will take over material handling, and the ASR or automatic storage and retrieval system that will be utilized for warehousing of ingredients and finished goods. By the expansion’s completion, approximately 400 new team members will work across seven new state-of-the-art production lines in addition to the existing four production lines we’ve installed over the past four years.”
Rogers shared Tyson Foods expects about 250 team members to start work across the new lines in the September and October 2023 time period, while 150 more workers are expected to begin work across another three new lines by June 2024. These are all technical roles such as automation technicians, machine operators, reliability technicians, forklift operators, and food safety and quality assurance technicians, some entry-level production roles, as well as management roles across food safety, quality and assurance, production warehousing and maintenance.
For Tyson Foods, location and workforce were two of the driving factors behind its decision to invest in expanding the Caseyville facility. “We’re strategically located in the central part of the country so that helps us meet the needs of our customers more efficiently, particularly with the latest robotics and automation,” Rogers said. “There’s a strong community base here with an appetite for job opportunities. And our facility is an excellent place for those individuals to work and have a rewarding career and provide for their families.”
He said state and local incentives demonstrated a strong desire to bring permanent jobs to Southwestern Illinois and complimented the commitment from the region for workforce development. He was particularly impressed by the collaboration between local high schools and community colleges to invest in the emerging workforce and build the workforce of the future, tailoring program curriculum to local business needs.
Scott Willert, CTP, President of America’s Service Line, LLC/America’s Logistics, provided an update on American Foods Group’s $800 million beef processing facility under construction since last fall in Warren County, Mo. The company plans to employ 1,300 workers with a good starting wage and compensation package and expects the overall regional impact of the plant to be about one billion dollars.
Sean Parks is Senior Capacity Manager for James Hardie Building Products, which will build a 1.25 million square foot facility in Crystal City, Missouri, near Interstate 55, bringing new jobs with competitive pay and benefits to that part of the region. When evaluating potential site locations, Parks said proximity to raw materials was very important.
To review the full panel session or for more information about FreightWeekSTL, visit www.freightweekstl.com.