By Pam Rensing
“That the world’s largest aerospace company would double down on Illinois is a testament to our unparalleled assets in the transportation and logistics sector and the world-class talent of our people,” Gov. JB Pritzker stated during a news conference at MidAmerica Airport on Friday, Sept. 17. The governor was joined by Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, Senator Dick Durbin, representatives of the defense contractor, state and local officials.
The Boeing Company will be investing $200 million to build a state-of-the-art facility to produce the MQ-25 Stingray, the U.S. Navy’s first carrier-based unmanned aircraft. The new 291,000 square-foot facility at MidAmerica Airport will help support nearly 300 jobs for the Metro East region over the next three years. The new facility is expected to be completed in early 2024, and aircraft production is projected to begin in the start of FY 2024.
This project was made possible in part by an EDGE agreement from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), a tool used to support companies making large scale capital investments that lead to significant job creation. As part of its agreement with the State, Boeing has committed to the $200 million over a 15-year period.
The new MQ-25 facility will be in addition to existing manufacturing operations at Boeing St. Clair, which produces components for the CH-47 Chinook, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and other defense products.
“We are very excited about this project and look forward to a long and successful partnership with St. Clair County and Boeing,” Mayor McMahan said. “We hope this will be the impetus for more development along the Rt 4/I-64 corridor and in turn provide a greater property and sales tax base for Mascoutah.”
Boeing has begun construction on the 34 acres the company is leasing from MidAmerica, which is owned by St. Clair County. The 20-year lease was approved on August 31 by the St. Clair County Public Building Commission, which oversees MidAmerica.
During the St. Clair County Board meeting on August 30, board members approved the use of a no-cost easement along Route 4 that will allow Mascoutah to extend a water main to service the new site. Other utilities to be provided to this project site consist of gas, electricity, sewer and fiberoptic cable.
That easement runs north of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad line toward the airport property, according to engineering information provided to the PBC by Gonzalez Companies, LLC of O’Fallon.
“This $200M dollar commitment is putting our state in the forefront of aerospace technology, while also providing communities like Mascoutah with the resources they need to thrive by adding additional jobs to the local economy and developing much-needed infrastructure for the local business community,” said State Representative LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis), Majority Conference Chairperson.
“Boeing has been an institution in the St. Louis region for decades, employing today more than 15,000 people who help spur our state’s economic growth,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said. “The MQ-25 Stingray represents the future of the U.S. navy’s aircraft carrier mission. While Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense, I was proud to support more than $1.4 billion in Navy investments in this aircraft over the last four fiscal years. I was proud to announce earlier this year—alongside my colleague, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth—that MidAmerica Airport received a $12.6 million federal grant for its expansion project from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program and COVID-19 relief packages. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I look forward to continuing to invest in a robust domestic aerospace industry that bring jobs to Illinois.”
“To prepare our communities for the future, my administration is committed to making continued investments that will modernize our airports, spark new innovation and bring jobs and economic opportunities to our communities from Chicago to St. Clair and beyond,” Pritzker said. “I want to thank the Boeing Company for their vote of confidence in Illinois, as well as St. Clair County leadership and the MidAmerica Airport team for giving companies another reason to choose Illinois.”
“St. Clair County is very thankful for Governor Pritzker’s continued focus and investment in our community. We have been honored to be home to Boeing St. Clair at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport for over a decade,” St. Clair County Board Chair Mark Kern said. “The jobs and economic opportunities provided by Boeing’s presence and growth propel this entire region forward, and it wouldn’t be possible without the support and investment from the State of Illinois.”
The new MQ-25 facility will include state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and tools, including robotic automation and advanced assembly techniques, to improve product quality and employee ergonomics.
“The team and state-of-the-art technology we’re bringing to the Navy’s MQ-25 program is unprecedented, and we’re incredibly proud to be expanding both as we build the future of autonomous systems in Illinois,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems, Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “We’ve received great support from MidAmerica Airport and countless dedicated employees, and we’re excited to build the Navy’s first operational, carrier-based unmanned aircraft right here in the Metro East.”
For two years, Boeing and the Navy have been flight testing the Boeing-owned MQ-25 test asset from MidAmerica, where in recent history-making missions T1 has refueled an F/A-18 Super Hornet, an E-2D Hawkeye and an F-35C Lightning II.
The U.S. Navy intends to procure more than 70 MQ-25 aircraft to help extend the range of the carrier air wing, and the majority of those will be built in the new facility. Boeing is currently producing the first seven MQ-25 aircraft, plus two ground test articles, at its St. Louis facilities, and they will be transported to MidAmerica for flight test. The MQ-25 program office, including its core engineering team, will remain based in St. Louis.
Boeing’s investments in Mascoutah are the latest in a series to prepare MidAmerica St. Louis Airport for future growth. Fueled by $57 million in Rebuild Illinois capital funds, the airport will deliver taxiway and airfield enhancements surrounding the new Boeing production facility and significant upgrades to the passenger terminal facility.
BOEING – As a leading global aerospace company, Boeing develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries. As a top U.S. exporter, the company leverages the talents of a global supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability and community impact. Boeing’s diverse team is committed to innovating for the future and living the company’s core values of safety, quality and integrity. Learn more at www.Boeing.com.