By Anne Cosgrove
From the July/August 2023 Issue
As Missouri continues to attract investment from a diverse range of industries, economic developers and other stakeholders are working toward having sites ready for these new and expanding businesses. Since May 2022, the state has attracted projects totaling $2.3 billion of investment over a period of 12 months. Some of these companies choosing to locate in Missouri are Meta, Chick-fil-A, American Foods Group, and URBN for their newest data centers, food production facilities, manufacturing operations, and distribution centers, respectively. Spanning industries from cloud technology to fast food, each company found something distinctive in Missouri beyond its strategic central location.
In March 2022, Meta announced plans to build a nearly 1 million square foot hyper-scale data center in Kansas City, Missouri. The centrally located region’s stellar fiber connectivity, security, infrastructure, and workforce all contributed to the decision to bring Meta to the Show Me State.
In September 2022, American Foods Group broke ground on a state-of-the-art beef processing facility set to create 1,300 new jobs in the rural community of Warren County. The family-owned company found an ideal site and a robust talent pool in this state where agriculture is a leading industry.
In October 2022, epoxy-coated rebar company Simcote announced plans to invest more than $17 million in a new manufacturing facility in Sedalia. The family-owned company selected Missouri for its new 67,000-square-foot facility for its infrastructure, proximity to customers, and skilled workforce.
In October 2022, Missouri welcomed global fiber cement siding manufacturer James Hardie to Crystal City. The region’s strong workforce and customized and flexible training programs were key factors in attracting the 100-year-old global company to the state.
In December 2022, Chick-fil-A Supply chose Missouri for its fourth U.S. location, investing $16 million in a new distribution center in St. Louis County. The area’s deep labor pool and history of innovation in agriculture and food science played a key role in the company’s decision to locate in Maryland Heights.
Said Josh Grote, Executive Director of Chick-fil-A Supply, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chik-fil-A, Inc. “Our newest investment in the St. Louis area provides us the opportunity to grow our business and uniquely serve our franchise operators, licensees, and their teams across the region. It’s exciting for us to expand our operation and create jobs that we know will attract exceptional talent from Missouri’s diverse and skilled workforce.”
And this past spring in Columbia, Swift Prepared Foods, a subsidiary of global food company JBS USA, opened its newest facility—Principe Foods, which produces high-quality Italian meats and charcuterie.
“We are excited to welcome Principe Foods to Missouri,” said Governor Mike Parson at the time. “More than 400 companies in the food industry are currently operating in Missouri, and that figure continues to grow thanks to world-class companies like JBS USA and Swift Prepared Foods investing in our state.”
Gov. Parson added, “This facility will provide many new opportunities for the mid-Missouri region, and we look forward to seeing the company succeed for years to come.”
The company invested more than $200 million in the new, 325,000-square-foot production facility and has created 100 new jobs in the region to date, with plans to hire 100 to 200 more people over the next year. Principe Foods offers benefits and tuition-free community college for team members and their children.
“We are very pleased to celebrate the opening of this state-of-the-art Italian meats facility in Columbia, Missouri,” said Tom Lopez, President of Swift Prepared Foods. “This is the culmination of years of hard work and investment by our team and our partners in Missouri. We are grateful for the support we’ve received up to this point and look forward to the ongoing growth of this facility and the Principe Italia brand.”
Swift Prepared Foods announced plans to build the new facility in April 2021 to meet increasing retail and food service demand for Italian meats and charcuterie. The company selected Columbia due to its strategic location, business-friendly environment, and the ability to access raw materials and leverage synergies with existing strategic assets.
“Principe Italia’s growth is a testament to our state’s ability to attract investments that create jobs and strengthen communities,” said Maggie Kost, then Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED). “This company’s new facility is great news for our state’s central region, its workers, and their families. We’re glad to support Principe Italia as it opens a new location in Columbia and creates more opportunities for Missourians in the area.”
Principe is a part of the Swift Prepared Foods portfolio of products. Swift also recently opened another new facility in Missouri. In May 2021, Swift cut the ribbon on a ready-to-eat, fully cooked bacon production facility in Moberly.
Globally, JBS is a major player in the value-added, Italian meats category with significant production capabilities and recognized brands in Italy, Australia, and Brazil.
The Missouri DED recently awarded a total of $75 million through the Industrial Site Development Grant Program for 15 projects across the state. The program, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), is focused on helping communities develop shovel-ready industrial sites to support business expansion and attraction.
“Through the Industrial Site Development Grant Program, we’re continuing to promote Missouri’s economic prosperity by delivering the infrastructure and resources that companies need to thrive.”
— Governor Mike Parson
“Strengthening our state’s economy through business attraction and growth remains a top priority of our administration,” said Gov. Parson. “Through the Industrial Site Development Grant Program, we’re continuing to promote Missouri’s economic prosperity by delivering the infrastructure and resources that companies need to thrive. We look forward to the benefits this program will provide for businesses and communities statewide.”
The Industrial Site Development Grant Program was launched in December 2022. The program awarded competitive grants to communities to fund costs related to the establishment and expansion of industrial sites. Of $75 million available, $50 million was reserved for sites that are 1,000 acres or larger, while $25 million was reserved for sites smaller than 1,000 acres. In total, the program will help develop 9,700 acres for industrial use.
“Development-ready sites are vital to attracting employers that make a positive difference for Missourians,” said Kost at the time. “To grow our economy, it’s important to stand out to businesses by providing what they need to invest and expand. This program represents our commitment to creating opportunities through strategic investments in Missouri’s future.”
Key Goals For St. Louis Region Infrastructure
In May, the St. Louis Regional Freightway, a bi-state development enterprise formed to create a regional freight district and comprehensive authority for freight operations and opportunities in Missouri and Illinois, announced the group’s 2024 Priority Projects List. The list includes more than 25 projects representing a total investment approaching $3.7 billion and focuses on its mission of improving freight infrastructure in an eight-county region.
Compiled annually by the St. Louis Regional Freightway’s Freight Development Committee, the Priority Projects List is used to align and amplify advocacy for support and funding for critical infrastructure improvements. Business and industry leaders work with local and state officials and departments of transportation to set priorities.
Approximately $2.7 billion of the 2024 total covers infrastructure projects that had recently been completed, are funded and under construction, or expected to start this year or in 2024, or are at least partially programmed for construction. The List represents the infrastructure needs of the manufacturing and logistics industries in the Eastern Missouri and Southwestern Illinois.
When the list was announced, Michelle Forneris, Assistant District Engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) talked about some the most significant Missouri projects, including Interstate 270 North improvements and Interstate 70 bottleneck improvements.
“We are very humbled right now that the Missouri General Assembly, for fiscal year 2024, has slated $2.8 billion dollars for I-70 improvements from Wentzville to Blue Springs—more than 200 miles,” said Forneris. “So, there’s more to come on overall I-70 projects as we are hopeful the Governor will sign that legislation.”
Among the other highlights on the 2024 Priority Project’s List is the recently completed $222 million replacement of the Merchants Bridge, a vital rail link connecting Missouri and Illinois at St. Louis. It has been the region’s highest priority infrastructure project since 2016.
Joe Torp, Industrial Development Manager for Norfolk Southern, said the new bridge is delivering tremendous benefits for the rail industry and for shippers. “The Merchants Bridge is one of those few locations in the St. Louis area where rail can cross from one side of the Mississippi River to the other, so any delay in that vital link had a follow-on effect up and down the network,” Torp said. ‘We are very excited about the completion of the Merchants Bridge, especially from the operations side.”
Carlisle Construction Materials has opened its 500,000SF production and manufacturing facility in Sikeston, MO. Read more…
Another high priority project now underway is the new Interstate 270 (I-270) Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River in a corridor featuring an abundance of manufacturing, logistics and distribution facilities. The project advanced to become one of the region’s highest priorities due to rising maintenance costs and increased traffic volumes. Construction to replace it began in January, with the new bridge is part of a regional plan to improve a 30-mile section of I-270 from James S. McDonnell Boulevard in Missouri to Illinois Route 157 in Illinois.
Other newly added but currently unfunded projects include $34 million in improvements to the MacArthur Bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis, an integral part of the St. Louis Region’s freight network.
“The MacArthur and Merchants Bridges together represent the highest-volume rail crossing on the Mississippi River,” said Mary Lamie, Executive Vice President – Multi Modal Enterprises at Bi-State Development. “These projects are essential to strengthen our region’s role in the global freight network and support our position as a reliever during supply chain disruption. We will continue to follow the region’s model of public-private collaboration for multimodal investment to advance important projects.”