Tishaura Jones smile

Tishaura O. Jones is mayor of the City of St. Louis

Like most parents this month, I’m focused on what my son wants to be for Halloween. After COVID-19 prevented us from celebrating last year, I think we’re all excited for trick-or-treating again. But at 14 years old, Aden is reaching that age where we talk more about what he wants to be when he becomes and adult. I want St. Louis to be a place where he can envision building a family and a career, with good opportunities no matter the zip code. A growing industry and a major project in North St. Louis holds so much promise for families across our region.

Earlier this month, I spoke at the 2021 GEOINT National Symposium, a geospatial intelligence conference that brought together thousands of the top innovators and experts from the Department of Defense, intelligence, and academia. In 2019, the geospatial intelligence industry was responsible for 27,000 jobs and nearly $5 billion in economic impact throughout the St. Louis region. While some of us grew up with landlines and dial-up, this cutting-edge technology is helping our kids catch ‘em all in Pokemon Go.

The NGA West project is helping put St. Louis back on the map. The new $1.7 billion federal facility is currently under construction in JeffVanderLou, but benefits will touch families across St. Louis by attracting international talent and investment.

NGA West, combined with federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan, offer us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform North City for the better. With our first round of funding - $135 million - we’re investing directly in people with three key areas of focus - strengthening our public health infrastructure, providing economic support during tough times, and improving public safety by addressing root causes of crime. This means millions for vaccine education, community violence intervention programs, food assistance, investment in affordable housing, and more.

That’s just the beginning. St. Louis still has hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank to help bring us into a new era. I want the kids trick-or-treating through our City this Halloween to grow up knowing they can build a great career at NGA right here in North St. Louis. Parents are already asking: “How can my kid get a job at NGA?”

Neighborhood development happens from the bottom up, not the top down. My administration is working with neighborhoods around NGA West to plan how new investment improves their communities, so they can have a voice. Eventually, we will bring this process to all of our city neighborhoods. We are also developing an economic justice plan to invest millions of dollars to right historic wrongs and ensure neighborhoods left behind on both sides of Delmar get the resources they need to thrive. More resources means safer neighborhoods and stronger communities.

St. Louis is a hardworking city, a tough city: We face our fair share of challenges for sure, as any other city does. But with the $1.7 billion NGA West campus soon to be a reality, I believe North St. Louis and our entire city is primed for change. In the meantime: Happy Halloween to you and your babies, get vaccinated and protected against COVID-19, and God bless.

Tishaura O. Jones is the first Black woman mayor of the city of St. Louis.

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