Mayor Tishaura O. Jones Keynote Remarks at 2021 GEOINT Symposium

Remarks delivered at the 2021 GEOINT Symposium on October 7, 2021

October 7, 2021 | 7 min reading time

Good afternoon, I’m St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, and I want to WELCOME you to the 2021 GEOINT Symposium!

I am so excited to join you here today.

Before I get started, I want to thank a few key players who helped bring these incredible opportunities to our region.

First, Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis, Inc, for your leadership and your kind introduction.

Andy Taylor, of Enterprise Holdings and the Founding Chair of Greater St. Louis, Inc., for his civic leadership and work to help St. Louis become the nation’s center for geospatial work

Robert Cardillo, Chair of USGIF and former director of NGA, for his leadership of USGIF and for his decision to build the Next NGA West Campus just north of Downtown

Executive Director of USGIF Ronda Shrenk, who brought GEOINT to St. Louis

And NGA Director, Vice Admiral Robert Sharp, who has worked alongside us in our neighborhood planning efforts to make sure these geospatial investments positively impact communities across our City. We’ll talk more about our vision for that planning process a bit later on.

It’s fitting that the theme of this year’s symposium is Discovery and Connections, considering St. Louis’ pivotal role in launching Lewis and Clark’s famed expedition through the Louisiana Purchase.

The Discovery Corps kicked off from Camp Dubois in Wood River, right across from the river from here, in 1804. Two years later, after reaching the Pacific Ocean and traveling all the way back, they returned to St. Louis, helping us earn the title Gateway to the West.

The expedition, with the assistance of Native American and African-American guides, mapped what would later become the Western United States. The Discovery Corps were doing their own form of geospatial intelligence gathering - just without the smart phones and satellites. So it’s fitting that all of you are here today to launch what will be an incredible expedition here today as St. Louis becomes home to the new NGA headquarters.

St. Louis is a city of discovery - from iconic rockstar Tina Turner to Anheuser-Busch, from T.S. Elliot to the ice cream cone.

And St. Louis is a city of connections, a big city with a small-town feel, where everyone knows their neighbors, their neighbors’ extended family, and which high school each and every person went to.

We’re a city with a firm sense of right and wrong, the city where Dred Scott began the fight for his freedom, a quiet leader in the civil rights movement and fight for equality.
St. Louis is a hardworking city, a tough city, half southern charm and the other half Midwest grit - we face our fair share of challenges for sure, as any other metropolitan area in our country does - but with the $1.7 billion NGA West campus being built just north of where we stand, I truly believe St. Louis is at the precipice of a transformation that will reshape our city in the years and decades to come.

When I ran for mayor, I ran on a simple vision - I want St. Louis to win again, becoming a place where anyone can thrive - no matter where you come from, your zip code, or any identity you hold. And let me tell you: When I look out at this room, when I think about the MASSIVE investment the geospatial industry is making in our region, I feel like our city is on the path to victory.

There are thousands of the top innovators and experts in geospatial technology in this room today from the Department of Defence, intelligence, and academia. Innovators in mapping, satellites and satellite imagery, artificial intelligence, and more.

In 2019, the geospatial intelligence industry was responsible for 27,000 jobs and nearly $5 billion in economic impact throughout the St. Louis region. The new NGA headquarters will enhance this economic footprint even further.

While some of us grew up with landlines and dial-up, geospatial intelligence is helping our kids catch ‘em all in Pokemon Go in their own neighborhoods. Geospatial is broadening our notion of what is possible.

The sheer pace of innovation in this industry is thrilling to see, and the future home of geospatial is being built right here in the Gateway City. St. Louis is an incredibly advantageous location for geospatial to build, innovate, and grow.

The St. Louis region is a rich, diverse hub of talent in the Midwest. Our city is consistently rated one of the BEST in the country for start-ups. New economy tech start-ups like Square and Balto are choosing to base themselves in St. Louis, and it’s clear why:

It’s an attractive, affordable destination for people looking to get ahead in their careers and raise a family. Let me tell you - our world-class universities, top-tier medical systems, thriving innovation districts, vibrant art scene, 108 beautiful parks, and the MOST ENTHUSIASTIC sports scene in the country, paired with our low cost of living - your dollar goes far in St. Louis.

And NGA West isn’t the ONLY thing we’re building here in St. Louis. Our city is primed to become a true community and inclusive industry ecosystem for geospatial.

We’re aligning geospatial companies with the region’s established corporations for synergistic growth with advanced industries, including national security, transportation & logistics, precision agriculture, and health care delivery & research.

We’re working to enhance the city’s workforce and prepare for future opportunities through partnerships with Harris-Stowe State University, K-16 geospatial education and workforce development efforts. Our region’s school systems, colleges and universities, are priming future talent for jobs in a growing geospatial industry and already collaborating with existing industry sectors on research and applied projects. NGA West is truly just the beginning.

All of this work is being done with neighborhood revitalization as a key goal. When I ran for mayor, I also ran on a promise to right historic wrongs that have held St. Louis back

I am the first Black woman mayor of this city. I’m also the first in 25 years to be born, raised, and still living north of Delmar Avenue, the line that divides Black St. Louis neighborhoods from white. St. Louis MUST be a place where communities can thrive across racial lines, but Black communities north of Delmar are shrinking as families move out of the City. Acknowledging our history is essential if we want to move forward in a way that centers racial equity.

Decades of intentional disinvestment have left families and communities across St. Louis struggling, and my administration is committed to supporting these neighborhoods in new ways. NGA West and further geospatial investment offers St. Louis a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our neighborhoods by promoting inclusive growth.

This growth MUST include the longtime residents of neighborhoods, so St. Louisans aren’t forced out of the neighborhoods they love and care for.

Equitable development happens from the bottom up, not the top down. The City of St. Louis, alongside partners like Greater St. Louis, Inc’s Geofutures initiative and local elected leaders, is rolling out a new neighborhood planning effort to empower community members to have a voice in how geospatial investments impact them.

While this effort will eventually touch every one of our 79 unique and vibrant neighborhoods, we’re starting first with the six neighborhoods - St. Louis Place, JeffVanderLou, Carr Square, Columbus Square, Old North St. Louis, and Hyde Park - surrounding the future NGA Campus.

Yesterday, our director of the St. Louis Development Corporation, Neal Richardson, emphasized that with millions of dollars flowing into our communities, “we must make sure that we do not displace those individuals who have been committed to our city and their communities.”

That’s why my administration is putting such emphasis on equitable development and community planning - we want the people who have been dedicated to St. Louis, to their neighborhoods, to be the true beneficiaries of equitable growth

Meanwhile, my administration is focused on seizing another transformative opportunity - $500 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan - to invest in the people of our city.

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 uncertain times, and improving public safety by addressing root causes of crime.

But 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, with a developing action plan to help build a diverse workforce NGA, geospatial companies, and entrepreneurial organizations will need in the near future.

This is all important work. But when it comes to the future of our city, I think about NGA West and geospatial in human terms. I think about what it means to create good-paying jobs for parents who are looking to support their families and build better lives.

My son, Aden, is 14 years old. And let me tell you - no amount of geospatial intelligence tools can help figure out what goes on in the mind of a teenager. If one of you can innovate a map for the teenage brain, every parent on the planet will buy it, I promise you.

We talk a lot about what he envisions for a career someday - by the time he graduates from college, NGA West will be an international DESTINATION for them to build their careers in geospatial intelligence. St. Louis will be a place young people interested in geospatial technology and work will want to come to study, build a life, and grow a business.

I already know it’s on the minds of mothers and fathers across the City - “How can my kids get a job at NGA?”

That, to me, is the most exciting part of this promise. Geospatial is giving St. Louisans hope in a brighter future. That’s what winning looks like for St. Louis, and I’m honored to be a partner with you as we transform the geospatial industry and our city for the better.

We’re building something special here in St. Louis, and I’m excited that you’re here to join us.

Thank you again for this invitation and warm welcome. Thank you, God bless, and see you right back here in 2023!








































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