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St. Louis has become sort of a second home for me as I often travel to the city on business related to my chosen field of geospatial intelligence (known in national security circles as GEOINT). After seeing the lively dialogue created by the Business Journal’s recent article “How America Sees St. Louis,” I thought I’d add my perspective.

I’m bullish on the city and the ambitious path upon which it’s embarked to become both a national and global hub for geospatial intelligence, drawing inspiration from its remarkable history of leadership in plant and life sciences. The city’s efforts are anchored by the nearly complete $1.75-billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) facility in North St. Louis, representing a transition from NGA’s current home at the St. Louis Arsenal.

Numerous local initiatives, including the GeoFutures Coalition under Greater St. Louis Inc., the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s St. Louis Area Working Group and the Taylor Geospatial Institute anchored at St. Louis University, underscore the city’s commitment to this GEOINT vision. These efforts are complemented by the vibrant partnerships between NGA and local academic institutions such as Harris-Stowe State University, significantly enhancing the area’s educational and technological landscape.

Central to this burgeoning activity is the Downtown North Insight District, now a prime location for both new and established companies working in geospatial intelligence, financial technology, and other high-tech sectors. This 18-square block district is anchored by three St. Louis gems: the 720,000-square-foot Globe Building, the 271,000-square-foot Post Building, and the T-REX startup incubator.

The Globe Building, offering a unique combination of massive internet connectivity, redundant power feeds, and its robust physical characteristics, houses GEOINT sector leaders such as General Dynamics IT, Maxar, Westway Services Group, Ball Aerospace and Esri.

The Post Building is home to fintech leader Square (now known as Block) and holds tremendous potential to host “deep tech” related companies in the future.

T-REX supports geospatial intelligence efforts in multiple ways, including via its Geospatial Innovation Center and hosting NGA’s Moonshot Labs.

In addition to all of this, there’s a “secret weapon” that St. Louis can and must fully bring to bear: the 75,000-square-foot, multi-tenant, secure compartmented information facility, or SCIF. Located on a full floor of The Globe Building, it’s the only facility of its type outside the Washington, D.C., metro area. A SCIF creates the opportunity for classified work to be done and facilitates classified meetings and video teleconferences.

The unique multi-tenant SCIF model means that Westway Development Group, which built the SCIF, provides the upfront capital and manages ongoing operations of the SCIF while offering tailored solutions to large corporations and smaller firms alike. While it is prohibitively costly in terms of money and time for most small and medium businesses to build and operate their own SCIFs, this model significantly lowers the barrier to entry with its turnkey service and ability to lease just a single seat if desired. It’s a huge competitive differentiator for the city and the region.

The presence of this community SCIF, along with the new NGA campus and the flourishing Downtown North Insight District, positions St. Louis as the leading contender in attracting geospatial intelligence and related industries. By lowering logistical and financial barriers, St. Louis is poised to become a melting pot for GEOINT innovation, driving regional economic growth and reinforcing its reputation as a future-focused, globally competitive hub.

This is among the many reasons I’m betting on The Lou. The synergy of these assets not only propels St. Louis towards its goal of becoming a global GEOINT hub but also sets a strong foundation for regional growth, benefiting the local economy, the geospatial intelligence sector and our national security.

Keith J. Masback is owner and principal consultant at Plum Run LLC. He was CEO of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation for over a decade.