The recasting of MidAmerica Airport as a destination for international cargo took a major step forward Tuesday when a private development group leased half of the airport's $7 million, government-built cargo facility.
Trade Zone Partners LLC, a Missouri group that includes an established shipping company, will pay a total of $740,000 on an increasing scale, plus a percentage of its profit, during an eight-year lease. The package contains economic incentives, but the group will be paying market rates by the end of the lease, officials said.
Now, Trade Zone Partners and St. Clair County will try to find customers who want to ship through MidAmerica, said Paul McKee, a Trade Zone partner.
"This is the very first step," McKee said of the deal, which is expected to be approved later this month by the County Board. Trade Zone Partners includes Sunset Transportation Inc., a St. Louis company that sends variety of goods around the country.
McKee, chairman of McEagle Properties LLC of O'Fallon, Mo., is handling the real estate end of the business and will look at ways to add warehousing and assembly needed to support cargo.
Since the county-owned airport opened eight years ago, it hasn't drawn the passenger service expected by county leaders. MidAmerica has one airline, with four passenger flights each week. It is attached to Scott Air Force Base and is operated as a "joint-use" airport linked to the base.
The airport's focus shifted to cargo under MidAmerica Director Tim Cantwell. On Tuesday, Cantwell and County Board Chairman Mark Kern were in Calgary, Alberta, communicating by conference call with the county's public building commission, which signed the lease.
Cantwell and Kern are in Canada to unveil the Trade Zone Partners deal at an International Air Cargo Association event there.
The 50,000-square-foot cargo facility, financed largely by the Federal Aviation Administration, was dedicated last year. Since then, Cantwell and others have worked to bring in U.S. Customs and other elements to attract business. Trade Zone Partners is leasing about 26,000 square feet.
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