St. Louis strives to become air freight hub to China

In the city dubbed the “Gateway to the West,” St. Louis movers and shakers are hoping their city will be known as the “Gateway to the Far East” in the 21st century.

Efforts are under way, with support from Missouri’s most influential politicians, to create an air freight hub in St. Louis that would generate trade between China and the Midwest. U.S. Sens. Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill have been vocal proponents of the project, and Bond last month lobbied Missouri legislators to provide $12 million for the development of an air cargo facility at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

But for skeptics, it may sound like pie-in-the-sky talk from a city whose airport is underutilized and is less than 300 miles from Chicago, one of the busiest air freight hubs in the country.

But it’s more than just talk at this point. Since early 2008, several delegations have traveled between China and St. Louis as the two sides have explored the advantages of such a partnership. Just last month, a group of 50 Chinese businesspeople, along with the Chinese Investment Promotion Agency, stopped in St. Louis as part of a U.S. tour.

Also, the Midwest China Hub Commission was formed earlier this year and now has offices in St. Louis and Beijing.

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