As efforts to privatize the St. Louis Lambert International Airport continues to be discussed, St. Louis County officials voiced their opinions regarding the issue.
If the privatization does happen, the city of St. Louis would still retain the ownership of the airport but would also have a deal in place with a selected contractor in which the contractor would run the day-to-day operations of the airport.
County Executive Steve Stenger stated that the plan is sound and could help the economic environment in St. Louis County.
“It makes sense for the City of St. Louis to explore a public-private partnership at St. Louis Lambert Airport,” Stenger said. “A modernized and upgraded airport would only serve to enhance economic development in St. Louis County, which has seen major corporations invest $5 billion in capital improvements and expansion since 2016.”
Councilman Sam Page also commented on the airport stating that it was important to make sure that privatization was a good deal for St. Louis County taxpayers.
“I think it’s important to keep an open mind about public/private partnerships. I would not support selling the airport,” Page said in a written statement. “And a longterm lease to a private company would have to be a really good deal for county taxpayers to earn my support.”
Originally, the idea of privatization was initiated by former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay before he left office in early 2017. Shortly after it was requested, it was granted federal approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
According to some advocates for the privatization of the airport, the deal would allow more income to come into the suffering city of St. Louis. Money from the deal could be used on upgrading key infrastructure within the city along with other projects.
In January, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, stated the airport has long been in need of substantial upgrades and the privatization would help the airport remain competitive.
“While St. Louis Lambert International Airport has improved significantly over the last few years, no one argues that it is as good as we would like it to be,” Krewson said. “Our leisure and business travelers desire more direct flights to more locations and better and more competitively priced services. Our regional economy needs additional freight transportation. Achieving better airport service is the highest and primary objective of exploring the FAA’s Airport Pilot Privatization Program.”
In January, it was announced that Rex Sinquefield’s nonprofit, Grow Missouri Inc. along with McKenna & Associates LLC and Moelis & Co. LLC, would help guide St. Louis government with the intricacies of the deal.
Critics were quick to point out that the selection process was met behind closed doors, and a quick legislative hearing didn’t allow for any public comment for residents to ask questions or have their concerns heard.
In a letter sent to Krewson, state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, called for the removal of Grow Missouri Inc. from the team of advisors.
Nasheed stated that Grow Missouri Inc.’s founder, Sinquefield has been influencing the privatization efforts and his involvement was an “obvious conflict of interest scenario that taints the entire privatization process.”
Slay argued in a guest column for St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he personally asked Sinquefield to provide the city with resources to explore the possibility of privatization and Sinquefield understands that if it isn’t a good deal for the airport and St. Louis, the deal would not happen.