The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) recently broke ground on its new western regional headquarters in north St. Louis, Missouri. Scheduled to open in 2025, NGA West represents a $1.7 billion investment and exemplifies the explosive growth of the geospatial ecosystem in St. Louis, of which the NGA is just one active member.
The Missouri location puts NGA West in the heart of a community of world-class academic institutions and industry leaders. The new campus promises to be a different kind of intelligence facility, with collaborative and innovative spaces that further position the NGA to harness the ideas and technologies being developed by the region’s talented innovators.
“This agency is proud to have been part of St. Louis for seven decades,” said former NGA Director Robert Cardillo in 2017. “That commitment means we won’t be just another walled-off, federal building — we will be out engaging with communities, interacting with tech entrepreneurs, exchanging knowledge and ideas with innovators, and serving as a magnet to attract the region’s best talent.”
The site is conveniently located adjacent to a variety of innovative and cultural areas. The Cortex Innovation Community and Washington Avenue, both vibrant startup and innovation districts, are to its south and west, as are the cultural and sporting areas of the Central West End, Forest Park, Grand Center and Clark Avenue. The NGA will also be located in the center of three top universities, Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Additionally, the NGA, the State of Missouri and others are partnering to develop the geospatial workforce of the future.
“Right now, in the St. Louis area — studying in classrooms, experimenting in labs and learning teamwork on athletic fields — are future analysts, cartographers, scientists and coders of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,” said Cardillo. “They may not know it yet, but we see that potential, that future reality, and we want to help them discover NGA.”
Missouri is focused on investing in the region’s workforce across the entire talent pipeline to meet the needs of Missouri’s employers. These efforts help create a skilled and ready workforce that can fuel the geospatial industry’s growth and support NGA in fulfilling the agency’s mission for its next 100 years in the state.
In fact, NGA officials recently announced they had hired the first eight employees through a partnership with LaunchCode, a non-profit organization based in St. Louis that works with businesses to set up apprenticeships in technology for talented people who lack the traditional IT credentials. Additionally, NGA is launching a K-12 outreach program that emphasizes skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) that students will need to someday work at NGA West.
“At the heart of this outreach is an emphasis on science, technology, math, geospatial information systems and geographic literacy,” said Cardillo. “Now given that we plan to open the campus in 2025, our interns that summer are in seventh grade today, and let’s not wait ’til then to meet one another.”
NGA hopes to add about 600 more employees to the agency’s current staff of about 3,100 when the new facility opens in 2025.