Fifty years ago, the Illinois State Legislature created the Tri-City Regional Port District, entrusting the new entity with the general mission of economic development in Southwestern Illinois. In 2009, as Tri-City Port prepares to celebrate its golden anniversary, the 1,200-acre facility has evolved to become a $200 million dollar economic engine for the region, moving more than three million tons of products by barge, rail and truck annually. And that’s just one part of this tremendous regional success story that port officials will be sharing in the coming months as they host a variety of events to engage different constituents in the celebration.

Current plans call for a series of industry events that will be held for, and in conjunction with, key industrial tenants at the port and related partners, as well as an appreciation event for legislators to be held this summer. Later in the year, the Port will roll out the welcome mat for families from across the region as they play host to Thomas the Train and The Polar Express. A 50-page booklet documenting the Port’s history and key milestones in its development and growth over the years also will be released in mid-spring. Copies will serve both as a marketing booklet and commemorative item for those interested in the Port’s history.

“As we mark this important milestone in the Port’s history, we are very pleased that, even in the midst of the current economic challenges, the Port remains a center of development activity,” said Bob Wydra, Executive Director of the Port. “Tri-City Port is unique in the sense that it has so many businesses and individuals contributing to its success. The events and activities we have planned throughout the year will enable us to show our appreciation to all of them and provide some great opportunities for us to educate the entire region about this wonderful asset.”

While most people would expect a Port District to have active barge and rail operations, they may be surprised to learn how much else has been going on at Tri-City Port since it took control of and began redeveloping the former US Army Charles Melvin Price Support Center (CMPSC). The CMPSC was closed in 2000 and has since been transformed by the Port into River’s Edge, a thriving mixed-use business Mecca with numerous new businesses locating at the complex every year.

Located just minutes from Downtown St. Louis with easy access via the McKinley Bridge, River’s Edge is not an ordinary business park. Many of its brick buildings were already on the property when it was a US Army base, and have been renovated for re-use. Its tenant mix also is unique, ranging from a technology firm, a sheltered workshop and Southwestern Illinois’ only small business incubator, to a mixed-use martial arts training center, a child care facility and the Blessing Basket Project, a not-for-profit organization promoting the sale of baskets made by individuals in some of the poorest communities in the world. In all, the Port currently has approximately $73 million in assets, 100 military families residing onsite and about 70 tenants or operating companies directly employing 750 employees.

A recent, independent regional economic impact assessment shows that the Port District is responsible for 1,347 jobs in Madison County, $66 million in payroll and state and local taxes of almost $10 million annually. It is looking to increase that regional impact based on current development projects underway and additional improvements planned for the future. Several construction projects are nearing completion while new infrastructure projects are under design or nearly underway, including:

  • Completion of the repaving of Bissell Street to serve the industrial park, a $1.6 million investment;
  • Construction of the new $17 million US Army Reserve Center scheduled to open by summer;
  • Construction of a $5 million air-dome manufacturing plant expected to employ about 40 people;
  • Construction of a $250 million Abengoa Bioenergy Ethanol Manufacturing Plant;
  • Co