Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In 20 Years, Warehouse Park Has Become a Big Economic Engine for Metro St. Louis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In 20 Years, Warehouse Park Has Become a Big Economic Engine for Metro St. Louis

Article excerpt

When a friend urged Michael Towerman to invest in land in Madison County in the early 1990s, he saw little more than cornfields.

"I thought he was nuts," recalls Towerman, who at the time was primarily a shopping-center developer.

A couple of years later, Rodney Thomas lured Towerman back with a more specific vision for the same ground. Thomas saw the farmland, near the intersection of Interstates 255 and 270, as ideal for a large-scale distribution complex.

The two would become partners in TriStar Cos. and start developing Gateway Commerce Center, where they completed the first warehouse in 1998 for the soap giant Dial.

Two decades later, Gateway is a major economic engine for the region. The former farmland has sprouted 17 giant buildings and 6,000 jobs, and it's still growing. Two buildings under construction for World Wide Technology will have about 2,000 workers, about 500 of whom will be new hires. (The other 1,500 are moving from nearby Lakeview Commerce Park.)

"It's a massive driver" for the Metro East economy, says Ronda Sauget, executive director of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois. "It's very important to have a major logistics center in a transportation corridor like ours."

Gateway's tenants include Amazon, Procter & Gamble, Walgreens and logistics companies serving Hershey, Lowe's and Unilever. If metro St. Louis didn't have a competitive site, some of those companies might be elsewhere in the Midwest. Towerman says Indianapolis and Kansas City are his toughest competition.

Earth City was considered the area's premier distribution hub in the 1990s, but its buildings were 500,000 square feet or less. Companies were consolidating into fewer, but larger, distribution centers.

Dial, for instance, occupies 800,000 square feet. Procter & Gamble opened with that amount in 2001 and now has 3 million square feet in three buildings. …

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