Written by Dick Fleming | Originally Published in Geospatial World
Earlier this year, Geospatial World Magazine featured the announcement of the newest ‘Innovation District’ in St. Louis, namely, the Downtown North Insight District — located at the Heart of America, in St. Louis’ central business district and just several blocks from the now under-construction USD 1.75-billion new western headquarters for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the surrounding 1,500- acre NorthSide Regeneration mixed-use development.
This new St. Louis’ Innovation Precinct’ joins Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT), Fintech, Med Tech, and other technology enterprises in ‘placemaking’ and ‘revitalization’ of the entire northern portion of Downtown St. Louis — including North Tucker Blvd, the entire Washington Avenue Tech Corridor, and America’s Center Convention Complex.
Founding anchors and civic entrepreneurs in this ‘collaborate to compete economic and entrepreneurial development hubs are:
With firms such as Maxar, Sweden-based T-Kartor’s U.S. headquarters, Ball Aerospace, General Dynamics, Square, CashApp, Geospatial World, and Stereotaxis already making their homes in the new District — along with the national security ecosystem and infrastructure to support GEOINT needs — yet another national GEOINT high-tech industry leader has announced that they will make St. Louis their home.
Scale AI, the data platform founded in 2016 by Alexandr Wang that helps its customers incorporate artificial intelligence into their operations, recently announced that it will open its St. Louis office and an initial 215 jobs in the District on Washington Avenue.
Mark Valentine, Head of Federal at Scale AI, observed, “The office’s location is near the Next NGA West campus, as well as T-REX and NGA’s geospatial accelerator, Moonshot Labs.”
Scale also shared its plan to open an office at the nearby Globe Building in the near future. Valentine further noted, “my goal would be to get us to around 500 employees over the course of the next couple years.”
Their St. Louis-based employees will work closely with some of Scale’s highly valued federal customers — including the US Department of Defense Joint AI Center, US Army Research Lab, and US Air Force Research Lab.
US Senator Roy Blunt (Missouri) commented, “As more companies and government agencies begin to utilize the power of artificial intelligence, the new Scale AI office will put St. Louis at the center of an exciting and rapidly evolving field,” noting that “the Scale announcement strengthens St. Louis’ position as an emerging technology hub, and I look forward to seeing continued growth and economic development in the region.”
Scale becomes the second high-profile Silicon Valley company this year to open a hub in St. Louis — following the cybersecurity firm Netskope’s expansion.
Apropos of St. Louis’ focus on Geospatial Intelligence and proximity to the new NGA/West HQ — the Global Institute on Innovation Districts is “actively advancing strategies that support geographies uniquely positioned to drive new waves of innovative, inclusive, and sustainable growth: Innovation Districts.”
The Global Institute further observed, “Innovation districts are the ultimate mash-up of anchor institutions, companies, startups, and ecosystem building intermediaries in hyper-local geographies that leverage density, proximity, and accessibility.”
Such innovation hubs actively advance a ‘collaborate to compete’ agenda to some of the world’s (and cities’) most complex challenges.
Such ‘collaboration to compete’ is clearly evident by the civic partnership between The Globe Building owner Steve Stone, Starwood Development partners Jim McKelvey (Co-Founder of Square) and John Berglund, and T-Rex CEO Patty Hagen.
The Global Institute aptly describes the key aspirations driving St. Louis’ Downtown North Insight District when they note, “drawn together by transit, powered by clean energy, wired for digital technology, and fueled by caffeine, innovation districts are ambitious in their efforts to strengthen local and regional competitiveness, grow new jobs with living wages, create new firms, and strengthen inclusive growth and equity across the region.”
The magnitude of growth of the defense and commercial Geospatial-Intelligence sector underscores the immense potential for St. Louis and the Downtown North Insight District to become a centerpiece of St. Louis’ emergence as a Global GEOINT Hub.
Geospatial World CEO and Founder Sanjay Kumar documented the scale and scope of growth in this sector in the recently published Global Industry Outlook Report, which noted that the “geospatial industry is the next ‘big opportunity’ for technology companies both as an ‘advancing market in itself’ and ‘augmenting business processes’ of mainstream IT, engineering, and autonomous industries.”
The long-term project involving multiple public/private partnerships is the 1,500-acre NorthSide Regeneration (NSR) Mixed-Use Development, at the heart of which is NGA’s new 100-acre HQ. The fully built-out NSR development will include 3 million square feet of office, 2 million square feet of retail, 1 million square feet of advanced manufacturing and tech space, and up to 2,500 residential units.
Within it, GEOINT Village, directly across the street from the new 100-acre campus of NGA/West will include over a half million square feet of office space for GEOINT firms, a hotel, an incubator/ accelerator, national security-related infrastructure components, restaurants and shops, parking, and a central park (as depicted in the attached Master Plan for the 1,500- acre mixed-use development).
St. Louis has identified five overall business and civic initiatives in the GeoFutures Plan to fulfill its potential to become a global geospatial hub:
St. Louis is focusing on geospatial in four industry sectors — national security; digital/precision agriculture; logistics; and healthcare delivery.
So, as construction of the NGA/ West HQ continues on pace for a 2026 opening — keep an eye on St. Louis’s companion evolution as a Geospatial Intelligence Hub.