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Vice Admiral Robert Sharp

Vice Admiral Robert Sharp take part in a moderated discussion at the start of Geo-Resolution 2019 conference at St. Louis University on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. The conference was sponsored by St. Louis University and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency with the goal of bringing together the government, academic and industry in the "geospatial ecosystem" in the St. Louis region. Photo by David Carson dcarson@post-dispatch.com

On Tuesday, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will break ground on its new campus in north St. Louis, scheduled to open in 2025. Once shovels hit the ground, a new chapter in a story that started here in St. Louis 70 years ago begins.

Throughout those decades, NGA and its predecessors employed some of the region’s brightest and most talented to serve in our nation’s defense. That mission would not have been successful without the connections, hard work and good faith of NGA and partners in the St. Louis region and the state of Missouri.

The headquarters groundbreaking represents more than the construction of a building. It exemplifies the explosive growth of the geospatial ecosystem in St. Louis, of which NGA is just one active member.

The north St. Louis location puts the agency in the heart of a community of outstanding academic institutions and cutting-edge industries to achieve its mission of providing world-class geospatial intelligence to our service members and nation’s leaders.

The new campus will be a different kind of intelligence facility, with collaborative and innovative spaces that further positions NGA to harness the ideas and technologies being developed by the region’s talented innovators.

New and exciting initiatives are being added to the geospatial community in St. Louis as we speak. Local universities and technology incubators are opening geospatial-related research and innovation centers, in some cases, just blocks from NGA’s new campus. Industry leaders are investing in the geospatial future of this region with new facilities and hiring initiatives. And, the nation’s largest gathering of geospatial-intelligence stakeholders will be held here in 2023 and 2025, bringing thousands of geospatial practitioners to downtown St. Louis.

That’s why NGA, the state of Missouri and others are partnering to develop the geospatial workforce of the future.

Missouri is focused on investing in the region’s workforce across the entire talent pipeline to meet the needs of Missouri’s employers — now and in the future. These efforts will 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.

NGA and the existing geospatial industry engage with a number of St. Louis-area elementary, middle and high schools to mentor local students and lead activities designed to spark students’ curiosity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

NGA also actively recruits graduates from local colleges and universities and has research agreements in place with local universities to strengthen and deepen faculty and student knowledge, as well as interest in geospatial sciences and programs.

Partnerships are indeed key to the success of the ecosystem, but its heart and spirit are the people of this community.

The next chapter in the St. Louis region’s geospatial story is being written now. Together, let’s develop the people who can take us into the next century.

Mike Parson is the Missouri governor. Vice Admiral Robert Sharp is the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.