Loss of Chrysler plants cost St. Louis region $15 billion, study shows

The shuttering of two Chrysler Assembly Plants in Fenton carved a $15 billion hole in the St. Louis region’s economy, according to a new study.

Experts from consultant AECOM have spent the past 18 months conducting interviews and collecting data on the auto plant closure to better assess the economic impact of the now vacant 295-acre site, according to a news release from the county Economic Council.

“The shuttering of the two Chrysler plants was a shock and a turning point in the history of St. Louis. This was the first time in nearly 50 years that cars were not manufactured in St. Louis County,” County Executive Charlie Dooley stated in the release. “With this study we are seeking to better understand the scope of the impact and our regional economic strengths, and in so doing, develop a game plan for growing our economy.”

The south Chrysler plant opened in 1959, the northern facility in 1966. Together, they represented one of the largest tax-generating entities in St. Louis County. But by the summer of 2009, the company had shuttered both plants.

The task of rolling out new Chrysler minivans and Dodge Ram pickup trucks went to factories in Canada and Mexico.

The AECOM report calculated the economic impact to the St. Louis region at $15 billion. That loss was felt broadly throughout the bi-state area with the majority of direct and indirect workers residing outside of St. Louis County. The analysis revealed the loss stretched far into Southwestern Illinois and Eastern Missouri touching more than 10 different counties in the region.

According to the report, direct and indirect jobs lost included:

• 6,365 jobs lost at the North and South Chrysler Plants.

• 2,500 jobs lost at direct suppliers to Chrysler.

• 43,000 total direct, indirect and induced jobs lost throughout the regional economy.

Economic Council President and CEO Denny Coleman called the Chrysler site a “unique and valuable asset” to the region. He noted in the release that the property”is surrounded by top-notch infrastructure and on-site utilities that would make it a great fit for a large industrial user.”

“However, it has some significant drawbacks,” Coleman stated. “The demolition of the buildings and the remaining concrete slabs on the property make it challenging to market to new users, especially in this tough economy. However, we are optimistic that as a region we can pull together and determine a new use that brings jobs and investment to our region.”

The AECOM study is now available at

.

The study was funded through a grant by the United States Economic Development Agency to the state

of Missouri, county Economic Council and the city of Fenton.

AECOM conducted the extensive study and produced the first of two reports titled: “Impact of Chrysler Closure.” The second report will be ready for release next month, according to the release.