ST. LOUIS — John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Bi-State Development, has informed the board of commissioners of his intention to leave the organization, effective this fall.
Nations said he is announcing his intentions now because he wants the board to have sufficient time to find a successor as well as ensure a smooth transition. He has been in his position since 2010.
Nations, the former mayor of Chesterfield, was first approached to become president and CEO in 2009 and later agreed to lead the successful 2010 Proposition A campaign in St. Louis County to provide funding for public transportation. He accepted the top position at Bi-State Development in October 2010 and has become the longest serving president and CEO in Bi-State Development’s history. Prior to joining Bi-State Development, he was a business, economic development, and real estate lawyer for more than 20 years.
Bi-State Development Board Chair Constance Gully said, “John Nations has done a tremendous job as our leader and we are very saddened to see him leave. He has been transformative for Bi-State Development and the entire St. Louis region. His leadership has not only turned Metro Transit into a leader in the country in terms of efficiency and reliability, but he has made industry leaders out of all of our operating divisions while consistently leading Bi-State Development to clean financial and management audits. It is an incredible record of success of which we are all very proud. I personally discussed with him our desire to see him stay and even offered to open a conversation to restructure his contract if necessary.” Nations said he is grateful for the support he has had from the Board of Commissioners and the region over the years and that his contract has never been an issue.
Board Vice Chair Michael Buehlhorn said, “John has brought new regional and national appreciation for the abilities and accomplishments of Bi-State Development. He gets people to think differently about our challenges and opportunities. He has set a new standard for the company and the priority for the Board will be to continue that success into the future.”
When Nations took over as President and Chief Executive Officer, Bi-State Development operated multiple enterprises: St. Louis Downtown Airport, the Gateway Arch Revenue Collections Center and Gateway Arch trams as well as two excursion riverboats on the Mississippi River, and the Metro Transit public transportation system. In 2014, Nations added two new Bi-State Development enterprises: the Bi-State Development Research Institute and the St. Louis Regional Freightway.
Board Commissioner and former St. Louis Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl said, “We recruited John eight years ago to provide visionary leadership so that Bi-State Development could fill a critical role in providing regional solutions to regional economic development challenges. It is a testament to his leadership that after all of these years, the only thing people complain about relating to Bi-State operations is something Bi-State Development does not control, which is the policing of MetroLink in Missouri.”
In 2015, Nations rebranded and re-established the organization as Bi-State Development to reflect its role as a top economic development driver for the bi-state region. It is now a nationally recognized leader in freight and logistics, tourism, general aviation, and public transportation.
Board Commissioner Jeff Watson of St. Clair County said, “We selected John to bring quality and innovative leadership to Bi-State Development and I am very proud of the fact that he has accomplished those goals. He has been diligent about making sure that the interests of the entire region are considered when making key regional decisions relating to operations and opportunities. We will have high expectations for his successor to continue that vision.,”
While he is extremely proud to see his vision for Bi-State Development become reality and delighted to have celebrated Bi-State Development’s accomplishments and numerous awards over the past eight years, Nations said it is time to pass the torch to new leadership. He said even though Bi-State Development and its enterprises are doing great things for the region on a daily basis, some of the changes over the years were not easy decisions. “There are always challenges to be faced, but we as an organization have never avoided taking on the difficult issues and making the tough decisions necessary to advance our region.”
Former Illinois Congressman Jerry Costello, who has worked closely with Nations for years on the St. Louis Regional Freightway effort and expanding opportunities for the region said, “I have been working with Bi-State Development for almost 30 years. John Nations has by far been the best President of Bi-State during that time. John is an honorable and talented man and regional leaders need to do everything possible to keep him engaged in public policy.”
After more than 20 years in public life, Nations said he is leaving so he can have more quality time with his family as well as pursue his many interests in legal and civic affairs. “I look forward to being able to spend more evenings and weekends with family and friends,” he said.
“The fall is the most appropriate time for transition, as it was when I came in October 2010, and will allow my successor time to work with the Board and staff to set priorities heading into 2019,” he said. “(Former Bi-State Development President) Bob Baer worked hard to ensure that I had a good transition eight years ago, and I intend to do the same for my successor. My intention is to hand my successor a successful and respected Bi-State Development.”
Nations said there are several key projects he wants to move toward completion in his final months. “The new MetroLink station at Cortex will be open this summer, and it is the first transit project that is built partially with private funding,” he said. “A federal grant combined with Cortex and its partners have provided the funding for this critical piece of the system and it can serve as a new model on funding transit in the future.”
Other projects Nations looks forward to completing in the next few months are:
• The funding for the replacement of the Merchants Rail Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River three miles north of downtown St. Louis. Bi-State Development and the St. Louis Regional Freightway have worked with the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis and the Class I railroads to provide funding to replace the 127-year-old bridge. “That bridge is an incredibly important part of the region’s and the country’s economic infrastructure and securing its funding is our top freight priority and one which we hope to achieve in the next few weeks,” he explained. The approximately $225 million dollar project is expected to get underway later this year. “It is a critical element of a very bright future for the freight and logistics industries in our region,” he said.
• Continuing the work of the Bi-State Development Research Institute which is helping to change thinking about public transportation. “In a short time, the Bi-State Development Research Institute has attracted grant funding both to bring fresh food options to certain St. Louis County neighborhoods where such a simple thing has proven difficult, and also to bring basic health screenings to transit riders to help them save time and improve their health,” he explained. Nations said both of these pilot programs help improve the quality of life and lower health costs.
About Bi-State Development
Bi-State Development (BSD) owns and operates St. Louis Downtown Airport and the Gateway Arch Riverboats, as well as operates the Gateway Arch Revenue Collections Center and Gateway Arch trams. BSD is the operator of the Metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region, which includes the 87 vehicle, 46-mile MetroLink light rail system; a MetroBus vehicle fleet of approximately 400 vehicles operating on 83 MetroBus routes; and Metro Call-A-Ride, a paratransit fleet of 120 vans. BSD also operates the Bi-State Development Research Institute and the St. Louis Regional Freightway, the region’s freight district.