On Monday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack along with Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Representative Bill Clay, D-Mo., and several state and local officials gathered at the Charles F. Prevedel Federal Building in Overland, Mo., just outside of St. Louis. They were there to celebrate the establishment and upcoming opening of the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service National Operations Center that will be housed at this facility. Secretary Vilsack spoke about the importance of the work that is done by NASS.
"NASS is involved in doing 425 different surveys," Vilsack said. "This is an accumulation of information that does make a difference in terms of the decision making that people in agribusiness and agriculture make. They look at 120 different commodities to try to give people a sense of where we've been and where we are headed."
The new National Operations Center will help streamline the work that NASS does, creating more efficiency. More than 350 new jobs will be created and reuse a military facility that is being transitioned by the Base Realignment and Closure plan.
Since being built in 1990, the Charles F. Prevedel Federal Building has been used for the U.S. Army and National Archives and Records Administration. Those services have been and are being relocated, and the National Operations Center will be housed there. Renovations are underway at the facility to prepare for the new center.
Several of the officials at Monday's event spoke about the reuse of the building. U.S. General Services Administration Regional Administrator Jason Krumb says that this move is a great example of creating local jobs while extending the life of a federal building. Overland Mayor Michael Schneider was also pleased by the move.
"It was a vision of the GSA wanting to give this facility a rebirth," Schneider said. "When I heard that I was extremely excited because it's not too often that we have an opportunity to rebirth anything. The way we tend to sometimes operate as government is rather than rebirth anything we just move on to another."
During his remarks, Vilsack discussed how great an impact on the direction of policy decisions the work of NASS has, and that with the more integrated, coordinated effort at a central location better data will be collected that will hopefully result in better decisions. He also talked about why USDA had chosen this site for the National Operations Center.
"This is really a good place for this to be located," Vilsack said. "First of all we are in a state that has more farms than any other state in the country, so that's one thing. Number two; this facility is located very close to appropriate transportation facilities so folks can get to work easily and consistently. Number three; this is an opportunity for a partnership with GSA and other agencies of the Federal government to utilize an asset we've already invested in. It's also located in a city that within a 500 mile radius nearly half of agricultural production takes place in this country, so it makes all the sense in the world to have this location right here."
More than $6 million has been provided by NASS and GSA for equipment, furnishings and other items to make the space ready to open for business, which is slated to occur on Aug. 1, 2011.