Economic Development News
Chamber endorses transportation funding & county zoning
From the Chamber Chair ...
Published: Friday, July 18, 2014
By: Bob Gilbert, Bartlett and West - 2014 Chamber Chair
Chamber endorses transportation funding and county zoning
There are several issues on the August ballot this year. I hope you will take the time to study these and get out and vote! The Chamber’s Board of Directors recently endorsed two of the measures.
Transportation Funding (Amendment 7)
When a company is considering locating or expanding in the Jefferson City area, transportation is typically one of the primary factors in their decision. Maybe they need rail access or perhaps they want four lane highways between their supply chain and the destination of their product. Regardless, the issue of our transportation infrastructure is involved in almost every business attraction project or expansion that we at the Chamber help facilitate. Take the new St. Mary’s Hospital or the expansion at Capital Region Medical Center for example. Both projects require new or modified access and infrastructure investment. The new St. Mary’s Hospital project was made possible by the new interchange on Hwy 179 at Mission Drive. This interchange was a cost share project, where some local dollars were combined with state funds to make it possible. Due to declining revenues that are not keeping pace with the cost of construction, MoDOT has suspended their Cost Share Program because the funds are not sufficient to keep it going. With this program’s suspension, many economic development projects throughout the state, much like the new St. Mary’s that need transportation infrastructure, have also come to a halt or now have to be funded completely at the local level.
The facts surrounding this issue of state transportation funding are eye opening. We have not raised the gas tax in 22 years and since then, the price of the components of the infrastructure (concrete, steel, and asphalt) have risen to two or three times the value they were in 1992. Meanwhile, we are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, so less gas per mile is being purchased. While this is good for sustainability, it has reduced the potential revenues dramatically. Missouri has the 7th largest transportation system in the nation, and ranks 40th in funding. Missouri has more miles of state highways than Kansas and Illinois COMBINED! Yet we have only a third of Illinois’ funding. States have been having this conversation about funding their transportation system for years, just like Missouri. Kansas and Arkansas have recently passed sales taxes as well and are investing in their infrastructure right now. Missouri needs to invest in its infrastructure if we want to compete and keep our economy strong. Missourians have been polled for years on what makes the most sense, blue ribbon panels have studied the needs and issues with funding alternatives, and it is clear the only option that appears to be able to pass with the voters is a sales tax. So, now we have a choice to make in August. Will we vote for a ¾ cent sales tax for 10 years to fund transportation? The Chamber hopes the answer is Yes on 7!
Recently, there has been discussion about economic development outside the limits of Jefferson City. The Chamber can promote development in other areas of Cole County, but the issue of zoning and protecting the investment of a business who might locate there are always part of the conversation and in many cases would be the downfall of landing the project. A business who locates to the area makes large capital investments in land, buildings, and equipment. They want to make sure that investment is protected. That is part of what zoning can do. It sets up general classifications for land usage so that landowners can have some expectations as to what might end up being on the property next to them. It also provides a public forum and review process for development so that adjacent property owners can have a voice about a particular land use next to them. Some of us just don’t want anyone telling us what we can or cannot do on our land. That’s understandable. However, from an economic development standpoint, zoning is a tool to help an area develop where everyone can understand the expectations and see new investments develop in an orderly, planned process.
Zoning would become another tool in the toolbox to promote business in areas outside the Jefferson City limits. Therefore, the Chamber board has endorsed the issue and would encourage everyone to vote yes for County Zoning.