Economic Development News

Economic Development Conference highlights challenges for Missouri
Published: Monday, October 9, 2017
By: Randy Allen, President/CEO

Recently I was fortunate to attend the 2017 Missouri Governors Conference on Economic Development in St. Louis. Every year this conference is an opportunity to hear the latest thinking on economic development issues in the state of Missouri and in our Midwest region. This year was unique given the fact that we have a new governor and an entirely new cabinet. Many of those new cabinet members have a role in Missouri’s economy and many of them played a part in this year’s conference.

In addition to Governor Eric Greitens, those participating in this year’s conference included:

  • Drew Erdmann, Chief Operating Officer, State of Missouri
  • Rob Dixon, Acting Director, Missouri Department of Economic Development
  • Joel Walters, Director, Missouri Department of Revenue
  • Margie Vandeven, Commissioner of Higher Education, Missouri Department of Higher Education
  • Zora Mulligan, Commissioner of Education, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Carol Cromer, Acting Director, Missouri Department of Natural Resources
  • Chris Chinn, Director, Missouri Department of Agriculture
  • Anna Hui, Acting Director, Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations
  • Patrick McKenna, Director, Missouri Department of Transportation

I was encouraged to see all these folks participating in the sessions and in the conversations about how we can improve our economic well-being. Here are a few of the takeaways from the conference as they relate to our work here in Jefferson City and Cole County.

State tax policy is a key to business attraction.

Businesses today have many options as to where they make investments and grow their businesses. The business climate and competition requires that a state have a solid balance between business-friendly tax structures and one that provides the necessary resources for state services. We heard that Missouri will continue to look at its tax policy and the way it administers the tax laws to improve our business climate. These efforts will make Missouri an even more attractive business location and help it win the competition for investment, business activities and jobs. This is important for us locally as we sell our workforce, local infrastructure and quality of life to those new businesses.

Technology is changing everything we do in manufacturing.

What we heard in this session was an emphasis on training for specific jobs. Although general education is important as a baseline, things will change so dramatically in the next decade that mid-skill workers will need to be able to learn through on-the-job training. Outsourcing of critical functions will be more prevalent which will provide opportunities for new companies to fill those gaps. Employees without college degrees will need to be able to adapt quickly to these changes. I also learned that cooperation between manufacturers of different products in many communities is creating a workforce-ready culture.

Broadband capabilities will be more important in the rural areas.

We all realize that we are connected to each other through the Internet not only on a personal basis but nearly everything related to commerce is conducted through our online connections. Many places in Missouri still lack sufficient broadband capability. These areas cannot expect to attract or grow businesses without this type of infrastructure. Not only will businesses not locate in these areas but employees will not move and locate in areas without these types of connections for their own personal use. The value is not just for the ability to socially network or stream movies and TV series, broadband has been instrumental in the evolution of education, business development, healthcare, agriculture, entrepreneurship and almost any other area you can imagine. We learned that there are still several initiatives underway to assist with this effort. We are fortunate here in Jefferson City/Cole County to have a good broadband infrastructure but more will be needed to upgrade this to keep up with the competition.

We must solve our transportation funding crisis.

We heard Patrick K. McKenna, Director of the MO Department of Transportation, discuss the 21st Century Transportation Task Force, established by HCR 47. The task force was created to evaluate the condition of our state transportation system, including roads and bridges and to determine appropriate funding sources to adequately provide for maintenance of the existing system and enhancements that will provide better methods for transporting people and goods in the years to come. Our chamber will continue to be supportive of this effort. We realize that good transportation systems drive economic development.

The information shared at this conference enables the Chamber to address these challenges in our strategic plan and work together with our economic development partners (city, county, and state) to continue to grow our community.

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