An informal group of economic development advisors looks both to this legislative session and future sessions in an attempt to help Missouri stimulate job growth.
House Speaker Ron Richard (R-Joplin) says he has listened to this informal group for advice on economic development since the days when he chaired the House Economic Development Committee.
It is led by Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce President John Mehner, who endorses efforts this year to increase job training, focus on life sciences and cultivate growth among Missouri businesses. Those happen to be at the top of Governor Nixon and the legislature’s list.
The Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act was introduced in the House last session, but didn’t have enough time to get through the legislature. Nixon has touted the measure at various stops throughout the state. Nixon has also called for more emphasis on job training and has proposed Missouri First, a program that focuses on businesses already located in Missouri. It would provide incentives for them to expand and create jobs.
Mehner, also a member of the Missouri Development Finance Board, says Missouri must address the need to front-load business incentives.
“When companies are looking to locate to an area to establish a location or a site, they are looking for as much up-front, early-on money as possible to get things going or to satisfy their needs,” says Mehner.
Mehner suggests Missouri also needs a “deal closing fund” available in the crucial moments of negotiations with a company.
He understands it is hard, right now, for the state to secure a lot of cash.
“I think budget constraints have to be a parallel conversation with everything that we’re talking about,” according to Mehner.
Other areas of concern for the group include securing more capital investment and creating a framework for mega deals. Mehner says the group doesn’t have an answer for how the state can encourage the growth of small businesses, but understands the role they play in helping the economy grow out of recession.
Mehner says local and state officials also must be service oriented…even over-the-top in making Missouri an attractive state to do business.
Brent Martin reports [:60]