This time, Missouri is playing defense in economic development. Threatened by competition from other states, the House is moving on a bill aimed at keeping manufacturing jobs here and, perhaps, even grow some more.

No one believes Ford Motor Company will leave Claycomo in Kansas City, but everyone in Jefferson City is worried that Ford might shift production of a new product line to another state. The Manufacturing Jobs Act, HCS HB 1675, hopes to prevent that from happening.

Rep. Tim Flook (R-Liberty) claims Kentucky already has $100 million in incentives on the table for Ford. Flook says several other states are competing for the new line of production Ford will begin after it ends production of the Ford Escape at Claycomo. At stake: as many as 4,000 high-paying jobs.

“The time to do this is yesterday, the time to do it is today, the time to do it is tomorrow,” Flook says of the measure before the House. “If you want to improve this economy, you got to be willing to compete.”

Agreeing is Rep. Sam Komo (D-House Springs) who tells colleagues if they want to observe the devastating impact plant shut-downs can have on a region, they should visit his St. Louis area district reeling from the loss of two Chrysler plants.

“And I can show you, you can walk through my district and I can show anybody in here what has happened over the years in my district,” Komo says.

The bill has more than Claycomo in mind. It would allow any qualifying manufacturer to retain half of its withholding taxes from retained jobs for 10 years. The facility could also qualify for additional economic development assistance from the state, including incentives from the Quality Jobs Program.

The measure has the backing of Gov. Nixon who, along with State Economic Development Director David Kerr, recently met in Detroit with Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

“Over the next few years, Ford Motor Company will undoubtedly be changing various product lines to satisfy consumer demands for next-generation automobiles. I am committed to working in a bipartisan way to ensure that Ford makes the cars of the future right here in Missouri. I was pleased that the Missouri House gave initial approval to legislation that creates a framework for making this happen,” Nixon said in a written statement issued after the House acted.

The bill passed on a 143-to-6 vote. One more favorable vote sends the bill to the Senate.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60]