The Chair of a state committee says Missouri is a very patriotic state, but that’s not the same as being a ‘military friendly’ state.
“(People in the state) are very, very, very pro military, but it had never been coordinated, especially legislatively,” said Dalton Wright, the Chairman of the Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission (MMPEC)
The measure of how ‘military friendly’ a state is isn’t a number.
“A green state is one that’s very military friendly and amber state would be a state that’s very friendly, but it’s got some problem areas. It’s sort of unwritten, but it is tracked,” Wright said.
The MMPEC was created in 2005, in part to help get that ranking up. Wright says Missouri was lagging far behind in military ‘friendliness,’ but that the state has made a lot of progress. He says Missouri is somewhere in the middle among states; a ‘high amber’ or ‘low green’ ranking, if you wanted to put a color on it.
“Missouri has to have a fairly good grade in comparison to some of the other states, which makes us possibly more desirable to put units in,” Wright said. “When you come to base realignment and closure, then our grade really becomes critical, how we compare with other states.”
We’re talking about millions of dollars, which other states have also seen are at stake in the matter.
“There’s more competition than ever before. The amount of economic impact is in the billions of dollars. (The military) is probably the single biggest income center for the state if you called it an industry,” Wright said.
The MMPEC holds meetings at each military base in the state every year to get feedback. It can lead to changes in policy or even legislation.
“We get the opportunity to sit down and talk to some of the people there at the installation to see how we’re doing how the state’s doing, and if there’s anything that’s come up that they would like us to deal with,” Wright said.
He says an example of change that came out of this was when out-of-state military members mentioned a form they had to fill out for the department of revenue when they came to Missouri.
“There was a feeling that they could be fined, or held accountable if they didn’t do it. All we did was invite the department of revenue in and they said, ‘OK,’ and they just administratively, just fixed it. And that ended an aggravation,” Wright said.
He says often these are small adjustments. Things like making sure kids in military families can choose what school they want to go to in the area, not being stuck somewhere simply because they live on a base. It’s commonly a circumstance that wasn’t considered when a policy or legislation was created.
“It’s kind of like the kid that does the homework and forgets to take it to school,” Wright said.
Wright says there is still plenty of room for improvement in Missouri, and he thinks the state can continue to dial up its rating.