Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Feb/Mar 08)
"Over the past three years, Missouri has reduced workers compensation rates, implemented tax reform, and improved the tax climate. It's amazing how movement towards good policies increases interest in a state," says Greg Steinhoff, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. "We had a high number of new investments and new companies come to our state in 2007, 30 percent more than the previous year in terms of deal flow."
Expansions in 2007 included Hallmark Cards; Monsanto (completion of a new data center at its Creve Coeur headquarters); financial services firms Edward Jones and Scott Trade; and pharmacy manager Express Scripts. "We have seen great internal growth from existing companies," says Steinhoff, who cites that Missouri has been ranked as the fourth-most diversified economy in the nation.
The state's economic development efforts are focused on eight prominent industries: agriculture, transportation/logistics, financial services, information technology, national security and defense, automotive, life sciences, and energy.
Missouri has a manufacturing base of 15 percent of the GSP. Its "diversification allows manufacturing losses to be replaced with net increases," says Steinhoff, noting gains in the IT and financial services areas. AT&T embarked on an investment of approximately $335 million over the next three years in fiber network upgrades and other new technology to bring cutting-edge video and Internet services to Missouri. The deal was heavily influenced by Senate Bill 284, enacted in August 2007, that enables state-issued video franchises that promote lower prices and expanded options through increased competition for Missouri cable consumers.
"We're writing checks all over the state," says Steinhoff, thanks to the passage of the Louis and Clark Discover Initiative that transforms the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) into a public-private partnership capable of investing more than $300 million for capital improvement projects at state universities. Some of the initiative is earmarked to attract and retain life sciences companies and to commercialize existing research already being conducted, as well as $20 million to create endowed professorships for Missouri research scientists.
Pro-business legislation involves a manufacturing tax exemption on energy from manufacturers, as well as a new markets tax credit geared towards smaller companies. "We have also honed our incentives," says Steinhoff, by expanding the Missouri Quality Jobs program and the Enhanced Enterprise Zone program.