The national economic crisis is devastating Missouri's auto-industry dependent economy. Surpluses that once existed have been depleted. Revenue is down. Unemployment is up. And state officials expect the situation to grow worse before it gets better.
New Governor's Efforts
Newly-elected Governor Jay Nixon hopes to speed the recovery with an initiative called "Show Me JOBS" that aims to support small business development, provide incentives for worker training and re-training, and expand the Quality Jobs Program to bring next-generation auto jobs to the state. Missouri is pouring $2 million into the small business loan program to help overcome the lack of capital that's stymieing efforts to expand operations and hire new employees. "We'll provide these loans on a revolving basis to ensure the greatest possible impact," said Nixon at the signing of the executive order for the program. "We want to do everything we can to help small businesses grow, and these types of loans from the state of Missouri will be a big boost."
Despite the challenges and the thousands of lost jobs, Missouri is still seeing some victories on the economic development front. In St. Joseph, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica (BIVI), a leader in the animal pharmaceutical industry, is building a $130 million, three-phase project that will establish a centralized office, expand manufacturing and broaden R&D. The project will create 124 new jobs. "We have a long and successful history in St. Joseph and are committed to growing our business in this community. I feel confident about our growth strategy and ability to compete globally as an animal health research and development and manufacturing facility," says George Heidgerken, president of BIVI. "The city of St. Joseph has provided economic incentives and partnered with us throughout the site evaluation and decision-making process."
In Sikeston, hardware wholesaler Orgill is building a 795,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art distribution center to serve its upper Midwest customers; the $36 million project will create 350 new jobs. Pauwels Transformers, a power transformer manufacturer, is building a $22.6 million manufacturing facility in Washington that will employ 130. And engineering firm ProEnergy Services is adding 400,000 square feet to three facilities in Sedalia; the $85 million project will create 142 jobs.
Although Missouri is taking a beating on the automotive front, economic development officials believe the state is in a prime position for the production of energy efficient "green" cars that are currently on the drawing board at automotive firms throughout the world. The Missouri Automotive Jobs Task Force was created to help the state's automotive industry find its place at the forefront of the green vehicle movement. And the state's "Missouri Build" program, which provides tax credits to help large businesses expand their operations and create new jobs in the state, could help attract fuel-efficient car manufacturing.
"Two hundred thousand Missourians are out of work - and we are not standing still," says John Fougere, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Economic Development. "We are moving forward with these aggressive initiatives to jumpstart the local economy as we work to strengthen training programs and prepare workers for the future of the automotive industry."