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A conversation with. Greg Steinhoff, Director of Missouri Dept. of Economic Development

"Per capita, we are one of the top states for higher education. This has established international relationships and opened doors for us."

Feb/Mar 07
Q. How do exports figure into Missouri's economic development picture?
Exports are at an all-time high, totaling $9.1 billion, up more than 22 percent compared to the same period in 2005. Our number-one country for exports is Canada, followed by Mexico. Relationships have been made in Asia through our higher education institutions such as Washington University and the University of Missouri system. Per capita, we are one of the top states for higher education. This has established international relationships and opened doors for us.

Q. What are Missouri's growth industries?
Biotechnology accounts for more than 390 plant and life sciences enterprises, as well as 170,000 direct jobs. The University of Missouri, Washington University, and St. Louis University all have medical schools engaged in research, and the privately funded Stowers Institute has been given in excess of $1 billion to establish a cancer research institute. Pfizer has one of its four research and development facilities in the world in St. Louis. They are investing nearly $200 million to expand the research and development facility in Chesterfield that will maintain a work force of about 1,200 people, thanks in part, to the Missouri Jobs Act. Last year, Governor Matt Blunt created the Advisory Council for Plant Biotechnology in an effort increase opportunities in plant sciences. We are working with business incubators and research parks on public universities and college campuses to improve internal technology transfer.

Q. What are some of Missouri's more established companies?
Representing heavy industry, Boeing has its defense systems in St. Louis. In agriculture, we are home to Monsanto and other companies that manufacture feed, grain, and equipment for agriculture, plus supplements for animal health and nutrition. Forty-five percent of the world's animal health and nutrition products are produced within 110 miles of Kansas City, so it has become known as the animal health and nutrition corridor.

Q. Have any new incentives been passed by the legislature?
Some of the incentives will bring a major improvement to the business climate. In 2005, we saw some of the best workers compensation reform and tort reform passed, which were implemented in 2006. The reform allows for new limits on joint and several liability, restrictions on venue shopping, and new limits on punitive and non-economic damages. The compensation reform protects the workers without threatening jobs. Another incentive, the Missouri Quality Jobs Act, attracted 34 companies from August 2005 to March 2006 promising to create or retain an estimated 7,500 jobs. These reforms have been cited by companies who have invested or reinvested in our state, such as Chrysler, GM, and Express Scripts.

Q. What are you doing to spur success in rural areas?
We are looking at reviving our rural economies. Community development programs are wrapped up in our DREAM (Downtown Revitalization Economic Assistance for Missouri) initiative, which helps rural communities rebuild their downtowns and attracts private investment and small manufacturing. The program addresses a community's needs such as infrastructure improvements, historic preservation, affordable housing, community services, business development and job creation. Six to 10 communities will be designated as DREAM communities for three years.

Q. What is your strategy for future growth?
Missouri is increasing its business recruitment capabilities. We are raising $1 million to hire six or seven people throughout the country as a private-sector managed and controlled sales team, solely focused on expansion. Another vehicle for recruitment is the formation of leadership councils, led by eight individuals who are experts in their industry, hired by [our] economic development [department], who are responsible for drafting a strategic plan to grow their particular industry.

Q. How are you identifying focus industries?
We are using the sector approach. We can prove that momentum is coming from those clusters, including transportation/logistics, automotive, homeland security, agriculture, life sciences, information technology, energy, and financial services.