By Paul Thompson
Dan Mehan of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce introduced attendees at the Friday, December 4 Grandview/South KC Chamber Government Affairs breakfast to a new, long-term vision for the state known as the Missouri 2030 plan.
Missouri 2030 came into being as the result of a year-long analysis by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce into the state’s recent economic performance. Those studies concluded that Missouri has fallen behind economically compared the rest of the U.S. Mehan discussed several concerning developments: from 2004-2014 Missouri ranked 42nd in the U.S. in employment growth, 43rd in in per capita GDP growth, and 37th in per capita income growth. With those economic statistics in hand, the chamber sought to take the lead by answering an essential question.
“What can we do to really position the state in a better light?” Mehan asked. “When we looked at the data that is the real thing, we are in the 40s or 30s. We’re never above the mid-range; pick the metric.”
The result of that thought process is Missouri 2030, a comprehensive, long-term plan to improve Missouri over the next 15 years. The plan narrows its sights on four primary areas of focus: preparing the workforce, competing for jobs, connecting through infrastructure, and uniting the business community. Each individual focus has a series of goals and action steps within it designed to make the hopes of the chamber a reality.
Properly preparing Missouri’s workforce has been tabbed as the plan’s top priority. The action steps created to accomplish that goal include advocating for K-12 and higher education funding, creating PSAs and social media campaigns touting technical jobs, promoting student internships with Missouri employers, and expanding the number of scholarships available for high achieving Missouri students, among others. Mehan said that he too often hears from business owners who can’t find qualified employees.
“I hear things like, ‘I’ve got the jobs, but I hired somebody who showed up for two days and then I never heard from them again,’” he said.
Center school district superintendent Dr. Sharon Nibbelink, who was in attendance at the meeting, concurred with the plan’s notion that today’s students need more hands-on time learning from the state’s economic drivers.
“We have to get kids into your businesses, and into the real world,” said Nibbelink.
Already, Mehan has seen strong business support for the Missouri 2030 Plan, including the South Kansas City and Grandview Chambers of Commerce.
“Seventy-five chambers of commerce have said that they want to be a part of this,” said Mehan. “If you extrapolate out how many small-business employers that is, it’s over 45,000.”
Mehan noted that if Missouri is going to fundamentally change, it needs to happen at the behest of business owners. Elected officials in Jefferson City are hampered by revolving doors and term limits, and the resulting push for strong legislative action has led to a pronounced increase in proposed bills early in the session.
“We just started on Tuesday, December 1, and there’s already been more bills filed than last year by a factor of three,” said Mehan. “We’ve got a lot of unfinished business on our agenda that typically carries over from last year. Governor Nixon has the honor of being the most vetoed governor in the history of Missouri.”
“There is no continuity in leadership,” he added. “The continuity is the people in this room that are creating these jobs and opportunities.”
Mehan said the Missouri Chamber understands that the state’s economic fortunes won’t change overnight. But he feels that their first step – building a realistic vision – will help bring Missouri real results.
“You don’t see us saying that we want to be number one; we just want to be in the top half to start with. We’ve got to walk before we can run,” he said. “In the typical Missouri way, the house will have burnt down and then we’ll try to fix it. That’s what we’re trying to fix with this Missouri 2030 plan.”
The Missouri 2030 plan can be viewed online at http://mo2030.com/.