Missouri Thrives on Synergy
28 May, 2015
By Rachel Hamilton
In 2014, Missouri “had the best year ever in terms of project activity,” says Subash Alias, Vice President of Business Recruitment for the Missouri Partnership. The state saw $6 billion in investment in 155 projects that created about 28,500 jobs.
Of those projects, 119 were expansions and 30 were newly recruited to the state by the Missouri Partnership, Alias says.
“One thing that we do,” says Alias of the Missouri Partnership, “is we mobilize anybody and everybody to assist a company with locating in the state.” This can include state departments, the Army Corps of Engineers, and any economic agencies connected with the project.
“[…] Kirksville is a community that works together to be the best place to live, work and play,” says Carolyn Chrisman, director of Kirksville Regional Economic Development, Inc. (K-REDI). “Now that workforce is becoming a big factor,” she explains, the Kirksville area is at an advantage. We have five generations in the workforce.”
“We work really well together in Platte County,” says Alicia Stephens, executive director of the Platte County Economic Development Corp. Platte County enjoys a synergy from the high quality of life, the private investment and the combination of Kansas City International Airport, a large business park and a large intermodal hub.
Joplin in Jasper County is also seeing successes. EaglePicher Technologies LLC broke ground on its new Lithium Ion Center of Excellence in March 2015, says Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
“This is an exciting new venture for them in terms of inventing a lot of new chemistries around lithium power,” O’Brian says, explaining that EaglePicher engineers and manufactures batteries and alternative power sources for medical devices, military and defense and deep space use.
Branson’s Strip, a five-mile corridor that has been home to famous theatres and attractions, is being revitalized by private Branson business owners. The $100 million investment is known as the “Spirit of 76 Project,” says Jonas Arjes, executive director of the Taney County Partnership; its purpose is “to hopefully entice private sector investment — be it attractions, retail or restaurants,” he says.
Johnny Morris, CEO and founder of Bass Pro Shops and local self-made billionaire, is also investing what Arjes calls “a high amount” of money in attractions in southwestern Taney County.
Down to Business
- Missouri has the fourth best corporate tax index in country according to the Tax Foundation for 2015.
- The Missouri Works Program awards refundable, transferrable or salable tax credits to qualifying businesses creating a qualifying number of new full-time jobs.
- The Missouri Automotive Manufacturing Jobs Act allows qualifies manufacturers or suppliers bringing new production lines to Missouri to retain 100 percent of withholding taxes typically remitted to the state.
- Missouri’s sales tax rate is 4.225 percent for goods and 1.225 percent for food with exemptions for prescription medications.
Industries and Innovations
“Honestly, the thing about Missouri is it’s very diverse,” Alias says.
Advanced manufacturing, particularly automotive, is important in Platte County, says Stephens; many Platte County residents, she says, are employed by either Ford or General Motors or their suppliers.
“The GM plant in [Fairfax,] Kansas, is doing a model change, and we’ve seen a lot of new suppliers located on the Missouri side,” Alias says, noting that about four could be counted as direct suppliers to the GM plant and its manufacturing of the Chevrolet Malibu.
Branson’s tourism industry is alive and well, as Arjes says, but there is room for more in Taney County. “We’re working diligently to diversify and attract fundamental manufacturing,” he explains. “You can have a thriving business here that’s not in tourism.” The area is already home to data centers located in the area’s limestone caves, for example.
Animal health and plant sciences are “two sectors that are truly unique to Missouri,” Alias says, explaining that most of the animal health companies, such as Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. in St. Joseph, are located on the west side of the state, and most of the plant science companies like Monsanto (founded in St. Louis) are located in the east.
Heartland Pet Food Manufacturing now manufactures Blue Buffalo pet food in its more than 400,000-square-foot facility in Joplin as of September 2014, as O’Brian says, and employs about 150 people.
Kirksville has three pillars of economic development, Chrisman says; two of them are health care and agriculture. Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer, Reliant Hardwoods (owned by Hartzell Hardwoods), and many animal feeding operations (largely for hogs) are examples Chrisman gives of agricultural-related ventures near Kirksville.
The other economic pillar in the Kirksville area is education, Chrisman says. Truman State University and A.T. Still University, Chrisman explains, help keep the population of the rural area steady and young.
Talent and Education
A.T. Still University is where osteopathic medicine was founded in 1892, and it is now home to the state’s second dental school, Chrisman says. The community incented $1.2 million to get the Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health located in Kirksville, she explains.
Truman State “brings in the best and brightest from a three-state area,” as Chrisman says, adding that it now attracts more international talent by being co-located with The Language Co., a company that teaches English to international students.
Joplin now has a satellite campus for the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine and offers medical degrees, O’Brian says.
“Missouri is a pioneer in the [Certified Work Ready Community Program],”Alias says.
“We were the first ACT Work Ready Community in the U.S.,” O’Brian says of Jasper County.
Work Ready Communities are certified through the ACT Company, Chrisman explains, and the certification serves as an objective measure of a workforce’s achievement level in basic job skills.
“Adair County is certified as a Work Ready Community,” Chrisman says; it was the 35th in the nation to become certified.
Adair County is also working on changing STEM to STEAM, Chrisman says; the Kirksville Area STEAM Alliance is adding the arts to emphasize creativity and innovation — including a coding club just for girls and the Clockworks Robotics Club.
One of Platte County’s advantages is its access to “about a million work-aged people” within a 30-mile radius, Stephens says.
Taney County’s workforce is attractive to employers, Arjes says, because they can “pay their employees less, but employees have more buying power than they would be on the coasts.”
Missouri is “one of three states to maintain a AAA bond rating for 50 years,” Alias says. “It enables us to have predictable and stable tax climate and policy.”
Missouri’s refundable tax credits have very high utilization, as Alias explains. “What it means is if we give you a dollar in tax credits and if you don’t have a tax liability, then in a lot of states you can’t use that, but in Missouri we actually give you that dollar.”
Those tax credits are not only refundable but also transferrable and salable, Alias says.
Missouri’s limestone caves are an asset that Alias says is unexpected. “We have a lot of these underground caves that are not just for exploration; data centers are locating there,” he says, along with other businesses including food warehousing and records storage.
The Mountain Complex is one such cave, Arjes says. It offers more than 2 million square feet of protected space, he says, quarried through high quality limestone. The facility is already home to a data center and records storage facility, as well as dry storage.
“It’s right next door to a development called Branson Commerce Park,” which, Arjes says, is shovel-ready with all roadways and utilities set up.
Joplin plans to open a no-stoplight interchange access from Crossroads Business Park to nearby I-44 and I-49 by the end of this year, O’Brian says; the park also has access to rail. Missouri is home to six Class I rail carriers.
With a population of about 50,000, O’Brian says, Joplin looks like a small place; however, “Joplin is the head community of its own metro area; the marketplace is really more along the lines of 400,000 people.”
Missouri is home to Kansas City International and St. Louis International airports. Kirksville, Joplin, and Branson all have regional airports.
Kansas City International Airport in Platte County is near the 260-acre Riverside Horizons business park and the 690-acre KCI Intermodal BusinessCentre, both of which are master-planned developments.
“The city of Riverside has done a phenomenal job planning their infrastructure,” Stephens says, and Riverside Horizons has access to rail, an overpass, and is “starting their fifth spec building” as of April.
At KCI Intermodal Business Centre, “they too have done some spec buildings, and it seems like we fill them as soon as we build them,” she explains.
Outdoors and Recreation
Ha Ha Tonka State Park, located just south of The Lake of the Ozarks, offers the ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle, sinkholes, natural bridges, and over 15 miles of trails and was ranked fourth in the nation by USA Today Readers’ Choice Top 10.
“Statewide, you can really find whatever kind of living you want,” Alias says.
Taney County, just south of the Lake of the Ozarks, is a hub for attractions in Missouri, including Silver Dollar City, Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals, Celebration City and many others. “We get to play with those assets at any time,” Arjes says.
Health care is improving not only in dentistry in Kirksville and in a new medical school in Joplin; Cox Medical Center in Branson spent $30 million on 60,000 square feet of emergency rooms and critical care unit expansion.
Missouri has two MLB and two NFL teams, as well as one each in MLS and NHL.
Illustration by Stuart Miles at Free Digital Photos.net