By Mark Sutherland
States and communities across the U.S. are facing shortages of available and trained workers. And Missouri is taking aggressive steps to position themselves as a national leader in the solutions to this challenge.
In July 2019, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed into law a piece of legislation that caused Missouri to leap ahead of states like Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia and become a top state for workforce development. Missouri’s new $42 million Missouri One Start program is part of a fundamental reset in how Missouri approaches economic development. The program is designed to help companies ramp up faster during an expansion by designing and delivering tailored and customized pre-employment screening, employment marketing, and job-specific training to make businesses more competitive.
Missouri One Start leverages a comprehensive strategy that networks colleges across the state to provide the customized training companies need. Combine this with the new $18 million Missouri Fast Track program, and the existing A-Plus program and the extensive offender work-training programs, and Missouri can now not only provide customized training, but is now providing free community college across the state, across all demographics, plus ensuring released offenders are fully trained and ready to enter the workforce, to fill workforce gaps and needs statewide.
These programs are allowing Missouri to help businesses recruit, onboard and train large numbers of job applicants during major expansions. When business needs to ramp up quickly, Missouri markets job openings, and recruits, screens and trains workers.
“From day one, workforce development has been a major focus of our administration,” Governor Parson said. “This legislation gives us the tools we need to be more competitive and shows companies everywhere that Missouri is open for business. We’re excited about this great step forward and will continue to invest in Missouri workers, help companies grow, and keep quality jobs here in our state.”
And the recent strategic reorganization of Missouri’s Department of Economic Development, under the leadership of Rob Dixon, has transformed that department into a customer-centric, customer service-oriented organization that is designed to be a company’s one-stop-shop for talent development and workforce training.
This focus on what is best for companies is at the core of what drives Missouri’s leadership. They are focused on ensuring job-creating companies can benefit from a friendly business environment, low taxes and a state that prides itself on solid fiscal management. And starting in 2020, Missouri’s corporate income tax rate will drop to four percent. This will give Missouri one of the lowest corporate income tax rates in the U.S.
Prior to this drop, Missouri was already ranked as having the 4th-best corporate income tax index in the U.S. by the Tax Foundation with a better overall tax climate for business than most of the surrounding states, including Kansas, Illinois, Iowa and Oklahoma. Now, a four percent corporate income tax, combined with other recent moves, will make Missouri one of the most attractive states in the U.S. for business expansion and investment, especially in the manufacturing sector.
Missouri is already recognized as a best state for manufacturing by Supply Chain Digest. And now, after Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 68 into law, Missouri has committed itself to support even more automotive manufacturing investment.
The new automotive incentives grant up to $25 million in tax credits to automotive manufacturers that invest $500 million in plant upgrades, while agreeing to retain current workers, and then an additional $25 million in tax credits if they invest another $250 million. The last time Missouri had automotive manufacturing incentives in place, automotive companies invested more than $2 billion in the state.
“This legislation gives us the tools we need to be more competitive and shows companies everywhere that Missouri is open for business,” Governor Parson said. “We’re excited about this great step forward and will continue to invest in Missouri workers, help companies grow, and keep quality jobs here in our state.”
Missouri already builds more than 776,000 trucks and vans each year and is home to major Ford and GM production facilities. And the facilities are strategically located on the North American Automotive Alley that stretches from Toronto to Mexico City. Additionally, the Kansas City, Missouri, region is the second-largest automotive trade hub behind Detroit according to the Brookings Institute.
Combine this with Missouri’s business-supporting regulatory environment, their ability to get goods efficiently anywhere in the world via rail, river, road, air or sea, their four percent corporate tax rate, and the new customized training programs that puts them at the top for workforce development (sorry Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia), and the future of automotive manufacturers is looking good in Missouri.
But wait. There’s more. And we’re talking more than just a new set of Ginsu knives.
Missouri Works is the state’s economic development program designed to support companies considering Missouri as a place to expand to and grow their business. And now it’s got even better.
The program already offers benefits in the form of 100 percent retention of state withholding tax and includes refundable, transferable, and sellable tax credits for qualified companies. So long as you provide health insurance and cover at least 50 percent of the premium, and your wages are high enough, you will likely qualify.
But now, after recent legislation, the benefits that used to be spread over a number of years can now be awarded in year one. Not all companies will qualify for this year one benefit, but in highly-competitive expansion projects, Missouri now has the ability to ensure that investments are profitable from day one. This is what they call a win-win-win scenario. Companies win when they can manage costs and shorten their ramp up time. Missouri residents employed win. And Missouri wins from the jobs created.
According to state leadership, this new vision is ushering in a new day for Missouri, where companies can take advantage of being in one of the top states for workforce solutions, lower taxes and competitive incentives.