Introducing a defining effort to shape Missouri’s future

Jacob2Last year, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry began a strategic planning process for the entire state. We called the project Missouri 2030: An Agenda to Lead.

We started by commissioning research to help determine our current economic environment. Until now, Missouri has largely defined itself by a set of anecdotal beliefs: strong workforce, low taxes, low cost of doing business, high quality of life, low energy costs, and a central location.

Overall, we knew Missouri wasn’t leading in all areas, but we believed Missouri had a strong, competitive climate for business growth.

To test this, we hired Ted Abernathy to help lead Missouri 2030. Abernathy is an economic planning expert who works with many states and regions on growth strategies. He is a master at gathering broad data sets and distilling how states stack up against each other.

logoIn an analysis that would surprise many Missourians, Abernathy found that Missouri is a middling state in almost every regard.

“In Missouri’s case, you end up with a lot of things where you score average,”¬†Abernathy says. “It’s hard to brand yourself and promote having great assets in very specific areas if you’re not scoring in any top tens.”

To add more detail, the Missouri Chamber hired the internationally respected Gallup organization to survey more than 1,000 Missouri business leaders to find out how they felt about the state’s business environment.

Again, the results were surprising: Business leaders expressed concerns about the state’s workforce. They weren’t happy with taxes. They were worried about transportation infrastructure and more.

The data provided an unprecedented look into how the business community is faring. Gallup described the data as the first of its kind for a state-level project.

Next, we set out to share these findings with our business community and engage company and regional chamber leaders to set goals to improve Missouri. The effort was met with an enthusiastic response.

“I think the Missouri 2030 process is essentially very similar to what we do inside our company,” says Chris Brescia, vice president of government affairs at RockTenn in Creve Coeur. “It’s a strategic planning process to say: Where are we now? What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? What do we need to do to get to be number one?”

Roger Archibald, CFO at SAK Construction LLC in O’Fallon, is encouraged that Missouri 2030 is taking a serious look at worker training.

“From our company’s standpoint,” Archibald says, “I think there will be significant benefits to us going forward if the quality of education can be enhanced and improved to address the real skills that are needed coming out of high school.”

Dennis Vinson, president and CEO of Signature Packaging and Paper LLC in Jackson, is encouraged that Missouri 2030 places business leaders at the forefront of shaping our future.

“As business leaders, we have the opportunity to shape and craft how things should be,” Vinson says, “and I think if you get the business community involved, you can help drive forward with progress and positive initiatives.”

After hosting months of meetings and receiving input from across the state, we constructed the Missouri 2030 strategic plan.

The plan includes goals to push Missouri’s gross state product, employment, and income growth back above the national average. The plan also has the goal to make us a top 15 state for new business formations and put us in the top third of states for business climate.

The plan is to improve our status among site selectors for business growth and relocation.

We also created Missouri 2030 to help make our educated workforce among the nation’s best and to improve our state’s quality of life.

To achieve this, the Missouri 2030 plan has established four key economic drivers that will be our focus over the next 15 years:

Work has already begun. Business leaders say urgency is needed to build a better future for Missouri and generations to come.

“I have two children who are young men and maybe one of them may find a future working in the state of Missouri, but for the other the opportunities are not here,” Brescia says. “If we’re going to forestall that from happening to the next generation, then we need to take action now.”

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