Year 2 — Governor Eric Greitens talks progress and challenges
In September of 2015, Eric Greitens turned heads in Missouri when he stood in a St. Louis suburb and announced he was running for governor.
“We need a political outsider to move Missouri forward,” he said that day, drawing a contrast to “the career politicians and lobbyists who are ruining our state.”
At the time, Greitens was an experienced leader with a rising profile. Yet he was also a political novice entering a field of established, well-known Missouri politicians — the mainstays of the Missouri political scene. Over the ensuing months, Greitens would stun them all by winning the Republican primary and then the general election.
As he took his oath of office in January, Greitens promised that things were about to change in Jefferson City.
“I answer to the people. I come as an outsider, to do the people’s work,” he said. “And I know that the people do not expect miracles, but they do expect results — and we will deliver.”
By summer, the new governor had delivered a right-to-work law and reforms to Missouri’s litigation climate, among other legislative victories. While there have been challenges, he has presided over an overall strong economic year in the state, with continuing growth and some positive trends in business expansion.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry honored the governor’s work by presenting him the Man in the Arena award during the 2017 Missouri Business Awards held in November at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Earlier, in September, Greitens met with Missouri business leaders in St. Louis to talk about the progress that has been made during his first year in office. He also looked ahead at what’s coming in year two.
Below are some excerpts from this discussion.
ON THE SIGNS HE SEES THAT HIS EARLY EFFORTS ARE MOVING THE NEEDLE:
“Here are just a few things we look at. Since we took office, the State of Missouri has now moved up nine places in the rankings of best states to do business in America. Nine places. Since we came into office, we now have more jobs in Missouri than any time in Missouri history. Since we took office, we have been outpacing the nation in job growth. So this is working. It’s getting results. It has been fun. What you see across the economy is that people in the State of Missouri are investing again. They’re investing in Missouri again.”
ON HIS APPROACH TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:
“Sometimes people think that economic development is about having the governor and the leader of the Department of Economic Development go out and hunt these big white whales who are going to make major investments here and turn things around. And we are going to compete, and we are competing internationally.
“But what’s true around economic development is the same thing that’s true in any businesses, which is that most of your growth comes from your existing customers. So what we want to do in Missouri is to make sure that we are making this a great place for businesses already in Missouri to continue to invest. When you really break the numbers down, what was happening in Missouri was that there were businesses located here that when they chose to invest, they were choosing to invest outside of Missouri.
“What’s changed since we’ve come into office is that now those businesses are investing with confidence here in the State of Missouri. That helps explain a lot of the change and the good results that we’ve seen thus far.”
ON THE FUTURE OF RIGHT-TO-WORK IN MISSOURI:
“I’m proud of the fact that we got right-to-work done. I’m proud of the fact that we signed it. But in order for us to be a right-to-work state, we’re all going to have to get engaged. It’s important for our leaders in business and our community leaders to let people know what they think.
“If Missourians know that their business and community leaders believe that it’s important for us to be a right-to-work state, it makes it easy for them to go out and to make the case to their friends and to their family and to their colleagues.
“I was up in Chicago recently — just one quick aside — and I met with the consulate general from Japan and the consulate general from Korea. I also met with a number of site selectors and was talking with them about all of the reforms that we put in place in Missouri and the way we’re moving Missouri forward.
“Every single one of them had the exact same message: ‘Missouri is now on the list.’
“We’re now on the list to compete for business around the country. Before this we didn’t even make the list.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to win every competition, but now we’re at least involved in the competition. For us to maintain this momentum, we have to continue to get this message out about what it’s going to take for us to continue to have a thriving and prosperous economy here in the State of Missouri.”
ON HOW MISSOURI SHOULD MOVE FORWARD WITH REGULATORY REFORM:
“One of the things we discovered when we came into office was that the State of Missouri has 113,000 regulations. That’s a total of 7.5 million words. It’s the equivalent of 40 dictionaries. If you have 10 weeks to spare, that’s how long it would take you to actually read all of the regulations in the State of Missouri. So what we did was when we came into office, the very first week in office, we put an immediate freeze on all new regulations. At the same time what we did is we signed an executive order to say that the government of the State of Missouri was going to do a complete review of every new regulation that’s on the books.
“Now one of the things that I’m really, really proud of is the way that our team looks at models of excellence around the country. So what we did next was we studied how other states successfully reformed their regulations so that we could do this right in the State of Missouri. We’re still, obviously, in the middle of the regulatory review process. But at this point right now in early September, Missouri has already, through nomoredtape.com and through grass-roots efforts reaching out to business leaders and the public across the State of Missouri, we have already received more public comments about the regulatory environment in Missouri than almost every other state that’s done this combined.
“So we’re doing this really well. I think what we’re seeing is if we reach out to people, we ask them to get engaged, they will step up. They’ll step forward and join us. But what people in Missouri have been hungry for is to have a team of people who will ask them to get involved. Now we’re asking them and people are stepping forward.”
ON HIS APPROACH TO IMPROVING MISSOURI’S WORKFORCE:
“Many businesses in Missouri, when asked to identify their top one, two or three issues, workforce is going to be in those top three. But a lot of other states, especially in the southeastern part of the United States, have done a fantastic job at figuring out how to work with and welcome companies and at the same time provide them with the skilled workforce that they need.
“In Missouri what’s happened is that when companies have expanded, they’ve had to go out and find for themselves a community college, a technical college, a partner who they could work with to make sure they had the kind of workforce that they needed. If they couldn’t figure that out, then they were out of luck.
“So what’s happening now is that our Department of Economic Development, again following the model of states that have done this the best in the country, is going to become a one-stop shop so that when companies are excited about coming to work here in the State of Missouri and we know that they need a skilled workforce, we are going to be able to work with them to make sure that they’re going to have the skilled workforce that they need.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF UNITING MISSOURI:
“One of the things that is striking in Missouri is that — and I noticed this when I was campaigning — when you go to every corner of the state, every corner of the state would be talking about that corner of the state.
“One of the things that’s changed, and I can feel it changing now, is that we’re bringing people together in the same room who often hadn’t been in the same room.
“So we’ve got the chief operating officer of the Danforth Plant Science Center sitting next to the economic developer from West Plains recognizing that St. Louis and Tel Aviv are the two world-leading centers for agriculture technology. Recognizing that agriculture is still the No. 1 industry here in the State of Missouri and figuring out ways that they can work together. I’m really excited about the way that we’re helping to connect and unite people in the State of Missouri.”