Our View: The State of Missouri Business

I’d like to begin by paying respects to Jo Frappier, the former president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who passed away in January.

Jo was a transformative leader. Throughout his career, Jo protected the free enterprise system and amplified the voice of the state’s business community.

While it’s been more than 20 years since he retired, Jo’s fingerprints remain embedded in the Missouri Chamber. We are a better organization and a better state thanks to his vision and hard work.

Services for Jo will be on April 13 in Jefferson City. See the details and learn more about Jo here.

Reflecting on the life and work of Jo Frappier is a great reminder that the things we do in the present are what shape our future.

With that in mind, I think it’s worth considering the state of business in Missouri today and identifying the places where we need to focus so that we can build a better future for us all.

Workforce

Like many states, Missouri has a workforce shortage and a skills gap. However, I’m proud to say that the Missouri Chamber is taking an aggressive approach toward addressing this problem. This includes expanding Dream it. Do it., growing participation in Manufacturing Day and creating new workforce programs like the Show-Me Careers Educator Experience, Missouri Intern Connect and the upcoming STEM Signing Day. Many other stakeholders are working on this problem as well, delivering Center for Advanced Professional Studies programs and teaching students to code.

Meanwhile, our legislature has continued to prioritize K-12 education funding and Gov. Mike Parson has championed innovative workforce proposals like Fast Track and Missouri One Start. More must be done on higher education funding. It’s true that employers today are still feeling the pain of the current workforce shortage and skills gap, but our actions today will pay off and place Missouri in a much better position.

Transportation

Missouri is fortunate to have a well-developed network of highways, rail hubs and river ports that facilitate our economy. But our transportation system is critically underfunded. Missouri now ranks 48th in the nation in revenue per mile. We risk falling behind if we continue to neglect investing in our infrastructure. This remains a top priority of Missouri 2030.

Legal Climate

Our state’s nationally-recognized poor legal climate is a black eye on our otherwise enviable business environment. The state is currently rated as having the 49th worst legal climate in the nation by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. The American Tort Reform Association calls St. Louis a Judicial Hellhole. We have seen progress in recent years, including reforming our employment discrimination standards, protecting businesses from being sued over on-site criminal acts that they could not have prevented and changing our expert witness standards. This year holds the promise of much more progress as lawmakers are showing a resolve to pass much-needed venue and joinder reform.

Policy Support

Our business community is incredibly fortunate to have the support of Gov. Parson and leaders in the Missouri General Assembly who are committed to protecting and improving our economy. However, this positive relationship is facing a major threat. The recently-passed “Clean Missouri” constitutional amendment threatens to drastically alter the makeup of our legislature in a way that could shift its priorities. Our state’s initiative petition process — which is what led to Clean Missouri — is ripe for reform. We need to put the brakes on out-of-state activists who want to rewrite our laws and alter our constitution.

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