Commentary: Doubling down on infrastructure and workforce development

By on April 14, 2019

By Tom Chulick, Joe Reardon and Matt Morrow

From the St. Louis Business Journal: In his State of the State address, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was clear about the investments that will help Missouri compete for jobs while helping workers earn higher wages. Showing the courage of a strong leader, the governor rose above politics and ideology in order to prioritize the long-term prosperity of the state. His message was clear: Invest strategically to improve transportation infrastructure and our system for training tomorrow’s workforce.

The statewide business community couldn’t agree more. Workforce development and transportation infrastructure are the building blocks for a thriving economy, robust job creation, and expanded economic opportunity for Missourians. It is inspiring to see a governor lead with the issues that are in the best interest of the state. These are the core priorities that deserve our state legislature’s attention, and we offer support for Parson and lawmakers as they consider the proposals.

Parson proposed a bold overhaul of our workforce development system, aimed at helping Missouri compete for high-paying jobs by increasing the skills and earning potential of thousands of Missourians. Missouri is home to more than 2.6 million adults without a postsecondary degree. Research shows that workers in this demographic have the potential, with additional training, to make a significant impact on the strength of Missouri’s workforce.

In the competition for jobs, other states have recognized that the key to job growth is a well trained workforce and have implemented programs targeted at meeting that need while Missouri continues to lag far behind.

Implementing these workforce proposals will make us more competitive with other states. And most do not cost more than is already being spent, utilizing dollars in a more strategic way to realize efficiencies and achieve better results. The one proposed program with a new budget impact is called “Fast Track,” which would help adult Missourians access educational and training programs to prepare them for higher paying jobs.

Few disagree with the urgency of the transportation infrastructure issues facing the state. Hundreds of bridges need repair or replacement, thousands of miles of highways need repair or expansion, and billions of dollars in maintenance projects are being delayed beyond what is safe. These are matters of fundamental safety, and of Missourians’ ability to succeed economically – people can and should have great jobs, and need to be able to get to them safely.

We cannot afford to ignore the critical situation and squander our natural logistical advantage at the center of our nation. Therefore, the governor has proposed the use of low-interest, short-term bonds as a means to address our infrastructure. The bonding plan would address 250 decaying bridges, a long-term investment that will last 50 years or more. The use of low-interest debt is a common practice among successful businesses for investing in long-lasting capital assets. With a bond interest rate near 2 percent and construction material costs rising rapidly, bonding is functionally less expensive than paying as you go. Successful businesspeople know investing this way addresses capital needs while keeping essential operating revenue for ongoing priorities.

Read more.

Tom Chulick is the president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional ChamberJoe Reardon is president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerceand Matt Morrow is president and CEO of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.


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