Proven success of New Markets Development Program fires up supporters

When Kevin and Linda Hopkins decided to expand their fast-growing bar-b-que business in North Kansas City, they ran into problems. Seven banks turned them down for the financing needed to grow their business, Smokin’ Guns BBQ. The Hopkins didn’t give up. They were able to expand their restaurant by accessing Missouri’s New Markets Development Program, and as a result have expanded their business into a larger facility that has allowed them to quadruple the number of seats from 50 to nearly 200 and add 24 jobs.

“We had lines of people standing outside of our business waiting to place their orders. We had to turn down catering business because we were beyond capacity. We saw people driving by our business to go to other restaurants because of the lines, yet we couldn’t find a bank that would lend us the money. The New Market Tax Program was our last chance,” said Linda Hopkins during testimony this week at the state capitol in support of legislation that would extend the program.

The Missouri New Markets Development Program is a successful economic development tool that attracts hundreds of millions of dollars in capital to the state’s low-income communities, fostering small business growth and job creation. The Missouri Chamber has been an important advocate of the program since it was first enacted in 2007. It is set to sunset in 2013. House Bill 227, sponsored by Rep. Anne Zerr, would extend the program so that it can continue to help companies like Smokin BBQ, which was one of several Missouri businesses that were highlighted as successes of the program during the hearing before the House Committee on Economic Development. Rep. Zerr serves as the chair of that committee.

The program provides low cost loans and equity investments for existing companies with plans to expand, and Rep. Zerr shared impressive statistics during her testimony. “Since 2007, Missouri has awarded approximately $48 million in credits while enabling companies to secure $1 billion in private sector investment tied to New Markets deals. The program leverages $20 for every $1 in tax credits. At the same time, the program generates $1.53 return in taxes for every $1 of state credit.”

Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs testified in support of the bill. “We wholeheartedly support the New Markets Development Program. It creates jobs and does have a great return on investment. If you can get excited about investment in small business, especially investment in small businesses in distressed areas of our state, then you can’t help but be excited about this program.”

The program has helped fund 57 companies from both rural and urban areas. More than 25 percent of these companies were manufacturers. The funding has helped Missouri companies create 1,656 direct jobs and 1,472 indirect jobs. Direct long-term jobs retained by the program are1,472, bringing the total of 5,161 Missouri jobs tied to this program.

For more information on the New Markets Development Program, contact King at tking@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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