Doing more with Missouri’s river ports—bills propose two approaches to encourage growth

With hundreds of miles of river shoreline, shouldn’t Missouri be doing more to develop port-based commerce and industry?

That’s an important question being asked in the Missouri House and Senate this session.

Recently, a Missouri Senate committee heard a bill proposed by Sen. Paul Wieland, a Republican from Imperial. Sen. Wieland’s Senate Bill 461 would create a powerful new tax incentive for port development.

It calls for the establishment of Advanced Industrial Manufacturing Zones at Missouri ports. As the zones draw new development and create new jobs, 50 percent of the payroll taxes generated from the port-based industries would go into a special fund that can be invested in further port development.

“It’s crucial that we find a way to fund these ports to make this economic activity possible,” said Sen. Wieland. “When we do, we get an enormous economic benefit.”

Sen. Wieland said that currently, ports have to vie with other transportation needs for state funding. They often lose that battle.

“Right now, Missouri ports are being funded by MoDOT and are competing with the same money that goes to the roads and the bridges,” he said. “This gives our ports a way to create a revenue stream that’s independent of the appropriations process.”

Sen. Wieland said public investment in ports can net a big return, citing the New Madrid County Port Authority, where a $2.5 million state and federal investment returned $70 million in private investment in 2011.

Mark Coulter, vice president and general counsel with the Port Authority of Kansas City, said that Senate Bill 461 would do more to incentivize new private investment at Missouri ports and encourage expansion of existing businesses, bringing new jobs to Missouri.

In his region, Coulter said the Advanced Industrial Manufacturing Zones would provide a needed economic advantage as Kansas City contends with Kansas for job growth.

“When companies look at the Kansas City region, any competitive edge that we have is beneficial,” he said.

On the other side of the capitol, House Bill 110, sponsored by Rep. John McCaherty, a Republican from High Ridge, also seeks to spur growth at Missouri ports while taking a different approach.

Rather than establish Advanced Industrial Manufacturing Zones, Rep. McCaherty’s bill would create three new tax credits. The credits could be claimed by companies that increase their use of Missouri’s ports, by businesses that choose to ship by water or rail instead of highways and by international trade companies that add new employees or make capital investments. Together, the tax credits could cost the state a maximum of $6 million each year.

Both the House and Senate bills are awaiting committee votes.

The Missouri Chamber is supporting these efforts as a way to grow jobs and bolster Missouri’s transportation system. “Connecting through infrastructure” is one of four key drivers identified in the Missouri Chamber’s Missouri 2030 plan for economic growth. Improving our ports would help accomplish the goals established by Missouri 2030. Read the full plan at

“Missouri’s location gives us a great opportunity to be a logistics hub,” said Tracy King, Missouri chamber vice president of governmental affairs. “We believe this legislation will help us develop our waterways and our ports.”

For more information about the port issue, contact King at or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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About mochamber

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry understands that the quality of life in our state depends on quality jobs for Missourians. To that end, we have one simple mission: to protect and advance Missouri business.

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