Missouri Chamber priorities become law this week

This year, several priorities of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry became effective on Aug. 28, helping Missouri employers better compete.

“Each year, it seems like new challenges emerge that threaten our state’s businesses and their ability to grow and create jobs. If it’s not a national recession or the threat of increased federal regulations, it’s the many state issues we saw emerge recently including fraudulent unemployment claims, massive unemployment insurance debts and patent troll scams,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber President/CEO. “We thank the leaders in our General Assembly for staying current and continuing to address these problems as they arise.”

Several critical bills passed by the General Assembly will improve the state’s climate for business growth and expansion.

  • Reforming unemployment insurance: The recent economic recession left Missouri’s employers with a massive unemployment debt to repay. Unemployment insurance reforms passed this year will help reduce this debt and ensure future economic downturns are less costly. Senate Bill 510, sponsored by Sen. Kraus, will ensure employees who are fired for willfully breaking workplace rules are not rewarded with unemployment compensation.
  • Protecting business unclaimed property: Currently, Missouri ranks among the states with the worst unclaimed property laws. House Bill 1075, sponsored by Rep. Rocky Miller, a Republican from Tuscumbia, ensures Missouri won’t follow other states in padding state revenues using unclaimed property taken from businesses and individuals.
  • Stopping Patent troll scams: Missouri businesses are vulnerable to scammers who attempt to extort funds by fraudulently claiming patent infringement. Senate Bill 706, sponsored by Sen. Mike Cunningham, a Republican from Marshfield, allows businesses to successfully sue alleged patent trolls.
  • Preserving Shared-Work Program: Missouri’s Shared-Work Program allows companies to reduce the hours their permanent employees work during temporary periods of slow business. To help make up for lost wages, the employees collect partial unemployment payments. This is a vital program for the approximately 350 employers and 30,000 workers who use it each year. Senate Bill 844, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, a Republican from Springfield, keeps the Missouri’s Shared-Work Program in operation.
  • Ending economic border war: For many years, economic development officials in Missouri and Kansas have been incenting businesses to move from one side of the border to the other, with no overall economic benefit for the region. Senate Bill 635, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City, will help reserve our development incentives true growth projects.
  • Protecting Missouri’s energy future: In order to protect against stifling federal EPA regulations, Rep. Todd Richardson, a Republican from Poplar Bluff, sponsored House Bill 1631, legislation that would give Missouri greater authority in this discussion. It enables the state to make regulatory decisions that are in the best interest of our citizens and business community.
  • Securing tort reform: Senate Bill 890, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe and handled in House by Rep. Lincoln Hough will modify the 2005 changes to Missouri’s venue statute to clarify that when a foreign plaintiff brings suit against a Missouri company, venue properly lies in the county where the company’s registered agent is located even if individual company executives are named as defendants in the suit.

 

 

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Missouri’s business leaders meet in Sedalia to explore Missouri’s agricultural future

Missouri’s business leaders meet in Sedalia
to explore Missouri’s agricultural future

WHAT:                 Leadership Missouri was founded in 1990 to identify current and emerging business and government leaders throughout Missouri, enhance leadership skills, and deepen participants’ knowledge of the economic challenges and opportunities facing the state. The class will meet seven times through this year in seven different communities to explore issues that affect Missouri businesses. The goal is to prepare participants to take an active role in advancing the state for the common good.

WHO:                   Missouri business and government leaders from throughout the state, who were nominated by their employers to participate in the 2014 Leadership Missouri Class.

WHEN:                 Wednesday Aug. 13 through Friday, Aug. 15

WHERE:              Sedalia, Mo.

WHY:                   Participants will learn more about the state of Missouri’s agricultural future through tours of Tyson Foods, Maplewood Acres farm and time at the Missouri State Fair.

NOTE:                   All members of the media are invited to attend. A complete agenda follows.

 

AGENDA

“Agriculture”

Hotel Bothwell, 103 E 4th Street, Sedalia, MO 65301; 660.826.5588

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

4:15 pm

 

 

5:00 pm

 

Meet in hotel lobby to depart for fairgrounds (bus donated by Ditzfeld & Weaver Charter Service LLC.)

 

Reception and dinner hosted by Director of Agriculture (Director’s House on Fairgrounds)

 

8:00 pm Board Bus and return to the hotel. Evening on your own.

 

 

 

Thursday, August 14, 2014
 

8:00 am

 

Board Bus and Depart for Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site, 19349 Bothwell State Park Road, Sedalia, MO 65301

 

8:15 am Arrive and Tour Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site

Marissa Cowan or Abilene Resch

 

9:00 am Board Bus and Depart for Tyson Food, 10571 Whitfield Road, Sedalia, MO 65301

 

9:25 am Arrive Tyson Foods and Break

 

9:30 am Tyson Foods Conference Room – USDA Farm Service Agency – The primary mission at FSA is to help Missouri farmers and ranchers secure the greatest possible benefit from programs such as farm loans, commodity price support, disaster relief, conservation, food aid or other available resources.

Michelle Motley, USDA Farm Agency

  • Resources available to farmers
  • Opportunities for Youth in farming
  • Farm Bill 2014 – how does it impact YOU!

 

10:15 am Break

 

10:30 am Tour Tyson Foods – Tyson Foods is one of the leading supporters of U.S. farm families, paying more than $15 billion in fiscal 2013 alone to independent farmers who supply them with livestock and poultry.

 

Chuck Yarbrough

 

12 Noon Lunch

 

1:00 pm Board Bus for Maplewood Acres Farm, 29774 Pony Path Road, Sedalia, MO 65301

 

1:30 pm Arrive Maplewood Acres Farm – Matt and Jennifer Boatright own and operate Maplewood Acres Farm with their two children, David and Hannah.

 

Tour and Discussion of Farm Operation

 

2:45 pm Board Bus and Depart for Ag Power, 2205 S Limit, Sedalia, MO 65301

 

3:15 pm Arrive Ag Power and Break

 

3:30 pm Ag Power – Bruce Wolfe

  • Equipment Explanation/Demonstration
  • Equipment Cost

 

4:15 pm Board Bus and Depart for Katy Depot, 600 East Third Street, Sedalia, MO 65301

 

4:45 pm Arrive Katy Depot – Deb Biermann

  • Reception
  • Brief history of building and tour

 

5:30 pm Board Bus and Depart for Wildlife Ridge Winery, 34751 Miller Road, Smithton, MO 65350

 

6:00 pm Arrive Wildlife Ridge Winery – Kevin and Kristy

Wine tasting and dinner

 

8:00 pm Board Bus to return to hotel

 

 

Friday, August 15, 2014
8:30 am Depart Hotel Bothwell

Drive vehicles to Missouri State Fairgrounds

 

8:50 am Arrive Missouri State Fairgrounds, 2503 West 16th Street, Sedalia, MO For a map of the fairgrounds, go to www.mostatefair.com.

 

Meet Wendy and/or Tammie at Main Gate and enter fairgrounds.

 

9:00 am Tram tour of fairgrounds

 

9:45 am Missouri State Fair (National Guard Armory Room 129)

Wendy Faulconer, Executive Director, Missouri State Fair Foundation

Tammie Nichols, Marketing Director, Missouri State Fair

Samantha Davis, Missouri Department of Agriculture

  • History of the State Fair
  • What’s involved in organizing the State Fair
  • How does the State Fair get youth interested in agriculture

 

10:30 am Adjourn and enjoy the State Fair

 

2014 Missouri Chamber Election Action Center is your campaign information HQ

Each election year we are given the responsibility of voting for individuals to represent us in our state and federal government. As a Missouri voter, you will help elect a new Missouri Legislature and statewide elected officials – individuals who will shape legislative attitudes on business issues.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry continues to provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your voting choices, and all this information is provided to you at the newly re-launched www.mochamberelectioncenter.com

The Missouri Chamber’s Election Action Center is the state’s top resource regarding candidates and how their views align with the goal of advancing Missouri’s economy. Each candidate is given the opportunity to weigh in on their priorities to make sure you have all the important information at your fingertips.

Users of the free website can view information about candidates in all the state races as well as races for U.S. Congressional seats. The site will clarify voting records and candidate position on the issues such as tort reform, workers’ compensation reform, tax policy, and other business factors that impact you and your business.

At this site you can track the latest election news and watch video clips of candidates. The site will be updated right up to the November 4 election.

You can also check in on your incumbent legislators’ voting records to see how they stack up to their opponents on business friendly legislation.

Please use this information to your advantage and share it with others in your company and industry!

Leadership Missouri visits St. Louis, sees transportation in action

As the Gateway City, St. Louis was a fitting location for Missouri’s 2014 Leadership Missouri class to learn about—and experience—the variety of transportation resources available in our state.

leadershipmo2014

Whereas the early travelers arrived in St. Louis via boat or wagon, many visitors today arrive in the city by air. Leadership Missouri participants had a chance to visit this historic main terminal at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and learn about efforts to modernize and upgrade the facility. Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge also shared the airport’s ambitions to become a greater engine for economic development. The airport is currently pursuing a vision to develop its property and bring more international cargo business to the site.

While at the airport, Metro St. Louis Chief Operating Officer Ray Friem shared an overview of the city’s vast public transportation network. He described the many challenges facing the system, including limited public funding compared to other systems. He also shared the success of the system’s MetroLink trains. The class then experienced this form of transportation as they boarded Metrolink for a ride to the Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center, which connects the city’s transit system with rail lines and bus access.

From there, the class headed to the icon of St. Louis, the Gateway Arch, where they learned about the CityArchRiver project. CityArchRiver seeks to enhance the park and improve its ties to the city. While overlooking the monument, the class learned about work to build a pedestrian park-like bridge which will create a seamless transition from the city to the Arch. The project will also revamp the underground museum, including a new entrance, and raise an underutilized parking garage in favor of an outdoor amphitheater and new gardens. The plan also includes new paths that will make the park much more accessible for families and people with limited mobility.

As the class observed the Arch, several barges passed by along the Mississippi River. At the next stop, Leadership Missouri participants learned about a major public facility that makes commercial river traffic possible. The Mel Price Lock and Dam is a massive facility that helps keep the river navigable for barges. With a tour from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the class went behind the scenes and saw how the facility operates before getting a chance to view the museum on the site.

Later, the class heard presentations about the railroad industry and the Railroad Terminal Association. They also learned about the trucking industry and ongoing efforts to improve Missouri roadways using more recycled materials. Later presentations also included discussions about the effort to pass a new sales tax to fund road improvements and new trends in road construction.

The class also had the opportunity to enjoy a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.

Thanks to the many presenters and sponsors—especially CHS Foundation, our premier sponsor—who made the visit to St. Louis both fun and informative. Next, the class visits Sedalia from Aug. 13-15.

The Missouri Chamber questions Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto rhetoric

This week, Gov. Jay Nixon rolled out another wave of rhetoric and threats about legislation passed in the 2014 Legislative Session, signaling upcoming vetoes to several tax reform bills.  The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry criticized Gov. Nixon’s vague statements and questionable cost estimates.

Chamber President Dan Mehan

Chamber President Dan Mehan

“We hope that reporters will ask the governor to back up his claims of the costs of this legislation, because his numbers don’t add up,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.  “For starters, how can letting employers know ahead of time how a change in tax policy would impact them cost $100 million annually? Do we want to be a state where ambushing employers is a strategy for adding $100 million annually to the state coffers?”

Governor Jay Nixon

Governor Jay Nixon

Missouri’s tax collectors at the Department of Revenue write the state’s tax rules. Lately, the department has been changing the rules that relate to sales tax collection. The problem is that the DOR often doesn’t inform impacted businesses about the changes.

“The DOR is actually penalizing businesses for not following the rules they didn’t tell anyone about,” Mehan said.  “It is causing some businesses to close their doors, because they can’t afford the back taxes and penalties.  Any reasonable person would see that this is poor policy that should be changed.”

Senate Bill 662, sponsored by Sen. Kraus, will require the Department of Revenue to notify businesses when they make a change in their interpretation of the state’s sales tax laws. No longer will the state be able to change the rules without informing impacted businesses.  That provision is also contained in Senate Bill 584, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon.

The DOR also changed the intent of legislation passed in the 2013 legislative session that gave corporations a more advantageous method for filing taxes.  In Senate Bill 662, the true intent of the 2013 law was codified.  Yet the governor is claiming that holding the DOR to what the legislature intended will cost an additional $15 million annually.

The most disingenuous claims by the governor, however, center around his rhetoric of economic development incentives contained in some of the bills he promised to veto.  The governors’ comments ring ironic, after a session where he remained silent on the issue of economic development.

“If Gov. Nixon would seriously engage with lawmakers about economic development legislation during the legislative session, rather than wait until the session is over to find fault with other peoples’ ideas, he could reduce the number of times he uses his veto pen,” Mehan said.  “And, we would not have let another legislative session go by without an economic development bill.”

Senate Bill 584 contained a number of economic development incentives, including a tax exemption to attract more data centers to our state.

“Technology is the future,” Mehan said.  “One way Missouri can capitalize on the growth of this data-driven economy is by becoming a great state for data center development. Data center construction is growing exponentially and is expected to be $15 billion over 3-5 years. Companies are looking for sites now to build out data centers.  We can either provide attractive incentives to position Missouri well for this opportunity, or stand by and watch these companies locate in other states.”

Data center incentives were discussed at length during the governor’s 2010 Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth and was identified as a niche within the Information Technology Target Cluster as important to Missouri’s economic future.  In fact, an analysis done by the Department of Economic Development which was included in the Strategic Initiative shows that the data center industry has strong multiplier effects in terms of creation of additional jobs and wealth.

This change of heart is another reason the Missouri Chamber questions the governor’s message.  He claims that the provisions contained in legislation like SB 584 are new ideas.  This is also false.  This legislation was pre-filed and the provisions within have been discussed for years.

“It’s easy to throw out inflated numbers and blame special interests, when no one questions the governor,” said Mehan. “Gov. Nixon would rather fight the General Assembly than work with them as a leader.”

 

Senate Bill 584 would position Missouri as a leading location for Data Centers

Missouri will have a strong tool for luring one of the fastest growing industries to our state if Gov. Nixon signs Senate Bill 584 into law. On the final day of the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers gave final approval to an omnibus bill that contained a provision to exempt from sales tax resources or equipment used or consumed in the production or facilitation of a data center, including utilities and electricity.

That provision will give Missouri a significant boost above other states wooing data centers and server farms. A data center is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems.

“Companies are investing billions of dollars right now to build and establish data centers as the demand for storage of electronic data continues to grow exponentially,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.

Missouri is an ideal location for data centers because it is situated in a geographically low-risk location from natural disasters. Missouri boasts more than 15 million square feet of subterranean sites carved out of former limestone quarries, providing climate control, enhanced security and reduced vulnerability. The states central location and abundant, cost-effective power also makes Missouri a prime location for these facilities.

“Missouri has taken a back seat, however, to other states that have implemented aggressive tax policy to recruit data centers to build there,” Mehan said. “This legislation could be a game changer for this business sector.”

The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, a Republican from Springfield.

For more information on tax issues, contact Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs, at tking@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.

Missouri businesses: Lawmakers must act to save Shared-Work Program

When the economy went south several years ago, Hager Companies in St. Louis saw their sales decline. The business had to cut costs everywhere. It seemed that layoffs were imminent.

As the possible job cuts loomed, the company—which produces high-quality door hardware such as locks, hinges and weather stripping—discovered a better option, the Shared-Work Program.

Shared-Work allows companies to reduce the hours of their permanent employees during temporary periods of slow business. To help make up for lost wages, the employees collect partial unemployment payments. It’s a federal program administered by locally by the Missouri Department of Labor. Missouri joined the program in 1987.

The program was a huge help to Hager Companies.

Rep. Jeanie Lauer

Rep. Jeanie Lauer

“We were able to reduce expenses and retain valuable employees. Then, when business improved, we returned them to full time hours,” said Sherry L. Fagin, Hager’s vice president of human resources. “The Shared Work Program gave us a better option than laying employees off and lessened the negative impact of reduced hours and pay for employees. It provides a win-win solution and is an important program for Missouri employers.”

But today, the program is in danger. With little time remaining in the legislative session, lawmakers must pass a bill to continue the program in Missouri. Significant legislative hurdles remain.

“We know that this is a very valuable program to employers across Missouri. In fact, we’ve heard that this program has actually helped convince businesses to move jobs to Missouri,” said Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs. “We have been working with our legislators to make them aware of how impactful Shared-Work is in our state. Retaining this program will be a major focus for us during the session’s final week.”

Bills in both the House and Senate would address this issue. But with little time remaining, neither has made it to the finish line. Senate Bill 844 is sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, a Republican from Springfield, and House Bill 1713 is sponsored by Rep. Jeanie Lauer, a Republican from Blue Springs.

Rep. Lauer said that currently 300-400 Missouri employers are part of the Shared-Work program representing 30,000-40,000 employees. She said her bill would allow Missouri employers to continue to take advantage of the program after the federal mandate ends on Aug. 22.

“We want to make sure they have this tool in their toolkit,” she said. “We have legislation that will keep us in compliance with the federal government on this program. Without this legislation, the program will go away.”

Across the state, businesses have joined the call to save Shared-Work.

In Kansas City, Posty Cards president Erick Jessee said without the Shared-Work Program, his company would be forced to reduce its full-time work force and instead rely more on temporary employees.

“A temporary workforce receives lower pay and no benefits which, on the surface, is less expensive for us, but in the longer view costs more money in training and carries a higher risk of lower customer satisfaction due to the lower skill level that a temp force provides,” he said.

In Jackson, RHC Holding Corp. Human Resources Manager Drenna Shive said employers benefit from the program by retaining their core workforce. Employees benefit, too, by keeping their jobs while utilizing partial unemployment benefits.

“I’ve been using this program for nearly 10 years,” Shive said. “I can say, firsthand, that this program saved our company from layoffs many times over.”

Michael Nix, vice president of operations at St. Louis-based ASPEQ Holdings, said Missouri’s participation in the Shared-Work Program was a factor in his company’s recent decision to consolidate workforces and relocate jobs into Missouri.

“I can attest to the fact that the Shared Work Program gives Missouri a distinct advantage over other states,” Nix said. The program is good for Missouri, Missouri businesses and, most importantly, workers in Missouri.”

In Boonville, Charlie Melkersman of Nordyne had similar comments. He said Shared-Work has been a successful program for both Nordyne and its employees.

“As a Human Resource Manager who has worked with this program for many years and sees its benefit to all of our employees, I cannot even grasp why our lawmakers would not sign a bill to continue this program,” he said. “It is truly a win-win situation for all.”

For more information on the Shared-Work Program, contact Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs, at tking@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.