Missouri governor Jay Nixon is on a mission to add jobs and promote biotechnology in his state. “Biotechnology is significant for our future,” he says from his Jefferson City office in the Missouri capital. “We are already starting from a robust position.”

Mr Nixon sees Missouri’s community college system as the place to create future jobs for the sector. Not only are middle-aged individuals going to these institutions to tune up their skills, young people also see opportunities to kick-start careers by taking advantage of their programmes.

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Taking the initiative

Helping is an scheme Mr Nixon implemented called Training for Tomorrow.

It offers grants to community colleges for customised training in high-demand fields. Funding comes from the Second Supplemental Disaster Recovery Community Development Block Grant, a federal programme designed to assist with economic recovery efforts.

Since its implementation, Missouri community colleges have acted quickly to identify workforce needs and submit applications for funding to the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The Metropolitan Community College in St Louis, for example, has entered into an agreement for lab technicians with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

“That co-operative agreement has been a template for us around the state,” says the governor.

Mr Nixon has also brought about a tuition fees freeze for a consecutive second year for Missouri’s public four-year colleges and universities, to help local families better predict their education expenses. In addition, the governor has introduced the Missouri Science and Innovation Re-investment Act (Mosira) to bring more science and technology companies to Missouri.

Essentially, Mosira will create a funding source to spark growth in research and technology enterprises by capturing a small percentage of the increase in state revenue over a base year from a designated group of Missouri science and innovation companies.

“We would take 1% or 2% and put that into a fund,” he says.

The monies would then be transferred into the Missouri Technology Investment Fund (MTC). In turn, that would administer those funds to re-invest and accelerate growth in a host of ways, including gap financing, job training, and partnering with biotechnology and life sciences companies.

“The MTC [fund] would be a predictable, long-term funding source to help make and close the deals to accelerate this sector,” he says.

Back to work

Mosira is a key component of Mr Nixon’s Missouri First Initiative, a comprehensive legislative proposal designed to get Missourians back to work, educate them for the careers of tomorrow and harness innovation and technology.

To date, there is no opposition to the bill and Mr Nixon expects it to be passed soon.

In other measures, Mr Nixon has held the line on taxes in Missouri. “We also have a number of programmes to encourage companies from out of state or elsewhere to come to Missouri,” he says.

In fact, last year he signed into law legislation that increases the annual cap on the Quality Jobs Program from $60m to $80m and removes the annual per-company cap for jobs in the high-impact and technology categories.

Not only does Missouri offer tax incentives and financing; it has a Community Development Block Grant Program that provides money to small Missouri communities to improve local facilities, address critical health and safety concerns and develop a greater capacity for growth.

“Projects can range from housing and street repairs to industrial loans and job training,” he says. “We are trying to make sure our economic development efforts are centred in reality.”

The cost of this report was underwritten by Missouri Partnership, with support from Missouri Biotechnology Association. Reporting was carried out independently by fDi