Before arriving at the BIO event, Jay Nixon, who took office in November 2008, was able to do something he had not yet had the pleasure of doing as governor of Missouri: announce that the state’s unemployment rate had gone down.

Transition phase

“We think we are in a transition phase and we are going to come out positive,” he says. “Through education and job training and by putting our marker down that we are going to be a place that supports science, bioscience and plant science, Missouri is showing it is the place for people to invest their dollars. I feel like we have hit the bottom and are moving up.”

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Education focus

Investment in higher education is core. “We were able to get a tuition freeze for all students and no academic fee increase either, while still expanding the programmes in Missouri in the medical area to add about 1000 degrees in the coming years for medical professionals. We are betting on a trained workforce in Missouri to deliver us an economy of the future,” the governor says.

Agriculture programme

Plant science, meanwhile, is a core competency of the state, led by the strength of the University of Missouri’s agriculture school and plant science programmes as well as the Donald Danforth Plant Centre, a not-for-profit research institute based in St Louis. Monsanto, a giant in the agriculture industry with 22,000 employees globally, has its corporate headquarters in St Louis.

Getting the message out

“We stand very well positioned in the plant science area – and also in pharmaceuticals, with Pfizer expanding its labs in Missouri the past couple of years,” says Mr Nixon. “We just need to get the message out.”