The Missouri Department of Economic Development announced a plan Wednesday to review its practices so it can become the top economic development agency in the Midwest.
In the initiative, the DED plans to find new ways businesses can create jobs and grow throughout the state so Missouri can become an economic development leader in the Midwest, the department said in a news release. Part of this will involve evaluating its own programs and structure, making sure services are aligned with the business community's needs.
Rob Dixon, Missouri Department of Economic Development director, said the state last performed a similar review about 10 years ago. Since then, Missouri's economy has emerged from the Great Recession and changed drastically, Dixon said.
"We're not capitalizing on the new economy," Dixon said. "We're doing what we can do to capitalize on it."
The DED plans to work with PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector, the public-sector arm of professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, to conduct a review of Missouri's economic development strategy.
About 70 public- and private-sector economic development officials, tourism officials and legislators will craft the new strategy. Legislation could be presented to the General Assembly after the review is finished or Gov. Eric Greitens could take later action, depending on the report's findings.
Dixon said the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau will help create the plan.
Maggie Kost, Missouri Department of Economic Development director of communications, said the department will pay PricewaterhouseCoopers $650,000 to complete the review. That total is more than $1 million less than the other proposal submitted, Kost said.
Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and CEO, said job growth and gross domestic product figures have crept up in recent years. The chamber supports the DED's plan, Mehan said, and he's glad the DED is taking a fresh look at its own practices.
"It's long overdue," Mehan said.
Greitens said in a news release that Missouri has the potential to be an economic powerhouse in the Midwest.
"It's time we realized that potential," Greitens said. "Missourians deserve the best, and that's what we're going to give them."
Under Greitens' and Dixon's leadership, the department embarked on a handful of related initiatives over the past year. Greitens created the Governor's Innovation Task Force in June, seeking to make Missouri a better place for business by making it easier for companies to find employees and making the state a better place to live.
The task force recommended making the state a better place for tech startups, helping entrepreneurs brainstorm new ideas, and focusing on enrolling students in jobs that focus on science and engineering.
The task force also built momentum behind a plan to build a 240-mile-long hyperloop across Missouri. Spanning from Kansas City to St. Louis, the hyperloop would ferry riders at 671 mph.
In January, the DED hired a rural broadband manger to lead efforts to expand internet access in rural areas of the state.
Mehan said all of these programs are creating a better business climate.
"If you look at what the Greitens administration has done with the Governor's Innovation Task Force, that's refreshing in general," Mehan said. "You always have to be moving."