By CHRIS BLANK
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Friday that he appointed the leader of a state-funded technology agency as his new state economic development director.
Jason Hall, the executive director for the Missouri Technology Corp., has been tapped to head the Missouri Department of Economic Development as particular attention is being paid to the economy. Since 2009, Hall has been the director of the Missouri Technology Corp., which was created to promote economic development through technology in businesses. It is a nonprofit entity with a board partially appointed by the governor and employees paid by the state.
Nixon met Friday with business groups in Kansas City and Springfield to announce the appointment, and the governor's office released statements praising the choice from various business leaders, including the president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Nixon said he looked forward to working with Hall to create more jobs and improve the state's economy. The Democratic governor said Hall has helped rejuvenate the Missouri Technology Corp. and played an important role in implementing the newly created Missouri Science and Innovation Act to offer state incentives to science and technology companies. Hall also developed the application for the State Small Business Credit Initiative that invests $27 million for high-tech, small business job growth.
"Jason Hall is exactly the type of bright, energetic leader we need to help create jobs and move Missouri's economy forward," Nixon said.
The appointment requires Senate confirmation when lawmakers return to the state Capitol next month. If confirmed, Hall would be the third director of the Economic Development Department since Nixon took office in January 2009. The first was St. Louis attorney Linda Martinez, who resigned after less than a year following apparent disagreements with Nixon. The current director is David Kerr, who said last month he would step down at the end of the year to spend more time with his family.
Hall has an economics degree from Bates College in Maine and a law degree from Vanderbilt University. He spent one year as a law clerk for a federal appeals court judge and has worked in private law practice. In a statement released Friday by Nixon's office, Hall said he plans to focus on expanding manufacturing, boosting exports and growing high-tech science and innovation companies.
"Missouri is turning the corner after a tough national downturn, and our economy is beginning to move in the right direction," Hall said.
Last December, the Missouri Technology Corp. was sharply criticized in an audit released by then-state Auditor Susan Montee, a Democrat. Montee accused Hall of making political threats against her as her staff worked on the audit and she campaigned for re-election before losing to Republican Tom Schweich. Montee said Hall at one point highlighted that he was a "good friend" of Schweich.
Schweich has said he knows Hall from previous work at the same law firm but does not consider him a close friend and did not recall speaking with Hall about the audit. In response to the findings, the Missouri Technology Corp. said last year that most of the problems cited by the audit happened before Hall started.
Missouri's economic development efforts have faced scrutiny this year, including over a failed plan for an artificial sweetener facility in Moberly in which state and local incentives were offered. Work stopped after Mamtek missed a bond payment and no state incentives were ever paid. Lawmakers have held hearings, and the Missouri attorney general and the federal Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating.