The failed Mamtek industrial project at Moberly has been back in the news after criminal charges were filed against the promoter/developer. The metro daily newspaper to the east in an editorial blasted Missouri’s entire economic development program for the failure of the Mamtek project.
Oh, it did devote one paragraph to a success story: “Yes, there are successes, such as the auto manufacturing jobs that might have left Missouri without the incentives.”
Another success story is the Heidmann Industrial Park in Washington where there has been a tremendous investment of private and public funds for industries with good-paying jobs. Without the help from the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the improvements to that park would not have been possible. The grants received have resulted in job growth.
The state agency for one of the industries had to go up against the state of Kansas, which offered more in incentives than Missouri did, but Valent selected Washington. Former Washington economic development director Dick Oldenburg said the negotiations with this company were the toughest he ever had in his long career in industrial development. He gave the state high marks for its help in keeping this company in Missouri. Washington has other solid industries that located here and expanded here and were given help from the state.
Moberly and state officials can be criticized for the $39 million in revenue bonds that were floated for the failed Mamtek project for not doing their homework. But to say the blame is the result of a state economic development strategy that is a “sham” is a stretch as high as is the arch in St. Louis. Talk about not doing your homework!
The Missouri Department of Economic Development has a competent staff that works hard to bring companies to the state, and to retain industries, and to help those that are expanding. It has a record to prove that fact. Gov. Jay Nixon has been an active participant in economic development. And when he shows up for a groundbreaking ceremony for an industry, or for a ribbon cutting and open house, he has been invited by local officials. He doesn’t just come for a photo opportunity. We’ve had those ceremonies here and the governor and other state officials have been invited because of their involvement in the projects. Sometimes it’s difficult to get them because of other commitments.
A mistake was made at Moberly but to condemn the governor and the state department for operating a failed overall strategy is a gross misrepresentation of what is happening in Missouri.