Attracting and retaining businesses.
For almost half of the 46 leaders who responded to the second survey in the Missouri Influencers Series, that was the state's No. 1 economic issue.
Lawyer Jean Paul Bradshaw: “Businesses provide jobs and that provides employment. Everything else — income equality, wage growth — can be addressed through having more businesses and job opportunities.”
David Steelman, an attorney, former legislator and member of University of Missouri Board of Curators: "Businesses can bring an opportunity for growth in all areas important to Missouri including education and infrastructure. Plus I believe in the dignity of work."
Media consultant Jason Grill: “Business retention and talent recruitment is a huge issue facing Missouri and Kansas City. Workforce development is key to a strong Missouri economy. Without talent and resources current Missouri companies can't grow and prosper and future Missouri companies will stay away.
"Business attraction and retention will make or break Missouri's economic future. Politicians need to step up to the plate and talk more about how they would improve and recruit talent to Missouri and make growing young companies a priority.”
Jane Dueker, a lawyer, radio host and political adviser: “As a state we have to make the economic pie bigger and innovate new paths to economic growth. Exclusive policies of redistribution to corporate interests or high income brackets are not a long term sustainable path.”
Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes: "The tax base and jobs created by business attraction and retention are essential to the economic well-being of both state government and individual citizens."
Influencers rated income inequality the second most important issue for Missouri.
Deb Hermann, a former Kansas City Council member and CEO of Northland Neighborhoods Inc.: "The gap between the very rich and the rest of us is at 1920 levels. Not only have the top 1 percent seen enormous gains in wealth in the last couple of decades; taxes for corporations and the wealthy have been reduced. Dollars available for social programs for low-income citizens have been reduced. By almost every social measure we have taken a wrong turn."
Kansas City Council member Quinton Lucas: "Missouri communities have increased in inequality leading to more secondary effects like urban and rural blight, out migration, and decline in the tax base."
Several Influencers raised concern over wage growth and stagnation.
Mike Talboy, a former legislator and director of government affairs for Burns & McDonnell: "Wages, for the most part, have been woefully behind in keeping pace with other aspects of economic growth and profitability. This is the area that impacts citizens the most, and they see it every pay period. If the economy is at 2.5 to 4 percent growth and people working don’t see any real changes in their household income, you have issues as a state."
Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri State Public Defender System: "It is not enough to attract businesses if the people who work there cannot keep up with cost inflation and save for college and retirement. We need to start closing the economic gap that is the primary symptom eradicating the middle class."
Duke Dujakovich, president of the greater Kansas City AFL-CIO: "Every part of our economy is dependent on and starts with jobs and decent wages. Communities spiral down without a robust,well compensated workforce."
Jennifer Lowry, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' council on health and environment and chief toxicologist at Children's Mercy, said tax cuts were the most important issue facing Missouri.
"Missouri's infrastructure needs improvement," Lowry said. "Education of our children for future prosperity is essential. Healthy people work and are involved in their communities. None of this can happen without funding at the state and federal level. While the tax cuts put more money in the pockets of each person, the result is decreased funding to the programs that we come to expect to be present and working."