Thanking legislators for 2019, and asking for their help in 2020
Each year, the Chamber board invites members of our area legislative delegation to the annual legislative luncheon. It’s a way to say thank you for their work in the previous year’s session and talk with them about the Springfield-area business community’s priorities for the new year.
The 2020 luncheon was on January 17, and despite a wintry curveball from Mother Nature, nearly all of our local legislators made the time to hear from our volunteer leaders about the Chamber’s legislative agenda for the new session.
There was much to be grateful for, as 2019 Chamber Board Chairman Jeff Childs illustrated. He talked about many of the accomplishments from the 2019 legislative session. These included the passage of a key workforce development package to fund Missouri One Start, Fast Track and the Deal Closing Fund; transportation funding for bridge improvements; progress on tort reform; an equity funding increase for Missouri State University; dedicated funding for OTC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing and its Republic Center; and several other education wins including full funding for the K-12 formula.
Of course, as Childs noted, there is more work to be done. “We have some big asks for 2020, but that’s how we think here in southwest Missouri – we think big, we dream big, and we expect big results,” he said. “So thank you for your hard work, and for your continued help.”
One of the “big asks” for 2020 is enabling legislation – a law change that would give Springfield opportunity to ask its citizens if they would approve an increase to the city’s existing hotel-motel sales tax, to fund major projects like a potential convention center or indoor sporting facility.
“This isn’t a tax increase – this is simply an opportunity for Springfield voters to make a decision about our future,” said Logan Aguirre, president of 417 and the Chamber’s 2020 chairman-elect. “We hear about other communities that have amazing sports facilities or impactful convention centers, and I want us to have the chance to allow Springfield voters the opportunity to support bringing a similar project to Springfield.”
And, of course, workforce development remains a top concern for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Christina Angle of Erlen Group, the Chamber’s Vice Chairman for Economic Development, said hundreds of people work at her business in manufacturing, logistics and other skilled trades – all of which are dependent on training like what will be provided at OTC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
“I see on a daily basis how the skills required to do these jobs well are being challenged by the advancements in technology,” she said. “These skills don’t come naturally and must be acquired in school programs that target these trades.”
Bill Hammitt of Amprod Holdings – who serves as 2020 board president of the Chamber’s economic development subsidiary, the Springfield Business Development Corporation – talked about the importance of funding education and training programs to help people get the right skills to grow and prosper.
“Workforce development is not a piece of legislation or a catch phrase. It’s a culture. It’s a requirement,” Hammitt said. “We have to remind ourselves that the best is always yet to come, for our kids and the grandkids behind us. And we can’t talk about that without talking about education.”
For their part, legislators from both sides of the aisle expressed their gratitude for the Chamber’s continued work and outreach. Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr said he was on board with these priorities, noting that many already have been assigned to committees or are in the hearing process.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade voiced her support for the enabling legislation as well as the “Wayfair” bill that would allow the state to collect existing sales tax for online transactions without a simultaneous tax cut.
“What I appreciate most is that I can text all of you at any time and ask what you think of a bill,” she said of the Chamber’s public affairs staff. “I appreciate the constant back and forth; it’s really helpful.”
And Republican State Senator Lincoln Hough lauded both the Chamber’s involvement and the Springfield community’s cooperative spirit.
“We legislators are only as good as the folks back here,” he said. “The lack of conflict between our two-year and four-year institutions is something you don’t see in other communities. I would say the Springfield Chamber brings people together better than anybody.”