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Chamber Board hosts state lawmakers to share key priorities


The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors hosted lawmakers at their annual Board Legislative Luncheon on February 2. This event allows board members to thank elected officials and highlight their top state legislative priorities with Springfield-area Representatives and Senators.

This regional delegation of lawmakers works collaboratively in Jefferson City on behalf of Southwest Missouri, which in the current political climate, is not always guaranteed.

“I love working with our group of legislators and we all want to make sure we’re not impeding business growth and we are competitive with other states for jobs and talent,” said Rep. Betsy Fogle (District 135).

“We are focusing on the work instead of social media pages, and that translates to us being effective for the region and moving priorities for the betterment of the state,” explained Rep. Alex Riley (District 134).

The board-approved priorities for the 2024 legislative session, running January through May, include addressing workforce barriers, investing in education and training, fostering a favorable business environment, prioritizing infrastructure investments, and enhancing economic strength, and much more. See the full state legislative agenda here.

2024 Chamber Board Chairman Brian Hammons, Hammons Black Walnuts, emphasized the crucial role our members play in shaping legislative priorities.

“Engaging in the Chamber’s advocacy efforts has been very meaningful for me, and I appreciate that the Chamber gives business leaders a pathway to share their experiences and the impacts of proposed policies on our various industries,” Hammons said. “Something I am most proud about as a Chamber volunteer is the diverse mix of voices, sectors, industries and size of companies we work to represent.”

The annual lunch also provides an opportunity for board members to thank elected officials for the work accomplished the previous year.

“Your efforts help fuel the ongoing growth and prosperity of our region,” said Elizabeth Wente, SRC Holdings Corp. and Chamber board vice chair of public affairs.

Senator Lincoln Hough (District 30) thanked his fellow lawmakers as well.

“We have a group of lawmakers here that take their jobs very seriously,” Senator Lincoln Hough (District 30) said. “You have Springfield and Greene County lawmakers that look for creative solutions to complicated problems.”

Some of the 2023 legislative session business community successes included investing in efforts to address workforce barriers like childcare and mental health. Lawmakers also prioritized unprecedented transportation funding for I-70 and I-44 as well as capital investments in regional programs and projects.

Looking ahead to this year, Carol Kicklighter, Vital Farms, Inc. and Chamber board vice chair of economic development, emphasized the need to continue addressing workforce barriers in this year’s legislative session. Fostering workforce development through several facets has been a longstanding priority for the Chamber, and the legislature has made strides over the last several years in this area.

“When it comes to workforce development and ensuring our state's economic success, we support evaluating and developing innovative solutions to current workforce barriers," Kicklighter said. "These types of barriers, specifically childcare, continue to be one of the top priorities we hear from our members."

This approach also includes continued full formula funding for public education. Springfield Public Schools, the largest school district in the state, plays a pivotal role in strengthening our local business community.

Higher education institutions like Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College drive our future workforce pool as well. Investments in core funding and capital projects through programs like MoExcels are vital for fostering workforce growth in our region.

This year, the Chamber included additional supportive positions around training opportunities like the Upskill Training Fund.  The program was created in 2023 as a way for the state to help employers train current or prospective employees, however, it did not receive any funding through the budget process, making it a top priority for the Chamber this session.

Another priority discussed includes infrastructure investments and their impact on our region's economic strength. Christina Angle, Erlen Group and president of the Springfield Business Development Corporation thanked lawmakers for their prioritization of these investments, especially in critical economic development drivers like I-44 improvements and shovel-ready site locations.

“We appreciate the focus on improving I-70 and starting the process of I-44, and we hope to see that investment only grow this year,” said Angle. This strategic funding, along with support for projects like the LeCompte Road expansion, will have a significant impact on our area.

Board members further highlighted their focus on creating a favorable climate for business growth that gives businesses autonomy over their own workforce, addresses the legal climate, and support initiative petition reform.

For business leaders, lawmakers noted that leading with one voice on what the priorities of the region are make a large impact in Jefferson City.

“We want you to spread the message about this region and what is important to us,” Senator Curtis Trent (District 20) said. “Being able to talk about legislation that’s important to our region is really important.”

“Springfield has always been home and the Chamber is a big part of that,” said Senator Hough.

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