Nixon talks about 2010 jobs plan at Columbia visit

The governor toured high-tech companies in Kansas City and St. Louis.
Gov. Jay Nixon shakes hands with Media Convergence Group President Jim Spencer during a conference Thursday afternoon at the MCG-owned Newsy.com office, a multimedia news organization. Nixon toured there to promote his high-tech job creation program.

Gov. Jay Nixon visited a Columbia multimedia company Thursday as part of a statewide tour to promote a high-tech job creation plan aimed at reviving the state economy.

In his State of the State address Wednesday night at the Capitol, Nixon called for legislators to increase state support for job training and create incentives for existing high-tech businesses to hire more workers, saying both are critical to helping the state weather the economic downturn and its multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

"Everywhere I've traveled in the last 12 months, from Kansas City to Cape Girardeau, I've heard the same refrain from businesses large and small, 'Give us the tools, help us train the workers and we'll do the rest,' " Nixon said Wednesday.

Missouri's unemployment rate as of November was 9.5 percent, slightly less than the national average of 10 percent. The governor briefly toured the Newsy newsroom Thursday and talked to students about video projects they were working on related to current events, such as the recent Supreme Court ruling on corporate campaign finance reform.

"The economic challenges we face are tough, but I know the people of Missouri are tougher," Nixon said. "By investing in our existing businesses, technology and training, I am confident we will create the jobs we need and move our economy forward."

The governor's plan would create three different programs aimed at creating more jobs and convincing Missouri businesses to expand. The Missouri First program would make businesses that have been in the state for more than five years eligible for certain economic incentives.

The governor also called for the passage of the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act to create a state investment fund for new companies to apply for start-up capital from a portion of the taxes paid by existing companies.

The governor also addressed allowing $12 million for job-training programs at community colleges to prepare more workers for new industries.

The governor did not say how the state would pay for the additional program in his Wednesday address or Thursday events. The state is facing a projected $261 million deficit in next year's budget and Nixon said Wednesday the state expects to bring in less tax revenue this year than last.

David Kerr, the state's director of economic development, said the programs the governor proposed would have the greatest economic impact on the state.

"The key to this is that the legislature is going to have to make sure that the dollars that we spend, we spend efficiently and create maximum impact for the state," he said.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton attended the tour and said the program will help Missouri gain an economic advantage over states where education spending has been cut in order to balance budgets.

"We hope it will be very effective," Deaton said. "It is the necessary focus because we're trying to build a base for the future."

Newsy.com is a Web site that compiles video clips on current events from several sources. Students find and post material to the site through a partnership between the MU School of Journalism, the Reynolds Journalism Institute and Media Convergence Group, the company that owns Newsy.com.

Max Carratura, vice president of finance and business operations for Newsy, said the packages would give students the specific skills that new, growing industries are seeking because they focus specifically on high-tech jobs.

"I think it's huge because everyone knows the economy is headed toward technology," Carratura said. "To target that area and build talent in that mold is very important for the state."

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