ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

In search of an economic plan that includes those who've been forgotten.

By Sherman Thompson Parker

10/26/2005


Economic development is one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats agree on. In the Missouri House of Representatives, the relationship between Ron Richards, R-Joplin, who chairs the committee on economic development, and Fred Kratky, D-St. Louis, the committee's senior Democrat, personifies bipartisan, urban-suburban-rural cooperation.

I believe this helps explain why Missouri is one the few states in the nation that is turning the economic corner. For the first six months of 2005, employment growth here exceeded that of all but six western states, travel and tourism appear to have had a strong summer and the economy has so far weathered the increases in oil prices.

But the assaults of recent catastrophic hurricanes on the Gulf coast and Florida have reminded the nation that vast pockets of poverty are still prevalent in America. Unfortunately, too many older communities remain distressed for a multitude of reasons. I view these communities as the last frontier of economic development, especially in Missouri.

In order for our nation and state to enjoy the promised prosperity of the 21st century global economy, all of our citizens - especially those who thus far have been left out - need to be productive members of society. Not only will the economic inclusion of the underclass help secure the future for our children and grandchildren, but it also will remedy the corrosive problem of human hopelessness.

To succeed at this task, we must create entrepreneurial incentives to help propel the development of our older and distressed communities. That is why Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis County, and I are teaming up on legislation to create something new in our state: a Revitalization and Reconstruction Commission.

Its mission will be to devise a comprehensive 10-year plan to alleviate the problems of blight, deterioration and declining property values associated with distressed urban/suburban areas in our state. The plan may include incentives to generate venture capital, attract developers to build low- to moderate-income housing and even create new tourist attractions. However, the plan should not inhibit growth and development outside the distressed communities; we believe it's essential and possible to maintain growth throughout the region. As we envision it, the commission would file a report with the Legislature annually and in detail on its activities.

The legislation John and I will file for the upcoming legislative session - significantly changed from the bill we introduced last year - provides for a nine-person commission, including the state auditor and the state treasurer. The St. Louis and Kansas City regions would be represented by two members each, while Springfield would have one. The remaining two commission members could come from anywhere in the state.

I strongly believe that this commission can be the link between federal economic development programs, state economic development programs and local economic development programs that all target economically distressed communities in the city of St. Louis, Kansas City and older municipalities in Jackson, Green, St. Louis and St. Charles counties.

As we look toward the legislative session that begins in January, John Bowman and I would like to hear from citizens who have constructive suggestions concerning urban/suburban development. Please send your suggestions via e-mail to sherman.parker@house.mo.gov and john.bowman@house.mo.gov.

 

Sherman Thompson Parker, a Republican who represents parts of St. Charles County in the

 Missouri House of Representatives, is a regular contributor to the Commentary page.

Sherman Parker

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