Beginning a new year always gives people and organizations a sense of starting fresh. The St. Louis Regional Chamber is certainly not immune to New Year’s resolutions, we know our focus on economic development, workforce development, and transportation and infrastructure, is the right course. Our 2020 public policy priorities will continue to focus on those three areas with a reinvigorated sense of momentum after last year’s successful legislative sessions.
The Regional Chamber will continue to advocate for an expansion of workforce opportunities in both Missouri and Illinois by focusing on growing apprenticeship programs. Missouri reached 10,000 new registered apprenticeships in 2019, making the state second in the nation for new apprenticeships and ranked second in the nation for the number of apprenticeships completed. Our workforce strategy will also focus on knocking down more barriers to entry, including professional licensing reciprocity, universal certification, and allowing individuals with criminal records to rejoin the workforce.
Building on Missouri’s momentum to improve its legal climate, which still ranks 44th worst in the nation, the Regional Chamber will continue to support reforms that will make our legal climate fairer for businesses and individuals. Legal reforms are important to Missouri because of the effect it has on the state’s business community. According to the Missouri Chamber, “Recent studies show [Missouri’s legal climate] costs the state $1.6 billion each year and has killed more than 26,500 jobs.”
We support creating a more robust infrastructure network in the St. Louis region and efforts to improve both states’ outdated infrastructure. Though the Regional Chamber’s transportation and infrastructure concerns were addressed in Illinois last year, they were incomplete in Missouri. Illinois is also tasked with finding a way to pay for upgrades the state made to its infrastructure, making fiscal stability in Illinois a top priority. Because the St. Louis region’s centrality in the United States is a key asset, both Missouri and Illinois must focus on capitalizing on that strategic advantage moving into 2020.
Further adding to the region’s strategic advantage is Southwest Illinois’s largest employer, Scott Air Force Base, and the attraction of the new $1.7 billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis. The Regional Chamber will look for ways to improve the viability and stability of Scott Air Force Base and work to foster the region’s growing geospatial industry.
There’s a lot of activity in Washington, D.C. right now, but little focus is on priorities that will help our region flourish. Despite inaction in the Capitol, we at the Regional Chamber will continue to build relationships with key lawmakers in our delegation for when the ice begins to thaw. Our federal priorities include supporting an increase of skilled immigrant workers and capturing a complete and accurate count of everyone in our region for the 2020 Census this spring.
The Regional Chamber is not changing its priorities dramatically in 2020. We aim to build on the successes of last year in the same three categories: economic development, workforce development, and transportation and infrastructure. Through these priorities, we believe the region can attract, retain, and grow the best businesses and workforce.