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Ann Marie Baker, southwest Missouri president of UMB Bank, is helping to form a cohesive plan to build on Missouri's economic strengths for business development.
Ann Marie Baker, southwest Missouri president of UMB Bank, is helping to form a cohesive plan to build on Missouri's economic strengths for business development.

Banker Baker tackles state economy

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Springfield banker Ann Marie Baker is one of four businesspeople chosen by Gov. Jay Nixon to guide the state’s economic development initiatives for the next five years.

On May 21, Nixon announced the creation of the Executive Advisory Board, appointing business leaders from the four corners of the state. Joining Baker, UMB Bank southwest Missouri president, is Paul Combs, president of Kennett-based Baker Implement Co.; Bill Downey, president and CEO of Kansas City Power and Light; and David Steward, chairman of the board and founder of World Wide Technology in St. Louis.

Each brings a unique set of strengths to the table, said advisory board leader and state Economic Development Director David Kerr, noting that the group as a whole has experience with utilities, banking, technology and agriculture manufacturing.

“I think it’s going to be very exciting as we work together to develop an economic plan that is both strategic and comprehensive,” Baker said. “We’ll be focused on many different kinds of industries, on all areas of the state, and working to leverage the strengths that we have across Missouri.”

The goal
The purpose behind the board’s planning isn’t to eliminate current initiatives, but to come up with a cohesive plan that will best capitalize on Missouri’s strengths, Baker said.

“We spend lots of money on economic development every year. The question is, ‘Are we strategically aligned to do it in the most effective way?’” KCPL’s Downey added. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.”

During the next few months, the board will gather input from every part of the state to help identify a handful of strategic initiatives to guide the state’s economic development.

“We don’t want 25 or 40 or 60 initiatives,” Kerr said. “We want to come up with six or 10 – probably closer to six than 10 – absolutely essential strategic initiatives we as a state must absolutely accomplish over the next five years to transform our economy into a 21st century economy for growth and sustainability.”

Baker said it’s too soon to speculate about those initiatives.

“I think it would sell the process short,” she said. “I do think it’s important that we remember that our charge is not only to attract new industry, but to develop and retain the existing companies that operate within our borders.”

The process
The advisory board won’t be making any decisions alone, said Combs, a representative from the Bootheel.

“We’re not the only four,” he said. “They’re planning on putting together a much bigger group of people, with committees from each region.”

Already, the board is assembling a steering committee, which will be made up of officials representing all aspects of the state, including business, education, economic development and government, said Kerr, who hopes to have meetings commence in June.

The steering committee will be charged with listening to input from committees comprised of 25 to 30 people from each of the four regions, he said, adding that anyone interested in serving on a committee should contact Mike Downing, deputy director for finance and policy at DED, by June 4.

Another resource for the board will be a private, professional consulting firm, Kerr said, noting a request for proposal was put out on May 21. The deadline to respond to the RFP is June 29.

Once a consulting firm is chosen, the state will develop a budget for the plan’s development, Kerr said.

Everything’s on the table
The board won’t be given direction to consider any specific issue, Kerr said, emphasizing the state’s desire that the plan be driven by business.

“We are starting from scratch,” Baker said. “It will be based on input from the groups, as far as what our needs are, what the priorities should be, and then the plan can be developed that will address those and be realistic at the same time.”

From a businessman’s perspective, Keith Roberts, owner/broker of Empire Realtors in Nixa, said he hopes the group also will look at past initiatives from local governments and private-public partnerships, such as Ozarks Regional Economic Partnership.

“Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, go back and utilize what some of the cities and groups have already done successfully,” said Roberts, who has served as president of the Nixa Area Chamber of Commerce and chairman of OREP.

He’d also like to see small businesses receive the help they need to succeed.

“Hand a small businessman the tools he can use,” Roberts said. “Don’t hand the painter a hammer and tell him to paint the window.”[[In-content Ad]]


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