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MISSOURI
From Site Selection magazine, July 2014
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Meeting of the Minds

MindMixer finds talent its needs in Kansas City; Gov. Nixon says Missouri has only just begun.

MISSOURI
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened in Downtown Kansas City, Mo., in Sept. 2011.
Photo courtesy of KCADC

by RON STARNER
M

indMixer found exactly what it was looking for in Kansas City, Mo.

Technology talent and incentives helped lure the online hosted engagement software company from Omaha, and the firm's founder says his company is now poised for its best growth spurt ever.

"We are in a major growth mode, so the most important factor was a large talent pool," says Nick Bowden, co-founder and CEO of MindMixer. "There's great talent all over, including in Omaha and Lincoln, but Kansas City is much larger. We'd also had an office in Kansas City since nearly the beginning, and it was already growing larger than the others because we were quickly finding people to fill our open roles here over our other locations."

By the end of this summer, MindMixer plans to relocate about 20 employees from Nebraska to Kansas City, where the firm currently employs some 28 workers. Within 12 months, Bowden says, the company expects to hire 85 new employees and invest at least $1.5 million.

"We evaluated all our office co-locations, as well as Silicon Valley, and ultimately decided KC was the best option for us," Bowden says. "There's a great diversity to the area and an excitement among the folks we talk to about what we're doing. The city is doing a lot to attract up-and-comers and it definitely shows in the talent pool."

Founded in 2011, MindMixer provides an online platform to encourage civic involvement. It currently occupies about 7,500 sq. ft. (697 sq. m.) of office space on two floors at 1627 Main Street in the Crossroads Arts District.

Bowden says that "tax incentives did grease the wheels, but we already had eyes on Kansas City for a number of reasons, including the fact that we already had an office here that had grown larger than the rest."

According to the state's economic development office, MindMixer could receive more than $1.65 million in tax credits from Missouri if the company meets strict job creation and investment criteria.

Tim Cowden, senior vice president of business development for the Kansas City Area Development Council, says the project "came down to where they believed they could be successful long term. All the other tech firms are coming here and growing. They felt they could grow bigger here."

MindMixer is the latest recruit that fulfills Gov. Jay Nixon's strategy to bring more information-technology companies to Missouri. In the past year, Missouri has landed sizable investments from Netelligent in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, BIME Analytics and Cerner in Kansas City, and Xceligent in the KC suburb of Blue Springs.

In a recent interview with Site Selection, Gov. Nixon talked about his statewide economic development program.

SITE SELECTION: What have been your administration's three most significant economic development accomplishments?

GOV. NIXON: One of the most visible has been the resurgence of automotive jobs in the last few years, thanks in part to the passage of the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act during a special legislative session in 2010. Since that time, we've had GM and Ford move forward on investments of more than $1.6 billion at their respective plants in the St. Louis and Kansas City area and plans to hire more than 2,000 new workers. And it's not just jobs and investments at the automakers. We've had several hundred new jobs and millions of dollars in investment announced at automotive suppliers across the state.

I'm also proud of Missouri's leading role in growth of technology and advanced manufacturing jobs, whether that's announcements of hundreds of jobs by Monsanto, Netelligent, Boeing, Express Scripts or the announcement by Cerner that it is investing $4 billion in Kansas City and creating up to 15,000 jobs. We've made a concerted effort to grow these kinds of cutting-edge, high-paying jobs, and the results are borne out by Missouri leading the nation in rate of technology job growth.

Finally, we've put a real emphasis on exporting Missouri goods to foreign markets, from corn and soybeans to stainless steel tanks. The world is buying what Missouri is selling, and our export numbers bear that out.

SS: What are your top two or three economic development priorities for Missouri this year?

NIXON: We're going to continue to strengthen public education at all levels, because education is the best economic development tool there is. Graduates need to be prepared for good jobs, and K-12 education needs to provide a strong foundation for post-secondary education and training. Funding is a vital part of that, but you also have to have programs that connect students to careers, such as the Innovation Campus, an education-business partnership that trains students for careers in high-demand fields and cuts the time needed to earn a degree. When student loan debt is greater than credit card debt in this country, reducing the cost of education can help a lot of families.

GovNixon

" Education is the best economic development tool there is. "

- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

I'm also committed to continuing the stability and predictability that we've had in Missouri for many years, in order to keep businesses, education, and communities strong and vibrant. Our fiscal conservatism has helped us maintain a perfect AAA credit rating from all three major credit rating agencies, and I'm committed to maintaining that rating and keeping our fiscal house in order.

SS: How have you improved the overall Missouri business climate?

NIXON: My first act as governor was to create the Automotive Jobs Task Force so that vehicles America would drive would be built right here. The path back to Missouri leading the automotive resurgence included the passage in 2010 of the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act, which has helped us retain and create thousands of jobs in this sector and fostered billions of dollars in investment.

Last year, we launched Missouri Works, a streamlined program for economic incentives for businesses. It is helping more businesses participate in investment and job creation for these incentives, and partnering with our community colleges to offer the training programs designed to meet the needs of employers. Missouri Works implements recommendations of the Governor's Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth, an effort that engaged 600 business, education and labor leaders from across Missouri.

SS: What tax and/or regulatory reforms still need to be made in order to make Missouri more globally competitive for business and industry?

NIXON: I will continue to streamline state government to make it more effective and efficient, and that has included the elimination of unneeded boards and commissions and the consolidating of certain permit processes to help businesses and citizens. I've also cut taxes four times in ways that have been targeted to help individuals and businesses, and convened a Tax Credit Review Commission to examine ways to improve our tax credit programs to ensure they provide the best return on investment of taxpayer dollars.

SS: What would you like the global brand identity of Missouri to be?

NIXON: We're ready to compete with anyone. We've got a hardworking, skilled labor force that gets to work early, stays late, and gets the job done.


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