From 2021 More Missouri Guide

Leading For Tomorrow

Governor Michael Parson reflects on state’s Bicentennial and building momentum.

Interview With The Governor
Courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Two hundred years ago, the Missouri Territory became the 24th state to enter the Union. While many things have changed, the Show Me State’s rugged spirit of grit, determination and innovation never has. Throughout the year, leading up to Missouri Statehood Day on Aug. 10, the state celebrated its Bicentennial with events recognizing the state’s past, present and future. To kick off those events in January, Governor Mike Parson was sworn in for his second term at the state’s top post.

Gov. Parson has a deep-rooted history in Missouri where he’s served in various leadership roles including Sheriff, State Representative, State Senator and Lieutenant Governor. Throughout his career, Gov. Parson has maintained a steady focus on workforce development and infrastructure. In 2018, he signed the largest income tax cut in the state’s history.

We recently spoke with Governor Parson about Missouri’s long-established strengths and the state’s continued momentum into the future.

Missouri is celebrating its Bicentennial this year. What are you most proud of Missouri for?

Governor Parson: Missouri is home to some of the best people you could ever meet. We work hard and consider our faith and family in every decision that we make. Missourians’ resiliency and determination have allowed our state to become a hub for economic opportunity. Our unemployment rate sits at only 4.3%, well below the national average, and we are among the top tier of states for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts. 

2020 was a challenging year for everyone. How would you say Missouri fared throughout the pandemic compared to other states?

Governor Parson: Missouri maintains a strong business climate which allows us to fare better than most states during an economic downturn. Data shows our recovery has been stronger than the nation as a whole. Our economy has grown by 11 points since July 2020, and we have recovered more than 70% of jobs lost to COVID-19 in less than one year. We have been ranked first in the United States for small business wage growth for three months in a row, second in the United States for apprenticeships, and fourth in the United States for new manufacturing facilities coming to our state. 

What are some of the most important lessons you learned over the last year as you lead the state through this emergency?

Governor Parson: During the early days of the pandemic, it became critical that we have rapid, accurate Missouri-specific data to help make decisions about the direction our state. We also affirmed our need to develop strong supply chains for critical products right here in our state. As a result, we developed new programs, like the PPE Google Marketplace, to partner with critical infrastructure businesses and connect consumers directly with producers. Thanks to this effort, we recently partnered with an advanced manufacturing company to expand semiconductor wafer production in Missouri and address the critical shortage. In the Show Me State, we don’t rely on other states or nations to find solutions, we face problems head-on. 

You recently established the Show Me Strong Recovery Task Force to help small businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic. Tell us about some of the ways you’re working to help small businesses throughout the state. 

Governor Parson: The purpose of the Show Me Strong Task Force is to study and develop recommendations on ways to support small businesses, including minority-owned businesses, throughout Missouri. The task force will also consider ways to better engage minority-owned businesses through existing economic development tools.

One of the most pressing issues our small businesses face right now is the labor shortage. Facing more than 220,000 open job postings across the state, we recently became one of the first states in the nation to end all federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits. From our conversations with Missouri business owners, we know this action has helped ease the strain of the labor shortage. 

In Missouri, we prioritize investments in infrastructure and workforce development, which benefits every business and Missourian. We partner with the private sector to understand the current workforce needs of our employers and gauge what skills will be required in the future so we can start preparing the next generations.

How would you describe Missouri’s business climate today?

Governor Parson: Missouri’s business climate is booming. Even in 2020 we saw nearly $2.5 billion in investment come to our state and more than 8,000 new jobs created. This year alone, my administration has participated in business expansion projects that have totaled more than $780 million and more than 1,800 new jobs created. Those numbers don’t even include the rest of the great work the Missouri Department of Economic Development has done and continues to do to bring jobs and business opportunity to Missouri. 

One of your top priorities is workforce and education. Tell us about some of the progress the state has made in this endeavor.

Governor Parson: One of our workforce programs that we are extremely proud of is the Fast Track Workforce Incentive grant. This grant program helps adults pursue a certificate or degree in a high need area. We were surprised to learn that 80% of all Fast Track recipients were women and 50% were first-generation college students. The program continues to be heavily utilized for career training in the health care industry and has strengthened the talent pipeline for Missouri health care providers.

If you truly want to make a difference it starts with early childhood education, and that is why we are consolidating several early childhood programs across state government into a single Office of Childhood under the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Our administration is committed to seeing the workforce of tomorrow start off on the right foot, and that means better support for Missouri children and their families.

What are you doing to help foster foreign trade growth in the state?

Governor Parson: International trade and investment play a critical role in our state’s economy. Our administration is tasked with communicating the advantages of investing in Missouri. The benefits to Missouri can speak for themselves if we can just ensure the message can be heard. Often times the Midwest gets overlooked for coastal cities by foreign investors. However, our central location, low costs, and favorable tax rates have enabled many companies to expand into existing markets or establish new ones all across the U.S. with relative ease and speed.

Attracting new business is key to our workforce and economic development efforts, and we will continue to market Missouri and showcase our great state.

Why should businesses consider Missouri for their next North American relocation or expansion project?

Governor Parson: Foreign businesses with direct investment in Missouri have the same skilled workforce and accessible infrastructure needs as our Missouri business owners, and we are equally committed to their continued growth and success in our great state. Missouri’s business-friendly climate and central location make our state a prime location to conduct business. In Missouri, we believe in low taxes and cutting red tape, and we don’t believe in unreasonable mandates that restrict business and cost people their livelihoods. Missourians have a strong work ethic, and our state enjoys a 4.3% unemployment rate, well below the national average. Missouri has a skilled workforce that is ready to help any business find success.  

What are some common misconceptions people have about your state, and how are you working to combat those stereotypes?

Governor Parson: It can be common for some people to label Missouri as just one thing — whether they see us as just a rural, agriculture state or forget to look beyond our two major cities. In reality, we are all of the above and everything in between, and to truly know Missouri you have to understand our state’s great diversity. Missouri has expansive rural, suburban and urban communities, and we boast strong manufacturing and transportation industries as well as key specializations in finance, engineering, aerospace, IT and Biotechnology. Our administration and the Department of Economic Development are doing all we can to relay that message to businesses who want to leave the burdens of highly taxed, highly regulated coastal areas for friendly Midwestern hospitality, favorable business accommodations and hardworking Americans. 

What do you want business owners and site selectors to understand about doing business in your state?

Governor Parson: In Missouri, we are committed to investing in our infrastructure to ensure our state remains competitive and is prepared for future demands. In 2019, we established the Focus on Bridges Program, committing to repair or replace 250 of Missouri’s poorest bridges. This program has been a huge success with over 100 projects already completed, and the work of the program continues. We are also committed to workforce development to prepare our workforce not just for the jobs of today but for tomorrow too. From high school graduates acquiring entry-level certificates and industry-recognized credentials to partnering with companies to skill-up existing employees for career growth within companies — we are working to skill-up Missourians to fill every position and build programs that have the flexibility and resources to continue into the future. 

Savannah King
Managing Editor of Custom Content

Savannah King

Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.


Missouri's strengths are only getting stronger as the state builds momentum, reduces red tape, encourages entrepreneurs and builds a better workforce — all for the benefit of business in the Show Me State.

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