Missouri has a good deal going for it, such as low unemployment and a diversity of industries, but also faces significant challenges, says one of the state’s top economic officials.
Chief among those is the fact that employers are finding it harder and harder to hire qualified employees.
“Every industry is facing this issue,” Ron Dixon, acting director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said at Thursday’s Independence Economic Development Council luncheon.
The EDC recently has been highlighting the 1,000 news jobs created in Independence so far this year, and Dixon said Independence is doing things the right way. Dixon has been on the job since this summer, and he said at state level officials are taking a broad look at what’s working and what needs to work better.
“There’s good things happening in pockets across the state, but on the whole are we heading in the right direction?” he said.
It’s clear that the shortage of qualified workers is a major issue, he said. In particular, that problem lies in what are called mid-skilled jobs, those that require something beyond a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.
“Talent development – workforce – is really the key issue right now,” he said.
He said Gov. Eric Greitens has challenged officials to make Missouri “the number one entrepreneurial hub in the Midwest” and said his department is undertaking a broad review of its efforts.
“Are we doing what we need to be doing from a strategic level?” he asked.
Economic development officials spend much of their time trying to attract new business, but Dixon said keeping existing businesses and helping them grow is crucial.
“It’s where the vast majority of jobs are created,” he said.