Gov. Mike Parson has been consistent in saying his two top priorities – both directly related to business – are infrastructure funding and workforce development.
“Those two pieces, I do believe, (are) the future of the state of Missouri,” Parson told publishers, editors and reporters in Jefferson City last week.
So far, he’s offered what he concedes is a small plan – $350 million in bonds to fix about 250 bridges considered to be in sad shape. Bridges do wear out, lasting 50 to 70 years, the governor pointed out.
“This is a Band-Aid effort. This is not solving the problem,” Parson said.
So far, it doesn’t even seem clear that the bonds will make it through the General Assembly, let alone any kind of comprehensive solution.
What about that other challenge? The jobs being created today require at least some education and/or certification beyond high school, but Parson points out that around two-thirds of Missourians lack a college degree.
“That’s a huge part of your workforce,” he said.
One thing that will be needed, he said, is a closer alignment between schools and employers.
“Maybe that school counselor should know what it’s like to be on the factory floor,” he said.
• Sports wagering? “I think it’s coming,” Parson said.
• Some officials are encouraging Parson to meet with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly to discuss the two states’ efforts to poach one others’ metro-area businesses with incentives that, in the end, move things around but do not add to the economic pie. (This is the dispute usually referred to with the odious label “border war.”)
Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, is sponsoring a bill to end Missouri incentives for companies coming from the Kansas side of the state line. The Kansas governor can do the same unilaterally, though some question why Kansas would want to. Maybe Gov. Parson can make the case.
The business going in next to the new Jack in the Box on Noland Road is a Panda Express. …NASB Financial has named Tim Bachta as executive vice president and chief information officer. North American Savings Bank has 14 locations, including one in Independence.
Kansas City area home building was off in 2018 compared with 2017, but it was still the second-best year of this decade. Builders in Eastern Jackson County, however, kept pushing ahead with almost the exact number of new single-family homes last year as in 2017.
Blue Springs was the big winner in permits for new homes all year long, according to figures compiled by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City, with 382 permits, up from 227 in 2017. That’s a 68 percent jump, and Blue Springs displaced one of the traditional top four in the metro area – Kansas City, Olathe, Overland Park and Lee’s Summit.
Lee’s Summit fell 23 percent and slipped to No. 5. Blue Springs, No. 8 in 2017, rose to No. 4 and was just three permits behind No. 3 Overland Park.
Independence also had a strong showing – 133 permits, up 8 percent, and No. 13 among communities in the eight-county metro area. Grain Valley, with 117, was down 20 percent and was No. 16.
In all, Eastern Jackson County communities issued 1,089 permits, just two more than in 2017. But that beats the 8 percent metrowide decline. Housing had gained year to year since the Great Recession, and the HBA points out that 2018 ended up just slightly ahead of 2016 levels.
What do people want? “Attached homes” are growing in popularity. Of the 5,673 permits issued last year, more than 600 were for villas or townhomes.
Multifamily units also bounced back last year. They had been steadily rising this decade and hit 4,451 in 2016 but crashed to 2,434 in 2017 and then rose to 3,245 last year.
The HBA also has this warning: There aren’t enough moderately priced homes out there – particularly in the $225,000 to $275,000 range in Kansas City – and more people are being frozen out of the market. The supply of homes on the market in the metro area is only about two month’s worth, and prices are rising.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.