Slow growth poses challenges for businesses

By Jeff Fox
What's going on

Missouri’s slow growth isn’t out of line with other Midwestern states, but it does pose long-term challenges. Columbia and Springfield, along with parts of the Kansas City and St. Louis areas, are growing strongly, but most Missouri counties are declining in population more quickly than rural counties elsewhere. 

Jeff Fox

“Shrinking populations in nonmetro counties lead to fewer workers and consumers, and a diminished tax base. This presents challenges for rural communities and businesses. However, sluggish growth in Missouri’s metro areas creates challenges for a state as a whole,” writes Mark White, University of Missouri associate extension professor and policy research professor at MU’s Truman School of Public Affairs. His report, “Population Trends in Missouri and its Regions,” was posted recently by Missouri Extension. 

The quick math: Missouri’s population stood at 6,151,548 in 2020, up just 2.6 percent in 10 years. Jackson County, which accounts for 11 percent of Missouri’s population, stood at 705,925, up 4.6 percent. More people are being born in Missouri than are dying, but that gap is narrowing, and much of the state’s population growth comes from immigration. 

White underlines the point that Missouri’s largest cities are its economic drivers. 

“Combined, the Missouri counties of the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas represent almost two-thirds of the state’s economic activity,” he writes. “If those regions see slowing population growth, then the state will be unable to keep up, let alone get ahead.” 

And the growth is uneven. Only about a dozen counties, including St. Charles, Platte and Clay along with those in the Springfield, Columbia and Lake of the Ozarks areas, are showing consistently strong growth. 

“Springfield and Columbia – Missouri’s third and fourth largest metro areas – grew almost twice as fast as the nation at 0.8% and 0.7% respectively” between 2019 and 2020, he writes. 

One bright spot for this area: 

“Over the past decade the Kansas City region reversed a key demographic trend by attracting more domestic migrants than it loses,” he writes. 

Quick hits 

Hawaiian Bros. says it will open its location at Noland Road and Lynn Court, just off Interstate 70, on June 29. … Whataburger plans a groundbreaking at 11 a.m. Thursday at its Blue Springs site on Missouri 7 just south of Interstate 70. The company says it is opening four metro locations. The sites in Independence. Lee’s Summit and Overland Park are to open this fall, and the Blue Springs site is open by the end of the year.  … Clean Laundry, which promises “a high-tech laundry experience,” says it is opening this summer at 2411 S. Missouri 291 in Independence. It says its machines can wash and dry a load of laundry in an hour, and that its app lets customers pay and track progress. It says it has amenities such a large-screen TVs, WiFi and USB charging stations. 

Gas rate increase 

Spire, the natural gas company serving Eastern Jackson County and many other parts of the state, has asked the Missouri Public Service Commission for a rate increase. It says the impact will vary customer to customer but the 5.6 percent increase works out to an average of $3.28 a month. There’s a virtual hearing at 6 p.m. June 23 for Kansas City area customers. If you would like to take part, dial 1-855-718-6621 and use the access code 133 211 3732 and the password 0108. 

Chamber honors 

The Independence Chamber of Commerce held its annual banquet last weekend. That event is normally in January, but pushing it back meant it could be in person. Zoom is pretty handy, but there’s much to be said for shaking hands and breaking bread together. 

The chamber’s Business of the Year is Continental Siding. Bob Glaser of CommunityAmerica Credit Union, long active in community and chamber affairs, was given the Distinguished Service Award. 

Cotton Sivils of Hillcrest Transitional Housing was named a lifetime member, Laurie Dean Wiley of Hoot Owl Financial is the Ambassador of the Year, and Kim Deveney of America Funding Solutions was named Board Member of the Year.  

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365, or on Twitter at @FoxEJC.