THE SOUTH »
Missouri Improves Due Diligence in State Economic Development Grants
The Missouri House of Representatives in March set aside $50,000 to give closer scrutiny of the process of due diligence required for state economic development grants. The funding comes after an investigation into what has been dubbed the “Mamtek fiasco,” according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.
The controversy began with the promising announcement by the state Department of Economic Development that Hong Kong-based Mamtek International would be constructing a factory, and with it, bringing 612 jobs, to Moberly, Mo.
Plant construction began after the town issued $39 million in industrial development bonds and the state offered $17 million in state incentives. The project was scrapped during the building phase, however, and the company has missed its first payment on the bond issues. Liability for the bonds likely could transfer to the Moberly municipality, but the state had not yet issued payments on the incentives offered, Rep. Mike Kelley said in a Joplin Independent commentary.
A legislative investigation into the matter affirmed the need for greater due diligence into the background of potential economic development grantees. In addition to the targeted funding, Rep. Jay Barnes, the leading investigator, also introduced legislation to correct the issue, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. The bill would require third-party verification of financial claims by grant applicants, criminal and financial background checks of key officers in any company applying for grants and full information sharing between state and local economic development agencies.
The South experienced a statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate change of -0.2 percent in January, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures. According to a Southern Legislative Conference report, 45 states recorded a decrease from the previous month. Among the nation’s nine geographical divisions, the Pacific reported the highest jobless rate at 10.2 percent, while six divisions, including the East, South Central, and South Atlantic, enjoyed statistically significant unemployment rate declines in January. Of the 14 states that recorded unemployment rate declines, two Southern states—Mississippi and Missouri—secured the largest declines, of -0.5 percent each.
Alabama’s Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee in March approved a proposal to increase tax credits for production companies filming in the state. If approved, the measure will raise funding limits on incentives from $10 million annually to $15 million. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, it also would raise the amount that can be spent on a production to qualify for the tax incentives to allow for smaller films to benefit. The House of Representatives passed the bill without opposition earlier this year.
Missouri recently launched a new Web tool called Stormaware to better prepare residents for severe weather, The Columbia Missourian reported. Stormaware includes videos on best practices regarding shelter and weather alerts.
Georgia recently launched a new program, “Go Build Georgia,” to promote training in skilled trades in favor of traditional college education because of a growing shortage of skilled laborers such as pipefitters, steel workers, boilermakers, electricians and carpenters. The initiative targets high school counselors, teachers, students and parents, in an attempt to fill the 16,500 skilled labor openings estimated for 2012, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Florida teachers and schools are preparing for a sizable increase in the number of students requiring remedial classes after the State Board of Education changed the grading scale of the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test. Seminole County alone identified 4,000 students at risk of failing to achieve a sufficient test score, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The new standards follow a new teacher evaluation system, an updated school grading formula and new end-of-course high school exams, as well as continuing pressure from historically low education funding as the state recovers from the Great Recession.