Task force to look at revving up state auto industry

Monday, March 30, 2009 | 8:48 p.m. CDT; updated 10:43 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 1, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Eighteen representatives of the auto industry and its dependencies have been appointed to Missouri's Automotive Jobs Task Force.

The task force, which was created by one of the first executive orders Gov. Jay Nixon signed, is charged with identifying ways the state government can best help the automotive industry and those dependent on it.

"We've got to identify ways the state can help (these industries), whether that be through legislation, whether that be through policy changes, whether that be looking for funding from the federal government," said Scott Holste, Nixon's spokesman. "We've got to have a unified front in addressing this situation."

The appointees are mostly chief executive officers and upper managers of different companies and nonprofits, including Gage Products Co., a specialty chemical manufacturer for the auto industry, and Full Employment Council Inc., a private nonprofit with the aim of full employment in the greater Kansas City area.

There are also a few representatives from the United Auto Workers union and American car companies such as Ford.

"They're going to get together to pool their collective experience, work with the governor's office on issuing a report, a set of proposals that we believe can move Missouri's automotive industry forward," Holste said. "One of the things that the automotive industry is looking at doing is going to more environmentally friendly, green vehicles. That's going to take a massive retooling (of) a lot of these plants. Gov. Nixon wants to make sure Missouri is out ahead of the curve on this issue."

Holste said Nixon wants to make Missouri competitive with other states for jobs dealing with new technology.

Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, , said the automotive industry is important to Missouri's economy. Rupp, whose district has several auto plants, including a General Motors facility that employs more than 2,000 people, said he supports any action to help keep Missouri plants in operation and to bring in new ones.

"I think any time you gather intelligent people on an industry to discuss ways to make the industry stronger and more viable is always a positive thing," Rupp said.

There was no one on the list that Rupp objected to, he said.

Holste said no deadlines or meeting dates have been set yet for the task force.

"Now that the members have been named, they're going to meet fairly soon," Holste said. "We believe that they're probably going to be on a fairly aggressive schedule in generating a report to the governor about the task force. Time is of the essence on this matter."

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