Holden plan aims to create jobs

Tax credits would be ended to pay for infrastructure growth.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:56 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mike Chippendale envisions Columbia as the next Silicon Valley. Only instead of developing microchips, Chippendale wants to develop a cure for cancer. Or perhaps a plant that removes pollutants from contaminated soil. Or perhaps something so extraordinary, it has yet to be imagined.

Chippendale’s vision for Columbia might have moved one step closer to reality Tuesday.

Gov. Bob Holden announced a plan that would bring jobs to Missouri by making the state a life sciences hub. The “Jobs Now” proposal aims to pull the state’s economy into the forefront of medical, environmental and agricultural research.

Holden called the plan a tremendous opportunity for Missouri.

Chippendale called Tuesday’s announcement “very, very positive.”

“There are very few campuses in the U.S. that have the breadth of disciplines to link the biological side and the engineering side to be a powerhouse in life science research and education,” he said.

Chippendale, who has a doctoral degree in entomology, has spent his entire career at MU. Since 1968, he has studied developments in the life sciences sector and pushed to pave the way for MU to become a leader in the field. On Jan. 1, Chippendale becomes senior associate director of MU’s $60 million Life Sciences Center, which is slated for completion in fall 2004.

Chippendale says Columbia’s central location makes it an ideal hub for life sciences research. Much like the human heart, Chippendale envisions MU as a place that pumps information to private sector companies in different parts of the state. Those companies would then develop marketable products that make money and fund more research.

“For Missouri to become a powerhouse in life sciences research, education and the private sector must work together,” he said. “But to take us to the next level, we need more infrastructure.”

That’s the goal of Holden’s jobs plan.

The governor aims to initiate “immediate infrastructure development” by eliminating several tax credits he calls inefficient and using that money to issue bonds that would pay for projects including improvements to Missouri transportation, public buildings and research centers.

While Holden did not provide a rough estimate of how many jobs the plan would create, he placed the number well into the thousands for planning and construction.

Holden says the program also might allow the state to apply for more federal funding for certain programs, which would pay for more projects and provide more revenue.

“This plan will add no additional cost to our budget,” he said.

Holden stressed the importance of bipartisan cooperation with the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly.

House Budget Chairman Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, said the plan is a good concept, that must be carefully reviewed by the legislature. Bearden pledged a bipartisan effort to perfect the proposal.

“Job creation has been a focus area we’ve been striving for since we took control last session,” he said. “We (the governor and legislature) appear to be working now toward a common objective.”

Holden’s plan offers financial incentives in the form of scholarships and loans to study math and science. It also encourages community colleges to provide additional job training, with the goal of creating a more highly-skilled work force.

But most importantly to Chippendale, “Jobs Now” is designed to specifically stimulate the growth of plant and life sciences in both the public and private sector.

“There’s a window of opportunity to do something great for Missouri,” he said. “If we don’t move on this, we’ll get lost in the dust of others. We must move on this aggressively.”

The governor said that if the legislature approves his plan this session the state could see additional job growth by next fall.

“It is critical that the legislature play an important role to put together the fundamental parts of this package,” Holden said.

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