January 3, 2023 5 min read

According to poll, employers plan for growth, but Missouri must address headwinds slowing our economy

Missouri business leaders have a mixed outlook for the year ahead. While the vast majority expect to make some sort of investment in 2023, they also predict that growing crime, workforce shortages and rising inflation will limit their companies’ growth.

That’s according to a recent poll released by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  The poll, conducted by CHS and Associates, surveyed more than 600 Missouri CEOs and business leaders, representing every region of the state and business size.

“Every year, the Missouri Chamber asks CEOs and top business leaders at companies throughout the state to share their thoughts on the economy, the business climate, the direction of our state and more,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “Conducted by an independent research firm, the Missouri Chamber CEO Poll helps determine where and how the Missouri Chamber should focus its attention in the year ahead.”

According to the poll, nearly half of all businesses surveyed plan to increase their workforce and more than 80 percent plan on making business investments in the upcoming year.

WORKFORCE GROWTH

Over the next year, do you expect your workforce to increase, decrease, or stay about the same?

8%Increase Substantially
41%Increase Moderately
38%Stay About the Same
8%Decrease Moderately
4%Decrease Substantially
1%Undecided

INVESTMENT GROWTH

During the next year, do you think your company will make major investments, only minor investments, or no investments?

26%Major Investments
57%Minor Investments
14%No Investments
3%Undecided

Despite this optimism, business leaders shared areas of concern.

“Headwinds such as growing public safety concerns, lack of available talent and rising inflation are slowing economic growth in our state,” Mehan said. “During the 2023 legislative session, we will make addressing these concerns a priority.”

The Missouri Chamber recently released its full 2023 Legislative Agenda. Following are some of the top priorities.

PUBLIC SAFETY

According to the poll, two-thirds of employers said the rising crime rate in Missouri is impacting the state’s economic competitiveness. Most employers – 60 percent – said public safety and crime was a growing concern, while 24 percent of business leaders said it was currently their top concern.

“To see public safety as a top ten concern of our business community is alarming,” Mehan said. “The time for action is now.”

According to the CEO poll, business leaders support a number of tactics to address public safety.

TacticsFavor
Increasing funding for law enforcement staffing.94%  
Funding specific, policing hot spot programs that focus on high crime areas.92%  
Increasing job training for those in prison.91%  
Increasing funding for mental health and substance abuse.90%  
Increasing prosecutorial consistency and transparency.87%  

The Missouri Chamber’s public safety report, Safer Missouri, Stronger Missouri, will guide advocacy efforts this session, with the goal of implementing the following recommendations through multiple pieces of legislation:

  • Deploy evidence-based and hot-spot approaches to crime reduction
  • Increase and protect tools to support policing
  • Address substance misuse and mental health
  • Reduce recidivism
  • Improve training and employment opportunities for incarcerated individuals
  • Increase public safety staffing
  • Increase prosecutorial consistency and transparency

“While the response to crime has become highly political and divisive, we are focused on ideas that can be passed at a statewide level and with united support from both sides of the aisle,” Mehan said. “Public safety is a top priority for the Missouri Chamber because it impacts businesses everywhere, across nearly every Missouri community.”

WORKFORCE

According to the Missouri Chamber CEO poll, workforce remains the top concern of Missouri employers, with 38 percent citing it as their top concern.

“When meeting with businesses, I hear over and over, we have the jobs but we just can’t find the people to fill them,” Mehan said. “Ramping up programs that can quickly and efficiently train workers for high-demand fields is a must.”

The Missouri Chamber is asking lawmakers to give employers more tools to retain their current workers through the creation of a short-term credentialing program. This grant program would reimburse employers who help their employees earn short-term certificates or credentials in two vital areas for Missouri’s economy, technology and health care. A similar program in Ohio has been extremely successful.

Another factor impacting workforce availability is the lack of child care. The Missouri Chamber will ask for increased funding to address the multifaceted child care crisis and get more Missourians back to work.

When responding to the Missouri Chamber’s 2022 CEO Poll, 78 percent of business leaders said the expense and difficulty in finding child care keeps a significant number of Missourians out of the workforce.

“Businesses across Missouri are struggling to find workers, and it’s clear that the state’s growing child care crisis is at the center of the problem,” Mehan said. “This is an urgent issue, and we are grateful that state lawmakers are focused on working with the business community to find a solution. It’s time for Missouri to become a national leader in addressing this crisis.”

A study released in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber in 2021 revealed that the lack of available child care is costing Missouri’s economy $1.35 billion annually.

LEGAL REFORM

2021 study by John Dunham & Associates found that if Missouri enacted certain tort reforms, the resulting savings to residents and businesses of the state would be more than $1.7 billion. This means that residents are in effect paying a “tort tax” of $279 per person. According to this study, the savings from reforming Missouri’s tort system could support an additional 20,880 jobs and $3.38 billion in increased economic activity.

“Legal reform remains a top, bottom-line issue of our employer community,” Mehan said. “We have a long list of common-sense reforms that must be addressed.”

Modifying our statute of limitations in certain civil cases tops the list for 2023. The Missouri Chamber recommends shortening the statute of limitations for personal injury cases from five years to two years. Currently, 47 states have shorter time limits than Missouri, including all eight of Missouri’s bordering states.

These are just a few of the legislative priorities the Missouri Chamber will pursue in the upcoming legislative session. To see the full Missouri Chamber’s full 2023 Legislative Agenda, click here.


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