February 9, 2024 3 min read

Missouri Chamber supports business development measures    

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supported legislation this week in the Senate Economic Development and Tax Policy Committee that would incentivize business owners who want to rehabilitate historic buildings and spur economic growth in their communities.

Two redevelopment bills, SB 792 and SB 884, are sponsored by Sen. Steven Roberts (D-St. Louis).

SB 792 creates the Revitalizing Missouri Downtowns and Main Streets Act. The legislation is a result of lasting hybrid workplace policies adopted by some businesses during the pandemic that have left many office buildings vacant or sparsely occupied.

“Empty city blocks hurt the surrounding small businesses which depend on foot traffic and vibrancy – and empty city blocks become magnets for crime,” Roberts said. “Meanwhile many of our state’s historic main streets and small downtowns have been hollowed out by decades of disinvestment and a lack of access to capital. With SB 792 we hope to breathe life back into the downtowns of Missouri’s biggest cities as well as its smallest towns.”

The bill seeks an appropriation of $50 million with another $50 million for projects more than 750,000 square feet. Of the available funding, 25% would be dedicated to projects located in a qualified Main Street district.

Heidi Geisbuhler Sutherland, director of legislative affairs for the Missouri Chamber, said, “People want to live near and spend their money in vibrant business districts. If you have a business that is surrounded by vacant buildings, you’re essentially on an island. That makes attracting customers much more difficult.”

Roberts later presented SB 884, which makes some adjustments to a successful Historic Preservation tax credit program that has been in place since 1998. The legislation renames the credit the Missouri Historic, Rural Revitalization, and Regulatory Streamlining Act.

Projects that quality are eligible for a 25% credit based on the amount invested. The legislation would also allow a 35% credit if the project is in a qualifying county, located primarily in rural areas or smaller cities.

“Missouri’s state historic tax credit program was considered a model for the rest of the country, but that is no longer the case,” Roberts said. “SB 884 will address regulatory attempts to suffocate the program. Reviews of HTCs can be delayed as long as a year and developers must navigate standards that don’t match national standards.”

Geisbuhler Sutherland noted that, “Rehabilitating historic buildings can breathe life into a community’s economy. We especially appreciate the application timeframe that’s provided in the bill so that someone who wants to rehabilitate a building knows when their application is going to be processed.”

Companion bills in the Missouri House, HB 1935 and HB 1936, are both sponsored by Rep. Travis Wilson (R-St. Charles).

Two identical bills presented in the Senate committee were SB 825, sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg), and SB 894, sponsored by Sen. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit). The bills would remove barriers of entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses through the Regulatory Sandbox Act.

The legislation would create a Regulatory Relief Office that would consider company applications to temporarily waive certain state regulations that hinder the development of that company’s product or service. The waivers would be subject to review by the appropriate state agency or agencies.

“This will change a couple of things in state statute that will focus on entrepreneurship and remove regulations preventing people from being able to innovate based on the rules we have now,” Fitzwater said.

Utah, Arizona and most recently Kentucky have passed similar programs that apply to all industries. Many other states have implemented industry-specific initiatives.

The Missouri Chamber, citing opportunities identified in its recently released Technology2030 report, testified in favor of the bills.

Geisbuhler Sutherland said, “This legislation encourages innovation among small businesses in the state and it will give some flexibility when it comes to sometimes overburdensome regulations.”

The companion bill in the House is HB 1960, sponsored by Rep. Alex Riley (R-Springfield).

For more information, contact Geisbuhler Sutherland at hsutherland@mochamber.com or 573-634-3511.


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