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Government, Politics & Issues

Nixon says state incentives helped bring high-tech jobs here

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 9, 2011 - Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday that the same kinds of economic incentives that will help bring up to 80 jobs to the Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur can be used to attract other employment to Missouri as well.

And he said next month's special session of the legislature will be devoted to the kinds of targeted investment and fiscal discipline that will help make that plan a reality.

Nixon came to the center's BRDG Park -- Bio Research and Development Growth -- to announce that SyMoco, an international biosciences company, would become its newest tenant, starting with 10 jobs with the addition of 70 more planned for the next five years.

A subsidiary of Symbiotic Sciences Ltd. of New Delhi, India, and a joint venture partner with Mycorrhizal Applications Inc. of Oregon, SyMoco expects to develop products that will reduce the need for chemical fertilizer through the use of fungi. The process is designed to help farmers increase crop yields and resistance to weeds and disease.

The company was recruited to Missouri with the help of a $250,000 low-interest loan from the Missouri Technology Corp., to build a specialized growth chamber on the top floor of BRDG Park's Building I, and $1 million in Missouri Quality Jobs Program tax credits. It will receive the credits only after creating the required number of jobs that pay competitive wages and include health benefits, the governor's office said.

The first 10 jobs at the facility will be filled by St. Louis area workers, officials of SyMyco said.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, at a news conference announcing the new tenant at the center, called the development "a tremendous opportunity for St. Louis County," telling the business world that "we are here. We are open for business."

He said the partnership between a company in India and a company from Oregon opening a facility in St. Louis County shows how the business world has to work today.

"It's about ideas," Dooley said, "people sharing ideas in collaboration to move forward into the 21st century."

Nixon said that the effort to bring SyMyco to St. Louis is the latest example of his administration's focus on rebuilding employment in Missouri after tough times in the early years of the recession. Echoing his frequent pledge to "focus every day on every job," he said the focus will move in tandem with his promise to maintain fiscal discipline, to make sure that any economic incentives used to create jobs are ones that the state can pay for.

Noting that Missouri's unemployment rate stands at a two-year low of 8.8 percent, while exports are up, Nixon said the economic picture for the state is brightening.

"It's clear that we are about to make that turn," he said, "and it's going to be built on the backs of organizations just like this one."

Nixon had delivered a similar message last week, as he stopped at a start-up facility that builds cutting-age surgical equipment. The governor -- who faces re-election next year -- has been highlighting new jobs in medical fields as one of Missouri's best hopes for improving its economy.

He has run into some criticism from the Missouri Republican Party, which contends that the governor has been holding frequent news conferences about jobs because he's seeking to distract voters from the state's economic troubles over the past three years. The governor's official and campaign staff say he's promoting the truth -- that the state's fiscal and jobs picture is slowly improving.

Last month, Nixon came to the plant science center to announce his program for the special legislative session that will be held in Jefferson City next month. He repeated Tuesday that the session should be short and focused on programs that will make the most efficient use of the state's resources.

The governor has discouraged some Republican legislative leaders from adding any matters to the special session agenda that don't directly involve economic development -- and that don't reflect solid consensus.

For such reasons, he said, he did not include modifications of the state's Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act, which has been used by developer Paul McKee for his stalled north St. Louis redevelopment project.

Asked why the tax credit act didn't fit into his jobs theme for the special session, since McKee's plan seeks to bring employment to north St. Louis, Nixon said he didn't think the project would have as quick a turnaround for jobs as the other proposals he made for the session.

"It's going to be hard enough to make the dollars work," he said.

Asked how the turmoil in Washington is going to affect Missouri's economy, Nixon repeated his belief that state officials have to "maintain focus on what we can control."

On a tour of the renovated top floor of the BRDG Park building, Mike Amaranthus, head of Mycorrhizal Applications, noted that the work of the new partnership is designed to grow root systems several hundred times more effective because of the addition of tiny fungal threads. Applications range from landscape and forestry to soil restoration and erosion control.

He said the fungi would be grown in a concentrated space. "We don't need a lot of room," he said. "This is all about innovation. This is really a major leap."

Asked about why the company is coming to Creve Coeur, rather than establishing itself in the Northwest, Amaranthus said:

"I have deep roots in Oregon, but the incentives offered by Missouri were too good to turn down."

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