The only war on politicians' minds Wednesday was the battle for jobs | St. Louis Public Radio

The only war on politicians' minds Wednesday was the battle for jobs

Sep 1, 2010

The day after President Barack Obama gave a major speech on Iraq, all of the major political events on Wednesday were focused on -- jobs.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley headlined a packed business luncheon in Clayton hosted by the county's Economic Council, and featuring a bipartisan array of politicians in the audience or on screen. (A special video narrated by Dooley, a Democrat, honored retiring U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.)

Although officially a nonpartisan, nonpolitical gathering, Dooley got a laugh when he told the crowd of more than 800 that "I look forward to being here next year to talk about the successes of St. Louis County."

Dooley, of course, is running for re-election this fall against Republican Bill Corrigan.

Most of the luncheon focused on honoring various county businesses that have recently created jobs.

The biggest news was the announcement that a consortium of local business developers have submitted an offer to purchase the 290-acre site of the former Chrysler assembly plant in Fenton, closed for almost a year. Such a sale has been on Dooley's plate for months.

Carnahan proposes bill to help new high-tech firms

Right afterward, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis (and who attended the luncheon), held a news conference in the Central West End, to announce that he was introducing a bill "that will help St. Louis area entrepreneurs launch new bioscience businesses, leveraging the region’s strength as a hub for biotechnology into long-term economic development."

Called the "SEED Act, short for "Supporting Entrepreneurial Economic Development," the bill is aimed at giving business incubators "greater flexibility to help biotech entrepreneurs access 'seed-stage' funding, " Carnahan said.

The proposal doesn't use any additional federal money, he said, but "fills a void in funding that threatens bioscience entrepreneurs' ability to grow and hire new workers."

From the release:

"Despite the fact that biotechnology start-ups rely on non-debt financing -- or 'seed' funding -- for proof of concept development, private investment in this earliest stage of financing has evaporated, threatening biotech entrepreneurs’ ability to grow, hire more workers and ultimately bring their product to market."

Carnahan noted that St. Louis area business and civic leaders have been promoting the region as "a hub for biotechnology, life and plant science research and business."

But he also pointed to disappointing statistics: Missouri ranked very low -- 45th out of the 50 states -- when it comes to new businesses formed over the past three years.

The congressman said his new effort fits in with his Regional Jobs Plan that he released earlier this year.

Martin promotes 'Shop Local-Hire Local' plan

Carnahan's Republican rival in the Nov. 2 election, St. Louis lawyer Ed Martin, also is thinking about jobs. Despite Wednesday's rain, Martin showed up Maplewood at its outdoor farmers market to promote his "Shop Local-Hire Local grassroots program" and expand it to area farmers and agricultural businesses.

Martin calls his proposal an "action plan for jobs" and says it grew out of roundtable meetings he held with small businesspeople.

Martin said that many told him that they didn't need federal tax breaks and incentives as much as they "simply need customers."

"More customers will lead to the need for more employees," he said. He bills his Shop Local-Hire Local effort as "publicly encouraging all Missourians to look to local businesses and local workers first."

Martin is seeking to expand his idea to the agricultural industry, and cited his recent endorsement by the Missouri Farm Bureau, which often backs Republicans. Martin maintains that the organization prefers him over Carnahan, who was backed by the bureau in 2008, in part because Martin opposes the federal energy and anti-pollution measure dubbed "cap and trade."

Carnahan voted last year in favor of the bill, which now languishes in the U.S. Senate. Critics say the measure would increase energy costs for many businesses and households. Carnahan cites provisions in the bill that would encourage the creation of environmentally friendly "green jobs."

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.