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Retailers Celebrate Approval Of Pro-Business Legislation In Missouri

Missouri retailers supply chain MGA
Dan Shaul

Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 10:42 am

The Missouri Grocers Association and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry are celebrating multiple wins following this year’s state legislative session. 

“[It] will go down as one of the more productive for Missouri job creators,” said Dan Mehan, chamber president and CEO, in a July press release. 

Gov. Mike Parson signed 31 pieces of legislation into law, a majority of which the chamber supported for “prioritizing the business community.”

The most significant measure is a $2.8 billion commitment to expand Missouri’s largest interstate, I-70, to three lanes in both directions across the state.

“The corridor is vital to the global supply chains for many industries,” said Mehan in his organization’s magazine, Missouri Business. “An upgrade has been long overdue.”

MGA Executive State Director Dan Shaul told The Shelby Report that both I-70 and the state’s I-44 corridors are dangerous. 

“You have to be awake, you have to pay attention. The last thing you want is for trucks to be delayed,” he said. “With a tight supply, we have many just-in-time deliveries, which makes a huge difference – not only to warehouses but a retailer.”

While it will be a major improvement to the state’s supply chain capabilities, residents shouldn’t expect changes any time soon. Shaul projected the extra lanes could take at least five years to complete. 

According to the MCCI, the highway hasn’t undergone an economic impact survey – the first step in the construction process – since 2005. The study will be followed by a year of project development from the Missouri Department of Transportation. The nearly 200 miles of highway will take an estimated four to six years to widen. 

Improvements are also set for I-44, as $20 million was approved to conduct an environmental impact study on the highway. But Shaul is wary. 

“We’re talking years for [I-70]. I’m not sure – I don’t know if anybody is sure – when we are going to have this type of money again to put in infrastructure. It’s great that we’re planning for it,” he said.

Before the beginning of each legislative session, MCCI surveys CEOs and business leaders across the state. The results included taking steps to curb Missouri’s rising crime, as well as building and retaining a skilled workforce. Both are top priority for MGA members, according to Shaul. 

The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations hopes to see a workforce increase as 2023 marks the final year of the state’s gradual rise to a $12 minimum wage that began in 2019.

Even with the climb, Missouri retailers are still struggling to find and retain quality workers. Shaul attributed the problem to unemployment. To receive jobless benefits, residents must prove that they are looking for work, leaving many retailers “high and dry.”

“Our retailers are continuing to find good help…our retailers continue to get people that apply but then won’t show up…they don’t really want the job; they just to be able to satisfy their unemployment requirements,” Shaul explained. 

In an effort to fill openings, he also said many retailers are hiring employees above the new minimum wage. 

The state is working to combat crime. SB 186 aims to deter certain types by strengthening penalties as well as supporting efforts to recruit law enforcement officers. Shaul said he expects members to be pleased with the changes. 

“They’re happy when they can get some help from the outside to help them run their business,” he said. “Certainly, if we can reduce the amount of crime in our stores – and also around our stores – that helps us…I think what we would all like to see is the prosecutors follow through and utilize those tools to their benefit and our retailers’ benefit.” 

In particular, he mentioned prosecutors in St. Louis saying that shoplifting was never considered a priority.

“We’ve had some changes in that office, so we’ll see if anything [comes] with that…I think we’ll see an increase in prosecution…I think the legislation did the right thing by giving the prosecutors these tools and law enforcement these tools.”

Another measure, SB 183, establishes universal factors for bail, creates a law enforcement training reimbursement program and stiffens sentencing standards for repeat violent offenders. It also sets minimum prison terms for armed criminal action. 

In a separate development, the state also reauthorized the employee stock ownership plan tax deduction, which the chamber described as a “valuable tool that promotes employee ownership and fosters a positive business environment in our state.”

In 2016, Missouri lawmakers created a 50 percent income tax deduction on the proceeds business owners receive when they enter into an ESOP. The incentive, which encourages businesses to become ESOPs, had been set to expire in 2022. 

Many grocers have been establishing ESOPs over the last 20 years, according to Shaul. 

“It’s becoming more common. It’s nice for the legislature recognize that … and maybe trying to make sure that ownership stays in the state … I think overall the general assembly has been trying to do the right thing to help our independent grocers and independent businesses as a whole.”

Looking ahead to 2024, Shaul said the MGA is preparing for the presidential election year. The organization expects much “campaign legislation” or bills geared “strictly toward the campaign and opposition.”

MGA plans to oppose any proposal that would follow a trend of local ordinances that have limited or banned the sale of 50ml alcohol bottles. According to Shaul, municipalities attribute the ban to excess pollution. 

He pointed to the city of Joplin, which nearly banned it before realizing the amount of sales tax that would be lost, as well as testimony from an unlikely source.

“There was actually a group that spoke, the people who have abused alcohol [in the past]. They said that it would increase alcohol abuse…instead of drinking one, two, three shooters, they’ll buy a fifth and drink all of that. There was also talk from the homeless population.”

In association news, the MGA is preparing for its fall show, which will have an emphasis on emerging technologies. With the theme “Every Day is Game Day,” the event is set for Oct. 25-27 at Camden on the Lake Resort.

Read more market profiles from The Shelby Report.

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