Rural economic development caucus hopes to expand view on state’s economy

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new fledgling caucus hopes to shine a light onto the state’s economy outside the economic engines of St. Louis and Kansas City.

The Rural Economic Development caucus, chaired by Rep. Joe Don McGaugh and vice chaired by Rep. Hannah Kelly, met for the first time earlier this month focused on highlighting the economic work done outside of Missouri’s two largest cities.

“Much like people talk about what’s good for Kansas City is good for Missouri, what’s good for St. Louis is good for Missouri, normally what’s good for agriculture is good for Missouri too,” McGaugh said.

Some of the key issues the caucus wants to explore include rural broadband expansion to boost small businesses and give rural students equal opportunity, job training and encouraging entrepreneurship in rural areas. Rep. Jeanie Lauer spoke to the group about workforce development at one of the caucus’ first meetings and Jackson Tough, the executive director of the El Dorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, is expected to speak at their next one.

Despite the fact the caucus was founded by six Republicans, two Democrats from the St. Louis region, Reps. Tracy McCreery and Bruce Franks, have said they are keen on attending more meetings, which McGaugh welcomes. He wants a wide variety of perspectives to contribute to the caucus’ agenda and possibly gain some insight from urban and suburban legislators.

“As far as the workforce side of it, [Franks] gets it,” McGaugh listed as an example. “He’s worked with young folks in his district to try to get them jobs, internships, that kind of thing. We want them to come to our meetings and hear what we’re talking about.”

The caucus does not yet have solid legislative plans, but McGaugh sees the formative part of the caucus investigating what can be done to help their own localities. McGaugh hopes the group continues to meet in the interim and follow in the footsteps of Rep. Bill Reiboldt’s agriculture committee, which often toured farms and ethanol producing plants.

Reiboldt is also a member of the rural economic development caucus, along with Kelly, and Reps. Jay Houghton, Sandy Crawford, Warren Love, and Don Rone.

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