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Missouri to consider Georgia rural development program

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A new bill from Sen. Justin Brown would provide additional incentives to investors contributing to rural Missouri businesses if passed by the legislature. 

Brown’s SB 675 — deemed the Missouri Rural Workforce Development Act — would provide an incentive for those making capital investments in a fund to be distributed to rural areas of the state. Participants would be eligible for a tax credit covering 15 percent of an investment annually for four years beginning two years after an investment is made. 

Sen. Justin Brown

The bill, as filed, would cap credits at $25 million per year.  

“Time and time again, capital investors tell us that the availability of state tax credits are one of the most critical factors when considering business start-up and expansion proposals,” Brown previously said. “More often than not, they’ll pass by states that don’t come to the negotiating table with their own stake in the game. Investors want to know that state governments are willing to share in the investment and become partners in job creation.”

Investors who have put at least $100 million in small communities across the country, including $30 million in Missouri, would be eligible to apply with the Department of Economic Development (DED) to receive credits. Recipients would be required to distribute 60 percent of their investment commitments within two years and 100 percent within three years. 

The bill requires 70 percent of investments to be made in rural small businesses with 250 or fewer employees. 

Rural fund programs would have to submit annual reports to DED and could apply to exit the program six years after an initial investment. DED could recapture credits from investors who do not keep up with the requirements the legislation would create. 

Georgia, which has been named the top state for economic development, has a similar program on the books. The Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act of 2017 created a tax credit opportunity for investors in the Peach State, leading to 1,000 new or retained jobs, investments in 33 rural communities, and 56 percent more in revenue than distributed through tax credits, according to a report from the Georgia Tech Center for Economic Development.

Georgia economic development officials attributed the program to the creation of those jobs in places like Pearson, a town of 2,700 in south Georgia. The Cady Bag Company received maximum participation from the program and created 124 full-time jobs that are still there, in addition to more jobs this year. 

Missouri would receive $166 million in private capital investments in the first three years of the program’s life cycle, increasing revenue through income, sales, and property taxes, according to the study. 

Of Missouri’s 114 counties, only 11 boast populations above 90,000 people, according to the center. 

A similar bill was considered late during the previous session, though it failed to make it to the Senate floor. However, this session there are plans to push for the extension of several agriculture industry-related tax credits. 

Agriculture is the state’s top industry, employing nearly 400,000 Missourians and bringing around $88 billion annually. Missouri ranks No. 2 in farms among U.S. states.