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Missouri Chamber survey finds crime, childcare top issues for business leaders

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(The Center Square) – Research commissioned by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry found public safety and childcare are primary concerns to the state’s business leaders.

A survey conducted for the organization by CHS and Associates found 90% of chief executive officers and leaders consider crime and public safety a growing or top concern. The poll found 80% of leaders believe the expense and difficulty in finding childcare is keeping Missourians out of the workforce.

The chamber annually commissions a poll to determine opinions on the economy, the business climate, the overall direction of the state and additional concerns. The survey found 9% of leaders stated public safety and crime were not a concern in Missouri and 1% was undecided.

“The Missouri business community is nearly unanimous on this issue – crime is hurting our state’s economic competitiveness,” Dan Mehan, president and chief executive officer of the Missouri Chamber, said in a statement. “Additionally, it’s time to think about childcare as critical infrastructure. We can’t afford to lose a single worker due to a lack of childcare availability. During the 2024 legislative session, the Missouri Chamber will make addressing these concerns our top priority.”

When asked if the expense and difficulty in finding childcare keeps a significant number of Missourians out of the workforce, 80% of those surveyed agreed and 17% somewhat disagreed. When asked if tax incentives for their companies would make them more likely to offer some type of childcare benefits to employees, 64% agreed while 31% disagreed.

Several bills were filed for the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 3, 2024. House Bill 1488, sponsored by Brenda Shields, R-St. Joseph, and Senate Bill 742, sponsored by Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, both would create a childcare contribution tax credit.

Senate Bill 881, sponsored by Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, would create a pilot program for childcare with a cost-sharing arrangement between employers, employees and the state. In order to qualify for Razer’s proposed program, an employee’s income must be between 201% and 325% of the federal poverty level.

The survey found 27% of the respondents said general labor is the biggest obstacle for growth in their business, followed by 25% responding “do not know.” When asked about the size of their workforce, 55% said it would remain the same and 36% predicted an increase. The greatest concern, identified by 62% of respondents, was “finding employees with professional skills such as showing up on time, dressing appropriately, verbal skills and the ability to work with others,” according to the survey.

The state’s economic competitiveness is being impacted by “the rising crime rate in Missouri,” according to 69% of the respondents while 29% disagreed.

House Bill 1481, sponsored by Rep. Brad Christ, R-St. Louis, would return the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to control of a governor-appointed board instead of the city of St. Louis. A similar bill didn’t advance during last year’s session.

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