Home-grown lieutenant governor works to push state economy skyward

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder announces the signing of a bill at a press conference in the Governor's offi ce of the Missouri State Capitol. (Submitted photo)

Peter Kinder doesn't see his job of lieutenant governor as an idle one -- especially when it comes to doing whatever he can that will benefit the state's economy and keep Missourians working.

The Cape Girardeau native and former state senator is a member of several boards and commissions that have a direct impact on the state's bottom line.

Two of those commissions are especially critical: Kinder is a member of the Tourism Commission and chairman of the Missouri Development Finance Board, both of which are crucially important to bringing visitors, jobs and projects into the state.

Kinder was elected Missouri's 46th lieutenant governor on Nov. 2, 2004, carrying 91 of Missouri's 114 counties. He is only the second Republican elected to the post since 1928.

While Kinder's history is well-known across Southeast Missouri, a refresher is appropriate: From 1981 to 1983, Kinder served as a member of U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson's Washington staff and then worked as an attorney and real estate representative for Drury Industries. In 1987, he became associate publisher of the Southeast Missourian.

In 1992, Kinder was elected to the Missouri Senate. In 2001, the Republicans gained a majority in the Missouri Senate. As a result, Kinder was elected President Pro Tem, the top elected official in the Missouri Senate, and led that body for four years. When he ran for lieutenant governor in 2004, he became the second sitting President Pro Tem to be elected lieutenant governor.

Kinder recently chatted with Business Today about his role in state government, particularly as it relates to the economy.

BT: Talk about the boards you serve on that have a direct impact on the state's business climate and economy.

Kinder: I serve on 14 or 15 state boards and commissions. I serve on the Missouri Housing Development Commission. That group works with developers of housing, low income and elderly housing across the state, in an attempt to get affordable housing into neighborhoods and cities and towns that need it. We meet monthly. ...

Another is the Missouri Tourism Commission, where I'm vice chairman. That has a lot to say about Missouri's No. 2 industry, the hospitality tourism industry. With all the tourism attractions in St. Louis and Kansas City, there are also more than 7.5 million visitors a year to Branson. We oversee a $17 million budget, of which a large percentage is promotional advertising. We have a marketing plan to get folks to come and bring tourism dollars to our state. It's a very active commission.

The most active one I'm involved in, because I'm chairman, is the Missouri Development Finance Board. That's a board that operates as a stimulus to economic development all over the state. The issuance of tax credits make certain projects more doable when they otherwise wouldn't be. This is the board that issued tax credits for the SEMO River Campus. As a result, someone who gave $100,000 to the River Campus, it cost them $28,000. They got that tax credit on a charitable donation. So that's the most vivid example in our part of the state of the MDFB helping out with a project. We've done a host of projects in St. Louis, including complete redevelopment of the old post office downtown, which opened in March. We also have done quite a few in Kansas City. That board meets monthly and listens to pitches made to us by communities, such as the River Campus."

BT: What sort of tax credits? Like historic tax credits?

Kinder: It can be historic tax credits and in many cases are. But there are others. The Brownfield tax credits, for example, is for the clean up of old industrial sites, say, if it's loaded with asbestos or chemicals.

BT: What are some other projects have the MDFB been involved in?

Kinder: Branson Landing is another one we did. When people think of Branson, they think of Silver Dollar City and the strip. The downtown part of Branson, the dilapidated part the tourists never see down by the lake, is coming alive with hundreds of millions of dollars. The Hilton, high-rise condos. The Convention Center. Branson had never had a convention; it didn't have a place to hold them. In what was the run-down part of downtown, people are coming in from California and the East Coast. The MDFB tax credits helped. That's more than a half billion's worth of development in Old Branson. There's a Bass Pro Shop going in there. Just all kinds of developments. And the things I'm describing, any community can apply to us, to the Missouri Development Finance Board.

BT: In what other ways has the Blunt Administration impacted Missouri's job climate?

Kinder: We felt, first of all, we had to turn around Missouri's job climate by making long overdue reforms to the state's civil justice system. Consistent with our campaign pledges, we enacted tort reform in the first eight weeks and signed it into law in the middle of March last year, with unprecedented speed. ... Both sides took the case to the people in the election campaign and the people endorsed the course we were on. We delivered on that and reform of workers compensation reform that every business that has over five employees has to pay. In tandem, workers comp reform and tort reform caused a huge turn-around. ... We also had the JOBS Act last year. That's led to a number of successes already. Pfizer committed to a $200 million research expansion in their Chesterfield campus using that JOBS measure passed last year. We also succeeded in keeping Express Scripts in St. Louis. Express Scripts pioneered mail-order prescription drugs. That was an enormous success. They were considering moving out of Missouri. That's 1,000 corporate-headquarter, high-paying jobs.

BT: Is there any area where the state is falling short?

Kinder: We can always do better.

Peter Kinder

Age: 51

Born: Cape Girardeau

Position: Lieutenant Governor

Education: Kinder attended Cape Girardeau public schools before continuing his education at Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia. He graduated from St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas, in 1979, and was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1980.

Organizations: Kinder is a member of the United Methodist Church, Beta Theta Pi social fraternity, Missouri Farm Bureau, Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce and Lions Club. He is active in many civic causes, including Southeast Missouri Port Authority, United Way, Nature Conservancy, American Cancer Society and Boy Scouts of America.

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