Budget cuts would force closure of DED offices

Friday, March 15, 2002

Business Today

JEFFERSON CITY --Bootheel lawmakers are worried state budget cuts could have a devastating impact on the region's ability to attract and retain companies at a time when economic growth is needed most.

Under Gov. Bob Holden's proposed budget for the upcoming state fiscal year, the Department of Economic Development would close its seven regional field offices, including one in Dexter. State Rep. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said the local office has been invaluable in fostering development throughout Southeast Missouri.

"It's a competitive world and our businesses and industries need every edge to compete," Mayer said. "If the office closes, I don't see us going through a period of dramatic downturn, but over the long haul I see it having a serious impact."

Closure of the offices would eliminate 21 jobs - three at each office - and save the state $896,476. DED's budget as a whole is slated to drop 7.6 percent with $21.4 million in cuts and the loss of 41 full-time positions, including those at the field offices.

DED career centers throughout the state, including one in Cape Girardeau, will remain open. Those centers provide job training and placement, among other services.

Holden has called for $480 million in core budget cuts spread among all state departments.

Unless the money is found, the offices will close July 1. Economic Development Director Driskill sponsored the legislation authorizing the field offices while representing Poplar Bluff in the House of Representatives in the early 1990s. He helped secure the funding to open the offices shortly after being appointed DED director in 1993.

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