A new effort by a coalition of Missouri policy-focused organizations aims to give Show Me State entrepreneurs a voice among legislators, as well as renew funding for an agency known for providing meaningful cash injections to Kansas City startups.
Among the key priorities for NEXT Missouri — a 17-member-strong group, backed by the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City and buoyed by MOSourcelink’s Show Me Jobs report — is restoring the potency of the Missouri Technology Corporation, a public-private partnership to promote entrepreneurship and foster the growth of new and emerging high-tech companies.
Many in the Kansas City startup community are most familiar with MTC through its financial support of the popular LaunchKC grants competition — a partnership between the EDC and the Downtown Council of Kansas City — which in previous years awarded as much as $550,000 across 10 winning companies.
Click here to read more about 10 Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2020.
MTC is a critical mechanism to support entrepreneurs through their difficult first years of business, said Quinten Messbarger, vice president of the Missouri Innovation Center, a member organization within the NEXT Missouri coalition. In recent years, the MTC agency has seen its budget reduced and future questioned.
“We need to work with the public sector in order to make sure Missouri is investing in the right companies and creating an economic return on investment,” he said. “Allocating a sufficient amount of resources for the right ideas can be a catalyst for economic growth and retaining the country’s most innovative minds here in Missouri.”
NEXT Missouri can make an impact by proactively engaging policymakers to revamp state economic development policies to better recognize the role of entrepreneurs in driving job creation, said Ben Johnson, vice president of programs at BioSTL, who serves as president of NEXT Missouri.
Click here to learn more about NEXT Missouri, as well as to see its list of members.
Johnson and the coalition cite state job data, compiled by MOSourcelink, that shows nearly 80 percent of new jobs in Missouri — 40,000-plus jobs per year — are created by startups with fewer than 20 employees. Wages paid by these new firms exceed the state average after two years, they added.
“New startups and their businesses are transforming Missouri’s economy, but the momentum is often uneven across Missouri, whether by geography or demographics or industry sector,” Johnson said. “Our coalition will work to bridge the economic divide between urban and rural areas by ensuring the opportunities and the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship are accessible to all Missouri communities.”
NEXT Missouri seeks to grow to a network of 5,000 individual entrepreneurs and 50 organizations by 2022.