"Neglect" at MSP could be trouble in Jefferson City

May 23, 2012

An update on the EEZ in Columbia. Plus, some say the situation at the old Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City is getting desperate.

A quick update on the ongoing saga with the Enhanced Enterprise Zone in Columbia. Even though the city council recently threw out the original proposal, the council turned around and started the process over again at its meeting this week.

After dozens of citizens voiced their concerns at the meeting, the Council still voted unanimously to go ahead with its plans to re-create an Enhanced Enterprise Zone Board, or an EEZ board.  An EEZ board would essentially be put in charge of classifying zones and compiling a list of eligible businesses for tax breaks.

Some residents, like Mitch Richards, say the EEZ simply isn’t necessary.

“This town is not blighted, it does not need to give taxpayer money to private business interests.  Columbia is regularly cited as one of the most livable and prosperous towns of its size in America,” Mitch Richards said.

Richards along with many other residents say the plan has been flawed from the start.  But the city council members say creating an EEZ would create new jobs and economic development. 

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid was not without his reservations, however.

 “It’s a decision the community has to make and I can understand people who say ‘let’s not play that game.’ But I can also understand other people who say ‘you got to play that game.’ We got to find economic opportunity for those people, the 48 percent of Columbians who don’t have college degrees,” McDavid said.

Under the current setup, the EEZ board will need to decree parts Columbia “blighted” in order for the areas to be eligible for the program. Opponents argue that local leaders do not recognize the economic potential of underdeveloped areas.  One citizen warned of an oncoming “sales tax bonanza.”

Enhanced Enterprise zones have been an issue since last year, when the board of Regional Economic Development Incorporated—on which McDavid serves—proposed the measure to offer incentives to companies creating manufacturing jobs in Columbia.

The Missouri State Penitentiary closed in 2004 due to deteriorating conditionsat the 150-year-old facility. KBIA’s Samantha Sunne explains how this deterioration has continued into the prison’s life as a Jefferson City tourist destination and historic landmark.