ST. LOUIS – Entrepreneurs from across Missouri, and those who support them, are banding together to form NEXT Missouri, a coalition dedicated to advancing public policies that drive job growth across the state by easing the path for entrepreneurs and their new firms that are at the heart of the state’s economy.
State and federal job data, compiled by MOSourcelink, shows nearly 80 percent of new jobs in Missouri are created by startups and their firms. That’s an average of 40,000-plus jobs per year. Furthermore, wages paid by these new firms exceed the state average after just two years in business.
NEXT Missouri will assemble entrepreneurs and those who support them to ensure that the public and policymakers understand that it is entrepreneurs and their startup companies that drive job creation and economic growth. It will advocate and educate for strong public policy that supports entrepreneurs and startup companies.
“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,” said Ben Johnson, vice president of programs at BioSTL, who serves as president of NEXT Missouri. “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.”
At the same time, Missouri ranks dead last in the country for survival rate of startups making it past their first year, Johnson said.
NEXT Missouri will address this by giving entrepreneurs across the state a more cohesive voice on public policy decisions aimed at reducing barriers to business creation and growth, while providing a place to share information and increase their influence.
“NEXT Missouri will help ensure that the collective voice and the interests of our members – innovators and entrepreneurs – are not only heard, but are sought after. We look forward to serving as advocates in major policy decisions to raise Missouri’s profile for startups and innovation,” said NEXT Missouri member and Missouri entrepreneur Charlie Rosenbury, founder of Self Interactive in Springfield.
NEXT Missouri will begin working immediately to engage lawmakers. The coalition set two priorities for 2020: Proactively engaging policymakers to revamp state economic development policies to better recognize the role of entrepreneurs in driving job creation; and renewing funding for Missouri Technology Corporation, which serves as a proven, existing model to be supported as a component within a revamped economic development policy in Missouri.
Matt Menietti, who serves as director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the St. Louis Regional Chamber, said individual entrepreneurs are often too busy building their businesses to engage in the policy decisions that impact the growth of their businesses.
“In today’s environment, it’s more important than ever to have frank discussions with policymakers about our priorities and our needs,” he said. “The reality is that our economic development policies often focus on incentivizing large companies. We can begin to change that by creating a unified policy agenda to support entrepreneurship.”
The four key pillars of NEXT Missouri’s platform align with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s comprehensive “America’s New Business Plan” to help reduce barriers to entrepreneurship. They include:
Through sustained advocacy and policy priorities around these pillars, NEXT Missouri will help ensure entrepreneurs and their startup companies are recognized as the primary engine for job growth in Missouri, said Alexces Bartley, director and network builder for MOSourcelink in Kansas City.
“I look forward to being part of NEXT Missouri and working with innovators from all corners of the state to identify consensus policy priorities and advance them through strategic communications in a non-partisan manner,” said Bartley, who is a founding member of NEXT Missouri.
Currently, 17 organizations from all across the state have added their voices to NEXT Missouri. The coalition is now ready to add the voices of individual entrepreneurs. It is governed by an executive committee of entrepreneurial leaders and resource organizations from across Missouri. An advisory board of regional and industry champions will provide strategic advice and assist with networking.
NEXT Missouri seeks to grow to a network of 5,000 individual entrepreneurs and 50 organizations by 2022. It promises to always have a free avenue to join the coalition with an adjustable commitment level.
To learn more about or lend your voice to NEXT Missouri, visit nextmissouri.org.