SPRINGFIELD, Mo — Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt was joined by business and finance leaders today in Springfield to launch Missouri FIRST (Financing Investment in our Rural, Small Business and Technology communities), a new initiative aimed at helping small businesses and agricultural operations grow and expand.
Schmitt has spent much of the past year gathering feedback from small business owners, farmers and community banks about how to improve Missouri’s linked deposit program, which works with lenders to provide low-interest loans to small businesses and agricultural operations. Schmitt leveraged that insight to identify opportunities to improve the program and make it stronger than ever before.
The Missouri FIRST initiative launched today implements those changes with a focus on cutting red tape, expanding access and modernizing the linked deposit system.
“Small businesses and farms are the backbone of our state’s economy, but many that were set back by the recession have been struggling to grow ever since,” Schmitt said. “Missouri FIRST will create jobs for hardworking Missourians and revitalize Main Street by encouraging investment in our state’s economy. This program is about expanding opportunity and reaching our fullest economic potential as a state.”
A few of the changes implemented to the linked deposit program include the elimination of a single-use restriction on borrowers, the expansion of eligibility criteria for agricultural loans and a streamlined application process. Existing linked deposit partnerships mean nearly one-third of Missouri lending institutions are already qualified to participate in the program.
“By cutting red tape in Missouri’s linked deposit program and launching Missouri FIRST, Treasurer Schmitt is empowering local lenders to spark new investment in Main Street Missouri,” said Max Cook, President and CEO of the Missouri Bankers Association. “This program will allow lenders to better serve their customers while helping small businesses and agricultural operations grow and expand.”
The Missouri FIRST initiative reflects a renewed prioritization of economic opportunity in the state’s investment portfolio. Treasurer Schmitt is authorized to invest up to $720 million through the linked deposit program.
“At a time when small businesses are still struggling, Treasurer Schmitt has stepped up to the plate and delivered a solution for kick-starting our economy,” said Dan Mehan, President of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Missouri FIRST gives our state a new competitive advantage when it comes to creating and retaining jobs.”
In addition to job creation and retention, another goal of Missouri FIRST is to encourage rural economic development by increasing linked deposit participation among farmers and ranchers.
“Farmers often struggle with securing reasonable financing for starting or expanding their operations,” said Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Bureau. “Treasurer Schmitt is addressing that problem head-on with Missouri FIRST, which is an important new tool for spurring economic development in rural Missouri.”
There are approximately 115 qualified Missouri FIRST linked deposit lenders with 350 branches throughout the state. A list of lenders and program eligibility guidelines can be found online at MOFIRST.mo.gov.