COLUMBIA, Mo — Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt today joined Mid-Missouri small business, economic development and agriculture leaders at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce to announce he has approved $10.4 million in new small business and agriculture investments through his Missouri FIRST initiative.
Missouri FIRST (Financing Investment in our Rural, Small Business and Technology communities) allows Schmitt to invest more in Main Street Missouri by revamping the state’s linked deposit program, which partners with local lenders to provide low-interest financing to small business and agricultural operations.
“Many Missourians are working harder than ever before and still struggling to get by,” Schmitt said. “Our renewed commitment to Main Street Missouri will mean more jobs and greater economic opportunity for those folks. Missouri FIRST is a commonsense way for us to support small businesses and farms with zero cost to taxpayers.”
Schmitt launched Missouri FIRST last week after a year of meeting with small business owners, farmers and community banks about what could be done to improve the linked deposit program. The changes implemented through Missouri FIRST focused on cutting red tape, expanding access and modernizing the application system.
“One of the major objectives of the Chamber of Commerce is to promote economic development, job creation and helping our small businesses acquire the needed capital to expand over time,” said Joe Henderson, President of Central Bank of Boone County and Chair of the Government Affairs Committee for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. “What the State Treasurer has done has opened up the capacity of the program to more people and provided an easier way for them to access capital and expand their businesses, which will help the community in the long-haul.”
Although agriculture is an economic driver for the state of Missouri, farmers and ranchers often struggle with securing reasonable financing. One focus of Schmitt’s Missouri FIRST reforms was expanding access to agriculture-based linked deposit loans.
“Securing financing is vital to farmers and ranchers as they plan for the future,” said Todd Hays, Vice President of the Missouri Farm Bureau and a fifth generation Missouri farmer. “Missouri FIRST is a go-to tool in our toolbox that can help customize a plan that meets individual farmers’ needs.”
Economic development experts see Missouri FIRST as an important new competitive advantage when it comes to creating and retaining jobs.
“Missouri FIRST is another option we can open up in the rural areas for our small businesses,” said Greg Tucker, State Director of Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers. “I couldn’t be any more excited about programs like this one for our small businesses.”
The Missouri State Treasurer’s Office works with local lending institutions to facilitate Missouri FIRST loans. There are approximately 115 qualified Missouri FIRST linked deposit lenders with 350 branches throughout the state.
“Today’s announcement of new investments in our small business and agriculture communities will help Missouri lead the way in economic growth,” said Max Cook, President and CEO of the Missouri Bankers Association. “Missouri FIRST empowers the banks to lend more in their communities.”
A list of lenders and program eligibility guidelines can be found online at MOFIRST.mo.gov.