Reinvigorating Job Growth in Missouri
Immediately following his second gubernatorial inauguration in 1981, Christopher “Kit” Bond set out to fulfill a campaign promise to reinvigorate job growth in Missouri. Amidst challenging economic times, the state needed to attract new business, but Governor Bond also felt that the expenses associated with doing so should not be passed along to taxpayers.
To address this urgent need, the Governor convened key members of his staff from the Department of Consumer Affairs, Regulation and Licensing (CARL) as well as Tom Bash, a Kansas City businessman who specialized in marketing. Jo Frappier, the Director of CARL, was especially instrumental. He and Governor Bond discussed in great detail that there was competition between Missouri communities where cooperation was truly needed. By May of 1981, a framework was in place and the Missouri Foundation for Economic Development was incorporated. The original signers of the Articles of Incorporation were:
- Governor Kit Bond
- Jo Frappier - Director of Department of Consumer Affairs, Regulation and Licensing
- Steve Dust - Director of Economic and Community Development
- Tom Bash - Specialist in Community Development
Jim Cumbee, the Assistant Director of CARL, was named as the first Agent, a title that later evolved into the position of Executive Director.
Launching the Hawthorn Foundation
The next year was spent on extensive marketing efforts, with thousands of letters being sent to businesses large and small across the state to introduce the new foundation. To represent the entire state working together, the organization was named the Hawthorn Foundation in 1982 after the state flower.
In early 1983, the inaugural Board of Directors of the Hawthorn Foundation was established. The founding board members were:
- Edward T. Baur - Baur Properties, St. Louis
- Rachel Balbach - Centerre Bank, St. Louis
- Martin Toma - Essex Construction, Herculaneum
- William W. Quigg - Central Bank, Jefferson City
Efforts to grow the size of the board continued, and through private contributions and board dues, the group was able to establish a fund for the sitting Governor, regardless of party, to travel and promote Missouri business overseas. Delegations also visited other states to learn best practices and collaborate with innovators working on similar public/private partnerships at the state level.
Forming Missouri Partnership
Hawthorn Foundation was housed within the Department of Consumer Affairs, Regulation and Licensing, later the Department of Economic Development. In the early 2000s, Hawthorn became a separate entity no longer under the umbrella of DED, though a strong relationship still exists today. At the same time, there was a movement to have a separate organization that would focus solely on bringing in new business to the state, with DED focusing more directly on helping to grow and support existing Missouri businesses.
In the Spring of 2006, the Hawthorn Foundation board was presented with a proposal to help form a sister organization, to be called the Missouri Partnership. Increasing competition among states to attract large, overseas businesses made it clear that a “force multiplier” needed to be added to the current structure in order to further business growth in Missouri. Hawthorn Foundation was to become a key funder to bring the Missouri Partnership to fruition. Opened in 2007, the Missouri Partnership can now boast leading and/or supporting 137 successful projects resulting in 17,500 new jobs, $905 million in new annual payroll, and $2.12 billion in new capital investment.
Funding Opportunities to Promote Missouri Abroad
While delving into these innovative projects, Hawthorn Foundation has stayed true to its founding ideas. Early on, Hawthorn helped to establish offices in Germany and Japan to promote the benefits of doing business with and in Missouri. Funds have been continuously provided so that Governors Bond, Ashcroft, Carnahan, Holden, Blunt, Nixon, and Greitens could travel both domestically and internationally to gather ideas and create business opportunities. Leaders have traveled abroad with the St. Louis Symphony to share our artistic talent and also with members of our state police forces who conducted training in community policing. Other trips were taken to promote the sale of high tech military hardware in Greece, agricultural products in Canada and Cuba, auto parts in Mexico, agricultural chemicals in Brazil, professional services in the UK and Switzerland, consumer goods in Southeast Asia, and electrical appliances in the Middle East. The list is extensive, there are simply too many initiatives to name separately. The funds consistently provided by Hawthorn and its membership have meant that taxpayer money is not touched for these efforts but business opportunities that could not have taken place otherwise have been established and resulted in success for our state.
Preserving Missouri's Defense Industry
In 2013, Hawthorn began work with DED with the goal of preserving the $16 billion defense industry in Missouri. The effort was designed to keep Missouri jobs in defense as well as protect our military installations, their surrounding communities and the jobs they provide. Efforts coordinated between the state, and our congressional delegations led to securing the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency with 3,000+ jobs on a $1.7 billion campus in North St. Louis.
Supporting Statewide Initatives
Over its 35-year existence, Hawthorn staff and membership have lent expertise to numerous initiatives statewide. To cite a few recent examples, Hawthorn applied for federal grants through USA Funds to create workforce development programs at some of our state universities. Hawthorn gathered members as well as constituents to participate in fact-finding sessions to help create the framework for a statewide military strategic plan. The Governor’s Innovation Task Force (GITF) was convened in mid-2017, with Hawthorn sponsorship, to help foster a better environment for business startups and entrepreneurs, letting them know that Missouri is “open for business.” Work recently concluded on a state fleet management task force—the first of a series of task forces which will help improve government efficiency and effectiveness by bringing together public and private talent from all around the state.
Today the Hawthorn Foundation has over 140 members. They range from multi-national companies to entrepreneurial firms and fellow economic development agencies. These are our partners who invest their time and talents in the Hawthorn Foundation. It was Kit Bond’s vision and the work of his team that paved the way for the dynamic entity and public-private partnership that is the essence of the Hawthorn Foundation. The organization will continue to work diligently toward development, growth and prosperity for the great state of Missouri. We consider ourselves fortunate to be able to celebrate the Hawthorn Foundation, its founder and look ahead to future initiatives directed and supported by Hawthorn.