2015 Regional Report: The Midwest

NEBRASKA | #25 | HAMPERED BY LOW EMPLOYMENT

iStock_000002065922_SmallNebraska’s stagnant labor pool reflects one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates. Nebraska’s total labor force averaged just over 1 million people in June, up one tenth of a percent from the previous May. Underscoring workforce shrinkage is a weakening manufacturing sector. This year the state has lost jobs at a nail-biting 3.8% rate through the summer.

Bob Hallstrom, Nebraska state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, says employers would like to see more training programs helping resident develop skilled trades like welding.

“I know companies that would be expanding if they could hire welders,” he says. The Tax Foundation ranks Nebraska’s state and local tax burden 25th highest out of 50 states and ranks it 29th in business tax climate. Nebraska spends over $1.4 billion a year on incentive programs.


MISSOURI |#26 | TRAILING IN GROWTH TREND

Missouri’s GDP surpassed $284 billion in 2014, 21st in the country and third largest in the Midwest. The total represented an increase of 2.8% from 2013 to 2014; the rate trailed the overall U.S. GDP growth rate by 1%.

Manufacturing represents 12.5% of the state’s economic output; government takes second place with 12.1%.

“Missouri’s economy grew more slowly than the national economy for the past 15 years, and the same theme is present in the recovery,” observes JPMorgan Chase economist James Glassman. The Tax Foundation ranks Missouri’s state and local tax burden 18th lowest out of 50 states and 17th in business tax climate. Missouri spends over $96.5 million a year on incentive programs.


KANSAS | #27 | TAX TAKEBACK

iStock_000006755117_SmallKansas’ growth has slowed after several months of expansion. Payrolls are growing less quickly than the national average and high-paying industries have shrunk over the past 12 months.

Economic development leaders fret that most of the new jobs are in low-wage industries. Business leaders cheered Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax reform initiatives, which included eliminating the small business tax and phasing in lower personal income taxes.

“Tax reform has been very positive. Kansas is now regarded as low-tax state, very easy to do business with,” says site selector Gigerich. Recent revenue shortcomings—the pre-reform $380 million budget reserve is now a two-year $700 million gap—have prompted some tax policy reversals; business leaders hope the governor sticks to his promises.