By Kansas City Business Journal

The Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act, which includes an incentive package of as much as $100 million for Ford Motor Co., is headed to Gov. Jay Nixon.

An initial bill had passed the House in late June, but stalled in the Senate, which passed its version of the bill 20-7 about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday after a filibuster attempt. The House then approved the Senate bill by a 101-40 vote, sending it to Nixon, who released a statement Wednesday afternoon supporting the initiativeâ¿¿s passage.

⿿With the sharper, stronger economic tools provided by this jobs bill, Missouri can make sure that our automotive industry remains vibrant for generations to come,⿝ Nixon said in the statement.

The act would let qualified suppliers or manufacturing facilities that invest in their Missouri production facilities hang on to employee income tax withholdings, as much as $15 million a year for 10 years, capped at $10 million a year for a single company. The incentives are awarded after improvements are made and jobs are preserved.

The approved bill mirrored the one Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Gladstone, introduced at the beginning of the special session, before potentially problematic amendments were added in the House, such as incentives for underground data centers. However, the bill was linked with a bill to reform state pensions, so both bills now are advancing to Nixon.

Nolte expressed satisfaction at the result, saying the bill was about good-paying jobs for Missouri families.

⿿There⿿s been an awful lot said about this that has just clouded the issue ⿿ things that were not accurate,⿝ he said Wednesday. ⿿The idea that this is some kind of a bailout is just off. It⿿s a performance-based incentive, with penalties. ... It⿿s far from a sweetheart deal with Ford.⿝

Lawmakers hope Ford (NYSE: F) will maintain and expand production at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, which employs roughly 3,700.

Nixon had called a special session for the bill.

United Auto Workers Local 249, which represents plant workers, had reported that some production from the plant would move to Louisville, Ky., next year, prompting concern about the roughly 3,700 jobs there. Ford declined to confirm or deny the report.

Nolte said the bill makes Missouri more attractive in an environment in which other states have offered automakers much higher dollar figures.

⿿I think what this does is put us in competitive footing to where we will be able to get in a good line of product that they can produce at Claycomo and keep a lot of folks employed at as large a capacity as possible,⿝ he said.

Although other states have offered double or triple the incentives, Missouri doesnâ¿¿t have to match those because of assets such as trained employees and low energy costs, Nolte said.

Now, itâ¿¿s a matter of waiting for Fordâ¿¿s response.

Nolte said he didnâ¿¿t think it was reasonable to expect a response until the legislation was final and the structure was in place.

He also said he thinks the legislation lays the groundwork, in the next regular session, for expanding the incentives to other types of manufacturers, as well as for offering broad-based tax relief for small and midsized businesses to create a ⿿more business-friendly environment.⿝

But for now, heâ¿¿s reveling in the billâ¿¿s success.

⿿It feels pretty darn good,⿝ Nolte said.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents nearly 3,000 employers who provide about 425,000 state jobs, agrees.

⿿We are pleased that lawmakers are allowing Missouri to put its best effort forward to save critical jobs connected to the auto manufacturing industry,⿝ Missouri Chamber CEO Daniel Mehan said in a statement. ⿿Our state is one step closer to securing these specific 4,000 jobs in Claycomo, in addition to the thousands of jobs all over Missouri that support this plant and others like it.⿝

But Ruth Ehresman, director of health and budget policy for the Missouri Budget Project, said the nonprofit was ⿿extremely disappointed⿝ with the outcome of the special session.

⿿During the last months of the regular legislative session the legislature began a discussion about ways to evaluate the effectiveness of tax credits, and how to balance tax credits with other budget priorities,⿝ she said in a statement. ⿿Expanding tax credits outside of those discussions is counterproductive. We understand the pressure communities feel at the prospect of potentially losing jobs. It would have been more fiscally responsible to place the new tax credits granted to Ford Motor Co. within existing capped tax credits.⿝

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals

Copyright 2010