Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The office of State Treasurer is critical during times of economic crisis, so when Clint Zweifel was elected two years ago, he was ready to hit the ground running.
“We really focused on building the economy,” Zweifel said. “We got a lot of work done with a bipartisan economic development bill that helps small businesses and the agriculture industry.”
That bipartisan effort was met with zero no votes in the general assembly. Zweifel believes it has really helped businesses in Missouri.
“We have touched 7,000 farms and jobs in Missouri,” he said. “The loans come from existing community banks to help with cash flow, upgrades and other items. We created a better economy for our agriculture and small businesses.”
One-hundred community banks were participating when the program first began. That number has since tripled with 300 banks across the state helping give loans to small businesses and farms.
The penetration in central Missouri is especially impressive according to Zweifel. There are six banks in Fulton that are eligible lending sites for the program.
Zweifel knows there is a lot of work left to do, but believes these first steps have helped Missourians.
“When we look at the success of small businesses, 75 percent of jobs created are for small businesses,” he said. “And agriculture is the backbone of Missouri’s economy. We live in a global economy. We are exporting our products all over the world.”
And during the regrowth after an economic collapse, Zweifel wants to help.
“During a tough economy, we want to help our small businesses and farms survive,” he said. “When the economy is back in a few years, we hope this money helps them thrive.”
The loan program has helped both start-up businesses and existing ones in a variety of areas including pharmacies, hardware stores and a life sciences organization.
“We really want to push people’s buttons in a broad-based way,” Zweifel said. “We will continue here and now to make a better situation. There is a lot of work ahead. For small businesses, these can be some of the toughest times, but with the investments we are taking now, we hope this helps five to 10 years down the road.”
Zweifel is also happy about the work Missouri has done to help families save for college in Missouri.
“The Missouri Most program is a tax deferred program that helps families in Missouri prepare for their children’s college,” he said.
Zweifel himself is the first person in his family to have attended college. He understands the lack of access for some Missouri families.
“This is a tool in the toolbox for parents, grandparents and aunt and uncles to help keep money for college,” he said. “I would bet that for most Missouri students, there is a combination of student loans, scholarships, parents money, financial aid and personal savings paying for college.”
But with this program, a small amount each month can help parents save a large amount when their child graduates high school.
“If you put $50 in this fund starting when your child is born, it will be at about $18,000 when that child graduates high school,” Zweifel said. “Now, that may not pay for all of that student’s college, but it’s a big help.”
The Missouri Most program allows parents to get a tax deduction when putting money into the fund, and is tax free when the money is removed, as long as the money is used under federal guidelines for college.
Zweifel said it was a response when realizing what Missourians were experiencing trying to send kids to college.
“We really thought about how we could continue to help parents in such difficult times. Sometimes parents have almost nothing to save at the end of a paycheck,” he said. “Missourians really responded and the assets and accounts have still grown.
“I am proud of Missourians for continuing to save and invest in the future.”