Nixon, 5 past governors discuss economic development
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — All six of Missouri’s living governors gathered Friday to tout their administrations’ economic development accomplishments and discuss the importance of building trade relationships with foreign countries.
Gov. Jay Nixon said it was the first time he had and past Govs. Kit Bond, John Ashcroft, Roger Wilson, Bob Holden and Matt Blunt had appeared together. Nixon said the largest previous gathering was when five of the governors attended the 2009 funeral of former Gov. Warren Hearnes, who served from 1965 to 1973.
“Clearly we live at a time where there is a world environment,” Nixon said in promoting the mission of the event’s organizer, the Hawthorn Foundation, a private, nonprofit created in 1982 by Bond to facilitate business recruitment, retention and development efforts. One of the foundation’s focuses is helping to pay the cost of foreign trade missions by Missouri officials.
Blunt, Nixon’s Republican predecessor, said Missouri has “some natural things we can seize on,” noting the state’s expertise in plant and animal sciences and its central location.
Schedules were shuffled to make the gathering at the Kansas City Southern headquarters happen. Discussing the unique event, Ashcroft kidded afterward: “I always felt that I’m a nickel that got thrown in a drawer full of quarters.”
Ashcroft, a Republican who was governor from 1985 to 1993, described a trade mission to Japan that included members of the St. Louis Symphony. He credited the trip with helping to lure Kawasaki Motors to build a small-engine plant in Maryville.
Ashcroft, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994, was in the midst of a tight re-election race in October 2000 when his opponent, Gov. Mel Carnahan, died in a plane crash. With the election just weeks away, it was too late to change the ballots. Posthumously, Carnahan defeated Ashcroft — the first time a dead man had been elected to the U.S. Senate.
Wilson, a Democrat who served as governor for less than three months after Carnahan’s death, described a trade mission to Australia designed to promote oak from Missouri trees for the barrels used to age wines and spirits. He said having private funding for the trade trips was important because no matter how successful they were, there was a risk of the public viewing them as nothing but “junkets.”
This story has been corrected to reflect that Ashcroft was governor from 1985 to 1993, instead of 1976 to 1985, and that Kawasaki Motors plant is in Maryville, instead of Marysville.