By Melissa Dunson
CARTHAGE, Mo. — A Carthage company was honored Thursday by Gov. Matt Blunt as an example of both successful legislative action in the past and the direction in which Missouri and U.S. businesses need to head in the future.
Blunt toured Leggett & Platt Inc.’s 30,000-square-foot IDEA Center — Innovation, Design, Engineering and Acceleration — that was completed in January and used the company to highlight some recent changes to the state’s economic climate.
Felix Wright, chairman of Leggett’s board and former chief executive officer, said Blunt’s efforts to reform laws covering lawsuits and workers’ compensation have improved the business climate of Missouri, motivating companies like Leggett to expand within the state.
Blunt said other legislation, such as the Quality Jobs Act expansion waiting for his signature, is bringing more jobs to Missouri. The previous Quality Jobs legislation and other economic development tools have created nearly 15,000 jobs and retained more than 2,300 jobs in Missouri, he said.
Leggett is one of the companies across the state taking advantage of the enhanced enterprise zone legislation that provides tax breaks for operations constructed in certain areas. The IDEA Center is in Carthage’s new enhanced enterprise zone.
“Missouri’s economy is growing,” Blunt said. “Last year, we had 9.2 percent general revenue growth without changing the tax code. That means more people are working and in better-paying jobs.”
Blunt also highlighted Leggett’s new innovation strategy and said innovation is the area in which the United States will remain globally competitive. The IDEA Center serves as a space where those involved in invention and experimentation can work together under one roof. The staff includes engineers and physicists, and Leggett regularly brings in groups of schoolchildren to tour the operation and see where excelling in math and science can lead.
“It’s extremely hard to compete with some of the countries that pay very low wages and have few environmental protection laws,” Blunt said. “But we can compete with quality, work ethic and our innovative spirit.”
Blunt said innovation will be kept alive through education reform that emphasizes math and science, and provides more resources for the classroom. During his time in office, he has allocated increased funding for schools, and he said he would consider any education reform legislators put on his desk.
As the next step in Leggett’s leadership succession, Wright said Thursday that he made a transition into an employee-consulting position. The contract is for two years beginning June 1. According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wright will no longer serve as chief executive officer of the company but will continue as the chairman of the board of directors.
Wright said the change in position is part of the seamless transition that started last year when David Haffner took over the role of chief executive officer from Wright.
Wright has worked for Leggett for 48 years and was in leadership positions during some of the company’s greatest moments, including going public and entering the Fortune 500.
Melissa Dunson is the business writer for The Joplin Globe.
The IDEA Center cost Leggett & Platt nearly $7 million to build and furnish. The center is staffed by more than 40 employees and could create as many as 50 jobs in the future. It is the company’s international headquarters for corporate research and development.
Source: Leggett & Platt Inc.
By Melissa Dunson
- Carthage, Jasper County
Carthage attorney, reformer of revenue department, dies
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Bondswoman charged with false imprisonment
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