Dave Spence: Missouri Governor Candidate Wants to Create Jobs
This business entrepreneur and self-professed political outsider says he wants to apply lessons learned from business building to restore "Missouri's greatness." He characterizes himself as tough but fair.
Dave Spence would like to be CEO of Missouri.
As a grassroots businessman and job creator, Spence now seeks a new job of becoming Missouri's next governor.
The Missouri native told about 25 attendees of the Wild Horse Township Republicans Saturday in Wildwood the best candidate for the state's governor "should not be from the (political) system." Wild Horse Township Republican members meet at Meadows of Wildwood.
Spence said Missouri is failing in many critical areas:
- Missouri higher education funding ranks 49th out of 50 states.
- Missouri ranks 50th in job growth over the last three years.
- The number of unemployed Missourians remains 250,000-plus.
- Missouri ranked 48th out of 50 in the country in job creation in 2010.
"At this pace, it would take us until 2029 to recover," he said, citing that he would like to reverse the trend of Missouri college graduates having to go to other states' cities, such as Chicago and Atlanta, to find jobs.
"I recently looked at Missouri through my (college) kids' eyes. We can continue to try to deny it, but Missouri continues to slip. This is crazy," he said.
Spence said unity should be built across the state, rather than perpertuating the existing rural versus urban and St. Louis versus Kansas City type of internal competing situations. "We need to put the wars away."
He said Missouri has a good population center, rail hubs, rivers, interstates and strong agricultural regions. "Why aren't we doing more with all this?" he posed Saturday.
Pointing to the consecutive loss of three directors for Missouri's Department of Economic Development, Spence said "enough is enough." He said he believes it's time for someone with fresh eyes and energy to take a run at running the state's business development.
Spence said he also has analyzed Missouri from an economic standpoint. "We're being told a lie in Missouri. If you peel back the layers of the onion, you'll find we have $470 million put into a rainy day fund. That's a cash flow issue. We may have a balanced budget, but we're fighting over the pie, Missouri's revenue."
What qualifies Spence for these type of assessments? He spent the last 27 years growing a small business, Alpha Packaging, from 15 employees to more than 800. It is a St. Louis-based plastics manufacturing company located on Page Industrial Boulevard. He also served as chairman of Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging. He won several business recognitions, including two Fast Track Awards from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.
Evaluating from a business perspective, Spence said he had to wonder if Missouri really needs 16 branches of government.
"We need to find the best people to run Missouri, those who have the passion and ethics to run it well. And not go by the buddy system," he said.
With 12 percent to 13 percent unemployment overall and 30 percent to 40 percent in certain Missouri cities, Spence said state officials have enabled "multigenerational welfare families." He said it's time to teach people to not live off the state.
"It's time for tough love. If people can't pass drug tests, they should be cut off from welfare. We need more people pulling the wagon than in the wagon," he said.
Spence said to get Missouri "going again," the playing field with neighboring states needs to be leveled. Missouri business leaders should be kept happy so they stay in the state, he said.
He said Missouri badly needs ethics reform, too.
"We have waffling leadership in the governor's office. And too much influencing from lobbyists and special interest groups," said Spence.
"I am not perfect, no one is. I'm just an ordinary citizen trying to do something extraordinary."
Spence said he had visited 89 Missouri counties over 31,000-plus miles since December. He and his family reside in Ladue (63124 zip code) in St. Louis County. He grew up in Overland, MO, and graduated from Kirkwood High School. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a home economics degree.
"This thing about (Missouri current governor Jay) Nixon not being able to be beat is a myth," said Spence, who called Gov. Nixon "a ghost" in Jefferson City who is a political bully surrounded by lynchmen.
State Rep. Don Gosen, R-Chesterfield, who was in attendance Saturday, agreed with Spence's assessment. "We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how we can keep the governor from vetoing everything, and end up watering down legislation. He (Nixon) never comes over to the Capitol for discussions."
"Out of respect to our ancestors, I believe somebody has to go in the line of fire and get it done for Missouri," said Spence. "I would take on economic development and my wife would take on education. I want to work with everybody, not over everybody. We need to leave emotions at the door. And we need you to fight for us, because we'd like the chance to improve Missouri's future and legacy."