Convergence Projects – Missouri Mosaic

This audio story was created for election week in November as a way to explore how Missourian’s felt about the last eight years, politically. We conducted a fair amount of “boots on the ground” reporting in local and rural communities to get sourcing. Our story was organically found, reported on and produced by Rosie Belson, Lydia Birt, Lauren Langdon and Annmarie Welser.

The changing voice of Missourians

Rural Missourians Adapt to Industry Shifts

Aimee McGoveran had big plans for her future. Her parents told her to find a company to take care of her until she retired. That’s what she thought she did. But the past eight years have not left McGoveran better off.

Some rural Missouri towns are having a hard time bouncing back from the 2008 Great Recession. Jobs aren’t just hard to find; sometimes, they no longer exist.

“I was a welder for three years when I lived in Springfield.” McGoveran said. “There were hundreds of people laid off, some had worked there much longer than me, 20 years and such.”

McGoveran said that the welders with the most experience were the first ones called back when there was work. But there wasn’t work for every welder, so she moved to Moberly.

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“All of my friends had to go through that and then try to find more jobs,” McGoveran said. “And I was working in Moberly and there was nothing, I mean nothing.”

The unemployment office in Moberly told McGoveran she was over-qualified for most available positions. She tried starting her own pet-sitting business to make her own American dream. But being a small business owner in Missouri is harder than it looks.

“There’s just no incentive for small business owners,” McGoveran said. “I felt like every chance I had to get ahead, the government was like, no, your business is too small.”

With few choices for jobs in rural Missouri, McGoveran found work where she could. Now, she works at Wilson’s Garden Shelter & Gift Shop in Columbia.

“You should be able to have choices when you’ve worked hard,” McGoveran said. “There should be benefits for the hard work you put in.”

Factories that used to power the smaller towns in Missouri have been shutting down in the past eight years. According to the Missouri Census Data Center, nearly 41,000 Missourians have lost their jobs in manufacturing since 2008. McGoveran expected to work at the Scholastic Moberly Packaging Center if her plans didn’t work out, but the factory closed in 2011.

Missourians have been affected by the loss of plants and factories in different ways. Some relied on the work that the factories provided, and other relied on the workers they brought to the area.

Francine Edwards and her husband are landlords in Boonville.

“We have a lot of rental property in Boonville, but we basically rent to the working poor,” Edwards said. “We’d be doing a lot better if there were some factories.”

Over 700 Missourians were affected when the Boonville Nordyne factory closed in 2015. Nordyne closed all of its mid-Missouri plants and condensed them into one plant in Saltillo, Mexico. For Missourians who aren’t trying to commute to a city, large businesses in small towns seem like the only option.

However, some industries in Missouri are thriving even as others dwindle. Changes made with the 2008 Farm Bill have made the lives of farmers easier in the past eight years.

The bill eliminated some risks that were scaring off potential farmers. If a harvest is small, the bill provides financial assistance to cover bills the farmer can’t. Eddy Mitchell is a farmer in Holliday, and was a part of drafting the bill.

“Farmers are financially in the best shape, throughout the United States, that they’ve ever been,” Mitchell said. “Thanks to the 2008 Farm Bill with the crop insurance, it has been a really fun time to farm.”

Without fear of failure, Mitchell’s farm has been growing; he is used to hiring extra help.  But this year, people just aren’t applying.

“I can’t find help this fall to help me in the field,” Mitchell said. “Usually in the past, there’s always been somebody around that needed a little extra work. We’re doing it all ourselves this time.”

Over the past eight years, the economy has changed and industries have shifted. The demand for manufacturing jobs has decreased, and rural Missourians have lost their jobs. Missouri, along with much of the county, has had to adapt.

Infographic:

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Photo Captions

  1. Eddy Mitchell

Eddy Mitchell heads to the field on a cold morning in Holliday, Missouri, on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Mitchell and the Missouri Farmers’ Union helped the National Farmers’ Union pass the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides financial security for farmers.

  1. Francine Edwards

Francine Edwards, a retired nurse, passes time in the back of her husband’s barber shop in Boonville, Missouri, on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. Edwards and her husband are landlords in Boonville, where she said tenants have been scarce since factories closed.

  1. Aimee McGoveran

Aimee McGoveran works at Wilson’s Garden Center & Gift Shop in Columbia, Missouri, on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. McGoveran moved around the state after being laid off as a welder in Springfield, Missouri.