Freshman legislative tour brings 70 first-term House members to Flex-O-Lators
There are 163 members of the Missouri House of Representatives, and a significant number of them made a stop in Carthage on Friday.
The Freshman Legislative Tour of Missouri brought two bus-loads of lawmakers, approximately 70 first-term legislators who are taking office in January 2019 and a number of leaders of the House, to the Flex-O-Lators plant in Carthage for a tour and insight into how state money is used to train workers.
State Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, arranged for the tour to make the stop in Carthage.
Smith said it was an opportunity to introduce a big percentage of the House to him, his hometown and one of the state’s leading manufacturers.
“It’s a tremendous point of pride to me, having grown up in Carthage, to bring all these folks to Carthage and show them the things that make us unique,” Smith said. “It also is key for them to start to get to know me, where I’m from, what our values are, who we are. And if I’m on the House floor and I start talking about workforce development, I can reference a place like Flex-O-Lators and that will trigger a spark in their minds, yes, I know that place, it’s amazing.”
The Carthage Flex-O-Lators plant is a division of the Carthage-based Leggett & Platt Corporation, and manufactures plastic and metal components that go into the seats installed in millions of cars, trucks and other vehicles manufactured in the U.S. and beyond.
Approximately 270 people work at the plant, located north of Carthage on Civil War Road.
Ross Turner, branch manager of the Flex-O-Lators plant, said this tour was a chance to give a big group of lawmakers a tour of his plant and show him how the company uses workforce development grants to train workers for good-paying, long-term jobs that will comfortably support a family.
Turner and other plant administrators divided the legislators into several groups and took them to the manufacturing floor to see the tools and equipment
“We already do quite a bit of work with the state,” Turner said. “We get grant money from the state to help train people, to advance that training for people. So, this is a very important opportunity for us, so they can see what we’re doing with that grant money, what we’re achieving with it, and also to get their continued support to help us get grant money and to advance the training of our people.”
Carthage Chamber of Commerce President Mark Elliff said workforce development is a priority locally and with state officials, and Flex-O-Lators gave lawmakers a chance to see how state workforce development money is used.
“Workforce is one of the major concerns that we have,” Elliff said. “It’s also on Gov. Mike Parson’s priority list, so them seeing this, seeing how it’s done here, they will remember Carthage when they get back to Jefferson City. They are getting the opportunity to see all corners of the state, but especially in Southwest Missouri, we’re anxious for them to see us. They can see how we do things down here, how our workforce works.”
Ben Baker, current Mayor of Neosho who will take office as State Representative from the 160th District, said the tour has been an eye-opener for him.
He said lawmakers are learning about parts of the state they may have never seen before. They’re also getting acquainted with each other and forming relationships on their busses that will help them work together in Jefferson City.
“It takes a lot more than one individual to get anything done in Jefferson City so building those relationships in the freshman class, I think, is a great value to us,” Baker said. “That’s probably, I would say, the number one value of this tour. Second after that would be getting better insight into what’s happening in the state.”