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A company that flies sick patients all over the country broke ground Friday on a $1.4 million dollar facility in West Plains. As KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson reports, Air Medical Group Holding’s new facility will create about 20 new jobs and be a new home for the already 450 people who work there.
[Sound: Helicopter flies over]
An Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter flew over the crowd gathered at the groundbreaking in West Plains; Air Medical Group Holding, or AMGH, is the parent company of Air Evac, which was founded in West Plains in 1985.
The CEO of AMGH, Fred Buttrell, says the company now has bases in Anchorage, Alaska and Miami, Florida.
“It started with the idea that serving rural Americans, in Howell County and West Plains, Missouri, to provide a need in their critical time of need back in 1985. And since that time, we have grown to be the largest, independent air medical provider in the world,” Buttrell said.
Governor Jay Nixon was also at the event. He said one main reason AMGH is expanding in such a rural area has to do with the fact that the company already has such a strong presence here. But rural areas lag way behind their urban counterparts when it comes to attracting large companies. In fact, Air Evac Lifeteam moved its headquarters from West Plains to O’Fallon, Missouri, in 2012.
I asked Nixon what his administration—and state lawmakers—can do to give rural areas a more level playing field when it comes to attracting new, or expanding companies.
The governor said it boils down to infrastructure, and a clear, stable economic climate.
“Putting some dollars in to help on infrastructure is important—to make sure they’ve got the sewer, the water, the roads, to do this. So [we can] assist in that regard, from the hard economic development side. But what is equally true is that they count on us to have a predictable business climate—a taxation system that is low, but predictable—so they can make the kind of long-term investments knowing what their return will be,” Nixon said.
AMGH will receive economic incentives from both Missouri's Department of Economic Development and the City of West Plains if it meets strict criteria for creating jobs and investments.