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Mo. jobs chief defends review of sweetener maker

Mo. DED Dir. David Kerr testifies at a Mo. House hearing on Mamtek on Nov. 30th, 2011.
(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)
Mo. DED Dir. David Kerr testifies at a Mo. House hearing on Mamtek on Nov. 30th, 2011.

The Missouri Department of Economic Developmentis defending its role in the Mamtek controversy, in which the town of Moberly issued $39 million in bonds to build an artificial sweetener plant which never opened.

DED Director David Kerr told the House Interim Committee on Government Oversight and Accountabilitythat his agency carefully reviewed Los Angeles-based Mamtek’s request for state incentives, which were not issued – but he also said that it’s not DED’s role to double-check every claim made by every company seeking tax credits.

“If we start assuming that every business that walks through the door is a criminal, then there’s gonna be a whole lot fewer companies and businesses walking through the door considering us as a state," Kerr said.

Moberly officials testified Tuesday that DED did not provide them with emails from a DED consultant revealing that he could not verify whether Mamtek had a functioning plant in China.  DED General Counsel Chris Pieper disagreed in his testimony.

“We shared the concern (with Moberly)," Pieper said.  "We didn’t share the email, but we shared the concern…we shared it on multiple occasions, by email, that we were doing additional research.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the committee conducting the hearingssays he may issue a subpoena to Mamtek’s patent attorney if he refuses to voluntarily testify.   

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.