Missouri's cost of living is a big selling point

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

It is little surprise to most Missourians that their cost of living is among the lowest of all the 50 states. The good news is that the state's ranking has gone from 11th from the bottom to seventh from the bottom, based on figures released last week by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

The only other nearby state to have a lower cost of living was Tennessee, which is the second least expensive state of all. Arizona is at the bottom of the list.

The most expensive states continue to be those in the Northeast in this order, starting with the most expensive: Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey. The District of Columbia is among the high-cost areas to live as well.

Several cities across Missouri also participate in the cost-of-living surveys. (Cape Girardeau and Kansas City, among others, do not participate.) Joplin, on the western edge of the state, had the lowest cost of living among participating cities. Not surprisingly, St. Louis is the most costly.

What these figures mean for states like Missouri is the ability to attract people and employers to the state on the basis of its affordability. A lower cost of living generally means employers pay lower wages as well, which makes the state an attractive location to do business.

Measuring cost of living relies on a lot of variables, but among the items considered are groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care. It is a tribute to the businesses, corporations and institutions that provide these essential services that they are available at costs that compare so favorably with national standards.

State officials attribute part of Missouri's low cost of living to the state's location in the center of the country and to its large rural areas where infrastructure and other expenses generally tend to be lower.

Economic developers already make good use of data like the just-released cost-of-living figures. But this selling point for the state as a whole should be emphasized in every way possible.

In addition, it would be good to see more effort to educate Missourians about the advantages their state has to offer. With today's mobility and communications, our best ambassadors are a well-informed populace who can sing Missouri's praises wherever they go.