JEFFERSON CITY - Standing in front of the abandoned Mamtek factory site in Moberly Wednesday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence demanded an apology from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon for what Spence called a failure in his opponent's economic development policy.
Mamtek, a proposed artificial sweetener factory, received $39 million in industrial development bonds from Moberly and was set to receive more than $17 million of state incentives. But the project never received any state money after the company missed a payment on the Moberly bonds in August 2011. The partially-finished factory now stands empty on the outskirts of the northeast Missouri town.
"It was just fraud and the Nixon administration knew some of these facts and did not tell Moberly," Spence said. "And I think they owe an apology to the city of Moberly and to the state of Missouri."
Spence said he would have dealt differently from the beginning with the Mamtek deal.
"First of all you need real-world experience," said Spence, who ran a plastics manufacturing company before declaring his candidacy. "When you've never been outside the government you don't know how the real world works and when somebody will not give you financial information that is a problem."
Spence was referring to allegations that Mamtek's former CEO Bruce Cole gave false information to Moberly's economic development officials when he was applying for assistance from the city. Moberly officials have said that Cole told them he had an established plant in China, proof that his idea would be successful.
But a state investigation into Mamtek's collapse revealed that a state economic development official had gone to China and tried to find the plant, which never actually reached full production.That official sent that information from China to other state officials in Missouri, but the state Department of Economic Development did not communicate that to Moberly officials before the city gave out its bond money.
"I think this project is emblematic of the Nixon administration, a lot of show and no go," Spence said Wednesday. "They raced through with all kind of sirens blaring off and flares going off that this wasn't financially viable and they couldn't wait to get it going."
Speaking in Columbia later in the day, Nixon emphasized the state lost no money over Mamtek.
"As far as that particular project the state paid zero," Nixon said. "We do a lot of projects all over the state at all times. The cities have their authorities at the local levels, we work with them and they make their choices."
He then quickly pivoted to attack Spence's record as a board member for Reliance Bank in St. Louis, saying Spence voted not to continue repayment of $40 million in TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds given to the bank.
"As far as that particular project (Mamtek) the state paid zero," Nixon said. "Much different than what the taxpayers had to pay when he voted not to pay the taxpayers back when he was on a bank."
Nixon has made the claim about Spence's bank ties in television commercials throughout the campaign. In early October Spence sent cease-and-desist letters to various news organizations and Nixon's campaign, claiming those statements were false."He had a choice as to whether or not to pay the taxpayers back, he voted 'No'," Nixon said. "He voted instead to give $40 million worth of insider loans to he and other directors."
Spence's website says the statements are misleading because the bank received after he joined the board, but acknowledges that Spence voted to discontinue repayments at the advisement of federal regulators.