JEFFERSON CITY - After the Missouri Senate launched an investigation into Mamtek’s failed economic development project, the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee was told Wi-Fi Sensors, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of high-technology wireless sensors in Kirksville, also missed its first payment on their state loan, back in November of 2010.
The chair of the Senate committee, Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said Mamtek’s default brought its attention to Wi-Fi Sensors’ financial trouble.
The committee started the investigation Thursday by requesting documents from the Department of Economic Development on both the Mamtek and Wi-Fi Sensors situations.
“There has been a renewed focus on it in the light of what is going on in Moberly with this Mamtek,” said Lembke. “We are having a closer look and applying more scrutiny to the different tax credit programs that we have in our tool box here in Missouri.”
Lembke said the company promised 40 jobs and over $4 million in private investments into Kirksville, but now the company has shut its door and its business is at a standstill with no jobs being created.
Lembke also said the length of the investigation is unknown and depends on what the Department of Economic Development comes up with. Once the department provides the original documents to the committee, the decision will be made whether or not to continue the investigation.
Although the committee has not set goals of when the investigation should be completed, Lembke said he aimed to protect taxpayers and their money.
“I come down on the side of protecting the taxpayers and the taxpayers’ money and making sure we are being good stewards of that money.”
However, Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis City, said he was concerned about the chilling effects of investigating these failed companies.
Keaveny said under the tough economic condition, a lot of competitions confronted the start-up businesses in Missouri. The failure of the companies and the ongoing investigations may discourage other investors to invest their money in Missouri.
“If there are long drawn-out hearings with a lot of fingers pointing, the fact could be to deter this type of businesses from locating in the state of Missouri,” Keaveny said.
Keaveny said Wi-Fi Sensors was relying on the defense department contracts to pay the loan. Although Wi-Fi Sensors’ default brings the company to a standstill, Keaveny said he still had hope for the company.
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