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COLUMBIA - According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), Columbia’s cost of living was the highest in Missouri, ranking an index of 93.0 in the first quarter of 2017, well above the state average of 90.0 and several other Missouri cities indices.

Although when compared to other U.S. states Missouri does have one of the lowest costs of living in the country, MERIC finds that including amongst major metropolitan cities in Missouri like Jefferson City, Joplin, Kansas City, Springfield, and St. Louis, Columbia residents often pay more for groceries, utilities, transportation, health, and other miscellaneous costs.

One contributor to increasing cost of living numbers, housing, has recently become more visible in Columbia. Multiple student housing complexes have either started or completed construction in the last few years, causing some local businesses or homes to leave.

However, Columbia Chamber of Commerce president Matt McCormick says the picture painted by these recent numbers doesn’t tell the full story of living in Columbia.

“The housing that we’ve seeing in downtown and the housing growth in general for Columbia, what we’ve seen has been a good thing,” McCormick said. “Bringing more people to Columbia, that’s more people that are shopping in our stores, more people that are eating in our restaurants. It’s our future. It’s our workforce so what we’re seeing are some good things.”

McCormick maintains that any increase in cost of living is considerably lower when compared to other states across the country. Not everyone, however shares McCormick’s positive outlook on Columbia’s economic situation. In his 2017 State of the City Address, Matthes urged for a move away from the city’s economic dependency on sales tax. In his address to the public, Mattes suggested instead property and online sales taxes as a possible source of income.

McCormick says cost of living is a important factor for any city. “That’s one of those areas people continuously take a look at whenever they’re judging… businesses take a look at that if their looking at moving into an area. It’s something that residents take a look at or future residents take a look at. So making sure that we have a competitive cost of living and we have one that’s a stable cost of living that’s not major fluctuations up and down is a good thing for people.”