OBR Hosts Economic Development Update on March 4th, 2021

March 16, 2021 - 1:54pm

If you would like to view the Economic Development Update, click here.

Roundtable members gathered both virtually and in-person for an Economic Development Update on March 4, 2021 via online and the Oklahoma History Center. Chairman Steve Hendrickson led the meeting which featured presentations by Governor Kevin Stitt, Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, Interim Health Commission Dr. Lance Frye, Commerce Secretary Sean Kouplen, Incoming Commerce Secretary Scott Mueller and OCU economist Dr. Russell Evans.

Chairman Hendrickson provided an overview of the Roundtable and its mission – as the organization celebrates 30 years of service to the state. He thanked the board of directors for all of its work during the past “most challenging” year. He also praised the work of state leaders and partner communities in garnering over 55 project announcements and over 8,000 new jobs through start-ups, expansion and new company.

President Mark Funke opened the meeting with a general business report on the Roundtable. Current membership is 154 and the budget remains steady. He encouraged members to participate in a series of “small group” meetings with the Governor and state leaders during the next year. He also encouraged all members to complete the 2021 Member Survey online. The survey will help determine the Roundtable’s program of work going forward.

Governor Stitt gave a detailed report on economic development activities – including a positive  overview of the COVID situation in the state and his work to keep the state open for business. The state was a national leader in completing vaccinations per capita – top ten – with over $1 million Oklahomans having received at least the first vaccine shot. He reported the state does have a budget surplus this year.  He said significant work is underway in meeting with business prospects. His other topics included education reform, restructuring of the state cabinet, importance of funding $20 million in the state closing fund (for business expansion and new location), potential new accelerator and remote worker programs and concerns about the McGirt situation.

Dr. Frye also reported positive COVID news in that cases were lower and the economy was picking up and praised the tireless work of Oklahoma’s health care workers. He encouraged everyone to continue to follow the CDC guidelines.  

Lt. Governor Pinnell gave a report on branding initiative and told the group that tourism remains a priority. Direct tourism sales tax dollars to the state exceed $723 million annually and the goal is to reach $1 billion. He said tourism helps change the perception of visitors to the state and can lead to increased business development and private sector jobs. He encourage in-state travel and praised efforts to grow the film industry. The filming of the new movie “Killers of the Flower Moon” will begin in April and is expected to bring millions in revenue to the state.  He praised two major successful tourism projects – RiverSports campus in Oklahoma City and Tulsa’s nationally recognized “Gathering Place” Park.

Commerce Secretary Kouplen provided a comprehensive overview of activities at both Commerce and within the business community. He said focused efforts were underway to grow key industry  segments including aerospace, energy, bioscience/health, IT & finance, distribution and automotive. Kouplen says Oklahoma’s image as a good business location must be strengthened through branding/marketing.   

Incoming Secretary Mueller briefly outlined his plan to continue the work of Secretary Kouplen and also play a strong role industry recruitment.  He has recently met with several out-of-state company executives and believes a skilled workforce is the most important issue facing the state.

Dr. Russell Evans gave an overview on the state economy – which he described as an “Exit Ramp to a Post Pandemic Economy.” He said it was too soon to get a clear evaluation of the post-Covid economy due to the fact that the state (and region) still shows a negative GDP and a positive personal income spike – all which may be due to the receipt of significant federal funding. He indicated Oklahoma was following a natural path of diversification – because in each of the recent energy cycles, the oil and gas industry has failed to reach its previous peak. 

The Roundtable is scheduled to meet again in-person on June 16 at 4:30 PM at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.

If you would like to view the Economic Development Update, click here.