In the following interview, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt discusses his experiences recruiting companies to Oklahoma during his first six months in office.
What message about Oklahoma are companies/executives most enthusiastic about?
As governor, I strive to highlight the key elements that make our state the best place to live and work. Our central location for distribution and manufacturing, our access to the ocean through the most inland port in the Port of Catoosa, our competitive utility prices, our rich natural resources, our consistently low cost of doing business and our hard-working people are all assets that Oklahoma is promoting to continue to develop our spot in the national and global marketplace and successfully recruit companies to our great state.
You’ve had the opportunity to attend some out-of-state events with Commerce. What were those experience like?
I have had wonderful experiences working alongside the Department of Commerce at out-of-state events to recruit businesses and jobs to Oklahoma. I recently had the opportunity to travel to the Paris Air Show in June where we met with businesses and companies specializing in the aviation and space industry. After personally participating in dozens of company meetings during the Air Show, I can say that aerospace companies recognize the value of operating in Oklahoma thanks to the hard work of our Commerce Department and state leaders.
You’ve been hosting regular dinners at the Governor’s mansion with executives. What have you taken away from those meetings?
As governor, I have cast a vision that in all decisions my administration makes, there needs to be a direct connection to growing the state and diversifying the economy. This is seen in our policy decisions and platform priorities but also in how we interact on an individual level. I have been inviting CEOs to the Governor’s Mansion to discuss their industry and how Oklahoma as a state can walk alongside the private sector to ensure we are growing and diversifying our economy. These dinners have been extremely productive, and I have left each one with a greater understanding of the hard work and innovation taking place across our state.
As you’ve visited with communities and economic development organizations, what have you learned?
I have learned that our greatest asset is our people. Oklahomans are hardworking and have a drive to move our state forward. It takes everyone coming to the table under a shared vision in order to enact positive change. I am proud to work alongside my fellow Oklahomans as we strive to make Oklahoma the best place to live, to work, and to raise a family.
How are education and workforce training programs improving across the state?
Investing in core services, such as education, is vital to attracting businesses and companies to our state and preparing the next generation of Oklahoma’s workforce. Since being sworn into office, my administration has worked to prioritize our teachers and education systems across the state. This year we provided a $203 million increase for all public education, including a teacher pay raise to make Oklahoma’s teachers one of the highest paid in our region and a significant addition to our education funding formula to fund our classrooms at the highest level in state history. We also invested $18 million for career tech centers to increase compensation for employees and teachers and $28 million for higher education to bolster research programs and provide a salary increase for professors. In order to have a robust economy we must have a strong workforce, which is rooted in a quality education system. I look forward to working with stakeholders across Oklahoma as we continue to move the needle.
What are you most excited about in terms of economic development potential for the state?
Our state leaders understand the importance of approaching government like a business, and, because of this, we are already seeing unprecedented strides being taken to develop our economy. This year we passed a historic budget with intentional investments in economic growth. We secured $19 million for the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund in order to bolster recruitment efforts. We also invested $1 million toward our small businesses and new entrepreneurs in order to encourage innovation within our state. We passed legislation to cultivate growth in our aerospace and automobile industry and invested additional funds to help these industries continue to develop across the state. Oklahoma is taking off, and I am excited to continue to work alongside our team at Commerce as we bring the world to Oklahoma and Oklahoma to the world.