For the past three weeks I’ve been taken part in full day rural economic development summits in the four quadrants of Oklahoma. I drove almost a thousand miles, crisscrossing the state, touring towns and meeting some incredible people from small towns from all over OK. It’s many different regions, topography and landscape are as varied as I’ve seen in any state.
Even though there were differences of opinion on top priorities for regionalism and economic development between the four regions, I found an almost universal interest in everyone I talked to at the events. Each wanted to figure out ways to make their communities more attractive, with improved economic opportunities so that their kids and grandkids would have a reason to possibly come back home. Their concerns in Oklahoma weren’t any different from what I’ve found from NJ to WA or ND to TX. The difference is that some communities and regions have taken a more proactive approach and as a result have been much more successful in creating more opportunities. I’m hopeful that my talks will inspire others to take a similar approach.
I was very impressed with what I found in OK. Kathy Taylor, Secretary of Commerce for the State, has developed a very proactive, pro-business approach. She is focusing upon a regionalized emphasis in rural Oklahoma, taking a very long term, strategic view toward economic development and job creation. The state has an interesting cluster analysis underway that is also very forward looking.
Keep your eye on Oklahoma. They are on the cusp of accomplishing some big things as a state.