Update from President & CEO Mark Funke:
National Meeting of State Roundtable Executives: Last week I had the opportunity to attend the State Business Roundtable Executives meeting in Florida. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an update on significant economic development related issues occurring throughout the country and to provide a networking opportunity for state executives to share ideas.
When I joined the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, I was not aware of such a group, but was contacted and invited to attend. This organization has been in existence for over 20 years and is comprised of nearly 30 states that have a type of Business Roundtable organization. The Group is headed up by JD Chesloff from Massachusetts and was the meeting was hosted by Bob Ward of Florida.
We heard from a variety of speakers ranging from the energy industry and electric vehicles to social programs, international trade, the role of democracy and economic development trends across the country. We were also treated to a session on the significant growth occurring in Florida and some of the history and reasons behind it.
Role of Roundtables: Most importantly, I was able to interact with counterparts from similar organizations around the country. While all of the organizations are focused on pro-business economic growth, each had its own unique attributes and way of doing business. Some are more policy and legislatively driven while others are strictly supporting economic development. The themes are common. Every state’s priority seemed to revolve around workforce, education and funding issues. Sound familiar?
Funding: Several states have very direct and recurring channels of funding that support economic development and it is evidenced by their successes. Some states provide a specific recurring consumption tax that funds economic development while some simply provide large allocations of annual legislative budgets to aid the effort. Economic development is a top priority. You have likely seen national advertising from states like Michigan, Ohio, Indian and Florida touting the attributes of their states. And they are attracting a lot of new business.
Competition: All these states are our competitors. When Oklahoma is trying to attract business to relocate or grow here, we are competing in a significant way with states that pour more financial resources into economic development efforts.
Over the last year we have had the opportunity to meet with a variety of national site selectors and other visiting business people that are amazed at the opportunities that exist in Oklahoma and the values (low cost, low tax, business friendly environment, a productive workforce and great people) we bring to the table. But we also commonly hear that they were not aware Oklahoma’s attributes.
The Governor’s State of the State speech recently was one of optimism and opportunity. We at the Roundtable believe that Oklahoma is a great place for existing business to grow and a perfect landing spot for many new companies. Oklahoma represents a great alternative to some areas of the country that maybe overcrowded or not as business friendly. To be a top ten state we must focus on supporting the companies that are here now and insuring they have the right incentives and opportunities to grow and be successful. The recent effort by the OK State Chamber and the Governor to tackle our workforce issues is a great step in the right direction. But we also need to develop a recuring, sustainable and consistent approach to funding and marketing of our state. We have a great story to tell, but we need to provide sufficient financial resources and funding to our key economic development partners like the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and Select Oklahoma so they can tell our story and we can be competitive on the national stage.
Thank you for supporting the Oklahoma Business Roundtable. Your membership demonstrates that you are helping to support Oklahoma’s business and economic development growth goals.