DURANT, Okla. – Good news was the order of the day Thursday as state and regional officials joined area education, business, and industry leaders at the E3 Summit,.
The economic summit, part of the Making Place Matter initiative from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, was sponsored by Southeastern Oklahoma State University and held on campus in the General Classroom Building. The theme of the day was E3 – Engage Our Publics. Envision the Future. Empower the Region
“This is a time that we can celebrate in Oklahoma,” said Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Dave Lopez. “This (event) helps create an environment for growth in the economy. Where we’re at right now, Oklahoma is shining (as far as business and the unemployment rate). Last year, Oklahoma added 42,000 jobs – the pipeline is positive for Oklahoma.”
Lopez cited the state’s vibrant oil and gas industry, as well as the growing aerospace industry, as keys to the healthy economic condition.
The Secretary praised this region of the state for being “ahead of the game” in such categories as regionalism, a growing diversity of the workforce, understanding the role of infrastructure, and volunteerism and community engagement through such programs as Main Street.
Lopez also challenged the region to improve in the areas of the workforce, educational attainment (both 2-and-4-year degrees), and branding.
Governor Mary Fallin appointed Lopez in February of last year to help lead the state’s economic development efforts and to serve on the governor’s cabinet. Lopez is a retired officer of SBC Communications (now AT&T) and he was most recently president of the American Fidelity Foundation, based in Oklahoma City.
Other speakers included Chad R. Wilkerson, vice president, economist, and Oklahoma City Branch executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and Deidre Myers, director of policy, research and economic analysis for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
Wilkerson provided an overview of the Federal Reserve, and then utilizing numerous charts and graphs, presented the Oklahoma Regional Economic Outlook.
Echoing Lopez’s remarks, Wilkerson noted that although there is a huge variation in economic growth across the country, Oklahoma is in better shape than the majority of states. He also observed that like many other states, Oklahoma continues to prosper due, in large part, to its healthy energy business.
Wilkerson was appointed Branch executive of the Oklahoma City Branch in 2006, and was promoted to vice president in 2008. In this role, he serves as the Bank’s lead officer and regional economist in Oklahoma, and is responsible for recruiting the Oklahoma City Branch’s board of directors and for briefing the Kansas City Fed’s president on economic and business conditions in the state.
Myers said the three greatest challenges facing Higher Education in Oklahoma are skills, ability, and knowledge of our workforce. Meeting these challenges, she noted, would increase the number of Oklahomans earning college degrees. Currently, 23 percent of the Oklahoma population 25 years of age and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nationwide, the average is 28 percent.
Myers and her staff provide economic, demographic and labor data and analysis to state leadership, develops and advises on economic policy formulation, performs business intelligence, and conducts research for the Governor’s Council on Workforce and Economic Development. In addition, the division houses the Oklahoma State Data Center, which is the state’s lead agency to the US Census Bureau.
The day-long summit attracted professionals from throughout the Texoma region. Panel discussions were held on a number of relevant topics.
Southeastern president Larry Minks welcomed the participants and introduced the keynote speakers. He also recognized Kathy Hendrick, director of the Southeastern Center for Regional Economic Development, for her efforts in organizing the event.
“It was a most informative day,” Minks said. “We had a broad-based group of participants who contributed a great deal to the issues discussed and economic development in general. We look forward to future discussions as we all work together to grow Oklahoma.”