Community leaders promote growth

Stacy Hutto

Managing editor

For the second year in a row Southeastern Oklahoma State University hosted the E3 Summit. The E3 summit is an economic development seminar bringing educators and members of the community together to discuss how to develop the community in a way that is beneficial to everyone. The recent E3 summit was held June 4 in the General Classroom Building as part of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Making Place Matter initiative.

There were a variety of speakers that spoke during the event. They covered a wide range of topics about how development is progressing in the community and what could be improved. The event’s keynote speaker was Chancellor Glen D. Johnson, who was introduced by Regent John Massey.

The speakers were divided into four categories. The first category was collaborative governance. Kathy Hendrick, director of the Center for Regional Competitiveness gave a presentation on ecosystems- emerging occupations, and Donnalla Miller, owner of Princess Transport and My Own HR Coach gave a presentation about Oklahoma Workforce System Certification. The last two speakers in this category was Kerry Manning, director of Southern Workforce Board Durant and Bob Rhoden, business services manager of Workforce Solutions Texoma.

The second category was Social Inclusion. Speakers in this category were Kenny Simpson, executive vice-president of Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, Inc., John Redman, rural development specialist with USDA Rural Development and Bill Carter, state director of Small Business Development Center. Susan Stockton, executive director of Human Resources for the Choctaw Nation gave a presentation on Choctaw U.

Livable Community made up the third category. Brad Underwood, director for Texoma Area Para Transit System spoke about how public transportation is improving the Texoma region, while Tony Kaai, president of Denison Development Alliance and Senator Josh Brecheen discussed developing, building and branding Lake Texoma.

The fourth category before Massey, regent for Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, introduced the keynote speaker Johnson, chancellor for Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education was Innovative Economy.

Brian Aspell, manager of Champion Cooler, spoke about manufacturing.

Southeastern president Dr. Larry Minks delivered the welcome speech. The first speaker was Donnalla Miller over Oklahoma Workforce System Certification.

Miller said the program was designed to “give people a hand up, not a hand out” and to get people back on their feet.

During the presentation, Miller said, “A workforce system is the interaction of education, workforce and economic development. It includes organizations and entities that help Oklahoma citizens to obtain appropriate skills and credentials that will support business location, business expansion and business retention efforts.”

The program evolved from a request from Governor Marry Fallin and eventually a task force was developed. Locations were picked for the pilot, with Southeastern being one of them.  Hendrick was in charge of the Southeastern pilot. The Department of Labor was impressed with the program and eventually earmarked funds for it.

The program has become an important part of the workforce because it helps people to be able to support themselves and their families. Some of the reasons Miller gave on why the program is important were; a current skills mismatch, need an effective on-going talent pipeline, it requires a workforce development system, not a collection of agencies and certification ensures a systematic approach.

Some of the benefits Oklahoma citizens receive from the program are the right skills needed by employers, higher paying jobs and an increased per capita income. Businesses are able to get support for locations, expansion and retention. It also facilitates efficient and profitable businesses.

The next speaker, Bob Rhoden, business services manager for Workforce Solutions Texoma mentioned the rise in the civilian workforce. Rhoden also talked about development training for entry level positions. The labor information from the state is not his target. His target is training for positions that are showing growth. An example Rhoden used for positions that have no growth at the moment is pharmacy technicians.

Brian Aspell from Champion Coolers talked about skill sets that are needed to fill positions. Aspell said, “There is difficulty in finding the right skill sets. People want to be doctors or lawyers, not electricians or plumbers.”

To train the skill sets needed, Aspell started a pilot program where Champion Coolers would pay for a course and give an internship. High school students picked work 32 hours and go to an eight-hour course and get paid for 40 hours. This gives the student the skill sets needed for manufacturing. Currently there are 10 students in the program.

Keynote speaker Glen D. Johnson during his presentation said, “If Oklahoma is going to remain economically competitive, we must have the best educated and productive workforce that we can assemble.”

A year into a 12-year plan, higher education went over the goal set for degree completion.

To further education goals, starting in November Oklahoma will be the first state to have a system wide approach to online education.

According to Johnson, in the national ranking Oklahoma higher education is ranked eighth in cost savings and efficiency and seventh in affordability, specifically tuition, books and housing.

Staff photo by Stacy Hutto  left, Chancellor Glen D. Johnson gives his keynote address as Regent John Massey and Southeastern President Larry Minks listen and watch.

Staff photo by Stacy Hutto
left, Chancellor Glen D. Johnson gives his keynote address as Regent John Massey and Southeastern President Larry Minks listen and watch.