Lawmakers Study Economic Development

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

I was pleased to see recent two legislative studies focus on economic development. As Gallup has consistently shown through polls, people want a good job more than they want almost anything else. It came as no surprise to me that both studies were brought about at the request of lawmakers from Western Oklahoma.

The first study focused on two entities, the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center and the Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, Inc. OSBDC provides business management consultation through 15 centers located throughout the state and, according to its state director, aids business in the creation of approximately 1,000 jobs each year. REI provides small business loans in addition to consultation, is headquartered in Durant, and provides services at a handful of locations around the state.

Although these two entities have been able to get federal grants based on local and state matching funds, they’ve struggled to match those grants as reductions have been made to appropriations. They also showed that they are not only revenue-neutral programs, but actually bring more revenue in the way of new jobs than they spend. I would like to look more closely at the level of funding we provide and if we should provide a larger appropriation.

The second study focused on the nuts-and-bolts of attracting businesses to the state and featured local economic development directors from several mid-sized cities such as Norman and Enid. The Norman director said he would like to see the Quality Jobs Program tied to the use of the quick action closing fund, combining the two tools to attract large businesses. He also suggested tying the 5-year ad valorem exemption for manufactures to job creation to ensure communities that are using that incentive get their investment back. Other recommendations made during the meeting included the creation of Oklahoma branding, tweaking law regarding tax increment financing district and investing in workforce development.

Job creation is one of the No. 1 concerns of many Oklahomans. I look forward to seeing what form these recommendations take in the upcoming legislative session.

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