Lt. governor talks economic development, tourism
By Ken Childers
The banquet room of the Hen House was filled to near capacity Tuesday, as dozens of people braved the cold, damp weather to attend a special Okemah Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell was the featured speaker for the event, who spoke about economic development, tourism and the re-branding of Oklahoma. Senator Roger Thompson introduced Pinnell to the lunchtime crowd as a “friend of rural Oklahoma.”
Pinnell, a Tulsa resident, said he splits his time between taking care of business at the capitol and visiting rural Oklahoma. “I will be at the state capitol when I need to be there, which is a lot, but when I’m not there, I’m in these communities. My job is to be in communities across our 77 counties, working with local economic development directors to create jobs.”
In addition to his role as lieutenant governor, Pinnell also serves as the state’s secretary of tourism and branding, noting that he ran for office on a tourism platform. “If every single community, large or small, needs to create sales tax revenue, then why are we not championing the tourism industry that is far and away more authentic than every other state around us? That’s what I ended up running on, and I won all 77 counties because of it,” Pinnell said. “We know that when we get people to this state, the magic happens – they fall in love with this place.” According to Pinnell, a new marketing/rebranding campaign for Oklahoma will be unveiled on Feb. 12.
Pinnell said that in addition to having tourism potential, Oklahoma has one of the best career-tech infrastructures in the country. “You can make very good money by going through our career tech system. Do we need kids going to college? Absolutely. but we need kids to know there are other pathways to success, and about 60 percent of the jobs of in this state could be filled with a certificate,” Pinnell stated.
Prior to Pinnell taking the podium, Economic Development Director Andy Tucker introduced Frank Phillips and Janet Smith of the Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO). The company announced that Okemah has been selected to participate in a “community tuneup” pilot program.
After hearing remarks from Smith, local realtor April Curry introduced Madeline Dillner, Brownfield Project Coordinator for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, who has identified 43 local Brownfield sites, all of which have fuel storage tanks buried somewhere on the property.
In a meeting held Tuesday, Nov. 5, Dillner agreed to submit a grant application to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of the City of Okemah. If the grant is awarded, the OCC will have $300,000 available for the removal of the tanks. Another meeting regarding the project has been set for March 3 at the Hen House, beginning at 6 p.m.
For more information about the Brownfield program or other economic development opportunities, contact Tucker at 918-623-6579 or via email at [email protected].