Legislature allocates $250 million from PREP fund to fuel economic development throughout rural Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature has approved a slate of bills entailing a major investment in workforce and economic development throughout the state funding infrastructure improvements at industrial parks, aeronautics facilities, and the state fairgrounds as well as to increase Oklahoma’s presence with international trading partners.
During the 2022 legislative session, $250 million was allocated to the Progressing Rural Economic Prosperity Fund (PREP). Those funds were allocated through the appropriations process and approved by the Legislature on Thursday in special session.
After vetting by the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding and its working groups, the Legislature also approved an additional $52.25 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that will be used for these projects based on the federal guidelines.
Senate Appropriations Vice Chair Chuck Hall explained lawmakers want to make rural communities more competitive for attracting well-paying jobs.
“The PREP projects will be transformational for rural communities and a boon for economic development,” said Hall, R-Perry. “By building out the infrastructure, or making improvements to existing structures, we will attract more investments, which means jobs and prosperity for Oklahomans.”
The funds will help industrial parks and aeronautics facilities, such as air parks, modernize and expand infrastructure, including water systems and broadband, which are vitally needed to attract greater economic development opportunities that will ultimately benefit the entire state.
“The main thing we hear from businesses considering investment in Oklahoma is that they want an educated workforce and infrastructure that can support their investment,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. “The PREP projects address these critical needs, and more, as we lay the groundwork for the exciting new jobs of tomorrow. We always say Oklahoma is open for business, and these PREP funds will ensure that is the case both now and in the future.”
Department of Commerce Executive Director Brent Kisling predicted the PREP investments would successfully boost economic development in rural Oklahoma.
“The Oklahoma Department of Commerce is supportive of the Legislature’s decision to support infrastructure investment for rural economic development,” Kisling said. “These efforts will undoubtedly attract both business and workforce that will bring investment and long-term prosperity for rural Oklahomans.”