On Thursday afternoon, Ardmore citizens gathered at the convention center to hear about the progress being made with the OK2030 initiative. The meeting began with some of the city’s local leaders discussing how the items in this plan complement local efforts and benefit the future of business in the area.
First to speak was Mita Bates, president and CEO of the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce and the Ardmore Development Authority. Bates also serves on the Board of Directors of the State Chamber of Oklahoma. She discussed how last fall local leaders met and came up with strategic initiatives that would ensure the continued prosperity of the area.
“These priorities are very much similar to those you are going to see in OK2030,” Bates said. “Taken together it makes a great team effort. The efforts at the statewide level are very important to us and I think sometimes we forget that. But it all reinforces that we need to continue to be involved and we need to evolve to ensure the success in our area.”
Next to speak was Ardmore Valero Refinery Vice President and General Manager Kevin Lassahn. He is a transplant to the area but is heavily invested in its future. He began by speaking about the last few legislative sessions at the State Capitol.
“Everybody here knows it’s been a challenging number of legislative sessions over the last couple years,” Lassahn said. “Everybody agreed that there needed to be progress. Everybody agreed that there needed to be change. Everybody agreed that there needed to be improvements but no one could come together and create purposeful change in a meaningful way.”
Lassahn said the state chamber stepped in by creating its research foundation in 2016. By working with key business leaders and holding forums similar to the one in Ardmore on Thursday they were able to develop a comprehensive plan for the state.
“They wanted to be sure that the OK2030 initiative didn’t just appear to be out of Oklahoma City to benefit Oklahoma City,” Lassahn said. “They wanted to make sure it was a statewide effort that everybody could take advantage of.”
He then used his own experience as plant manager at Valero to underline how important items in the plan will benefit the local economy.
“We have to have a thriving economy because we need to have people who want our products,” Lassahn said. “We need to have our product demand stay strong so we can sell our products into a good market, and that takes consistent leadership. That takes incentivizing the industry. That also includes that we don’t have burdensome taxes and legislation that inhibit our ability to be successful.”
He stressed that to ensure the continued investment Valero puts into the region they must know the state has a consistent pro-business agenda. This is important to businesses such as Valero because their business is about long-term strategy.
He then described how OK2030’s educational reform ideas can also help businesses such as Valero. He pointed out that while the company is very successful in getting engineers from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University and works with Southern Tech to insure the plant has trained technical workers, they still have to import workers from out of state on a regular basis. He would like to see more of those workers come from within the state.
To find out more about the OK2030 initiative visit their website at www.OK2030.org.