In this episode of Capitol Insider, Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell joins KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley to discuss his plans for improving Oklahoma's image and diversifying the economy.
Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley, and our guest is Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnnell. Good to have you with us.
Pinnell: Well, thanks for having me, guys. I appreciate it.
Ashley: Lieutenant governors traditionally have focused on economic development and promoting tourism. What are you doing or what do you plan to do that will be different from your predecessor?
Pinnell: Yeah. You know, when I campaigned around the state I had a lot of voters and and citizens really wanting to make sure that if if they voted for me that I was going to define what the role of the lieutenant governor was. And George Nigh, who was lieutenant governor for a very long time and then governor, I really gravitated towards his platform and really the way that he operated when he was lieutenant governor. He helped start the film office, heavily focused and passionate about tourism, and I really ran with that on the campaign trail. I believed that we needed a lieutenant governor that was much more involved when it came to tourism and as a small business owner... My wife and I run a small business. We're entrepreneurs and invented a number of baby products. We said that we really wanted to be involved, when it came to economic development... that my lane was going to be entrepreneurship. And I'm blessed that the governor has let me operate and run in those two lanes. I'm Secretary of Tourism and Branding, so not only am I going around the state, you know, preaching about tourism I actually have some authority over the actual agency, so that that's a big difference.
Pryor: Actually, the lieutenant governor's job can be just about whatever you make of it.
Pinnell: Yeah it really is a blank slate.
Pryor: Do you foresee innovations from this office?
Pinnell: I do. I mean, I think, you know, one of the...A couple of the areas when it comes to innovation, you know, I'm going around the state on this entrepreneurship piece talking about accelerators and incubators that we have to have in the state. You know, if someone has an idea for a business or has invented a product and has a patent, you know, where do they go for startup cash? You know, where are those accelerators? We do have the Oklahoma City Thunder Launchpad, which is an amazing accelerator in Oklahoma City, but, as I've said before, Colorado has 16 accelerators. We only have a couple. So this is on the private sector. You have a public official talking about it. But to keep our young or old entrepreneurs in the state of Oklahoma and not go to Dallas, Kansas City, Denver or Houston we've got to make sure that we do a better job of fostering a better environment for entrepreneurs.
Ashley: Much of what you mention are here in Oklahoma City. How do you reach out to the more rural areas where there is entrepreneurship they just need, as you said, the capital and the support?
Pinnell: Yeah. No it's a really good question. So it's community by community when it comes to the rural Oklahoma plan, and we're working with our rural economic development directors to hear from them what's working and what's not working.
Pryor: You are the state's secretary of tourism and branding, and you don't think that Oklahoma needs a rebrand. The problem is Oklahoma doesn't have a brand.
Pinnell: You nailed it. You nailed it. It is very true. I jokingly say it's not a rebrand because I don't know what our current brand is, and if our current brand is "Oklahoma is OK," then we need to do a whole lot better job of branding the state. I think branding matters. If we don't define who we are as a state 49 other states will define it for us, and that's unacceptable because those are our competitors in a lot of ways, these other states that are competing for jobs. And we have to make sure that our brand, what we're demonstrating and showing the country and showing the world, because we're talking about international business too, is critically important.
So we just started the effort of recruiting, kind of, the most creative Oklahoman minds from around the state to really volunteer their time. I mean it's public service. 100 of the most creative minds is kind of what we're...Is our goal to come together for a branding summit to, kind of, kick this off and throughout the rest of the year we'll be developing this brand. So yes think Pure Michigan, think I Love New York, think Virginia Is For Lovers. There's something in the secret sauce in some of those states that kind of have those iconic brands. No state can match our heritage and our history, and I think we have to do a much better job of telling people that. We're also extremely diverse, and it's time to again show businesses that and show tourists that as well, because that will certainly help sales tax revenue, as well as recruiting companies to the state.
Pryor: Brand image is one thing. Fixing the issues that influence public perception of the state is something else. As lieutenant governor what policy changes would you seek to address the issues that could help improve the state?
Pinnell: Yeah. You know, it goes back to the core services for me. If we do not invest in our education system and invest in our kids in that next generation the way that we need to be, that's a tough sales pitch for any state. If you're 50th in education, or if we don't reform our criminal justice system and we continue to be the number one incarcerated state in the entire country, that's not good for business. So, core services for me, from a policy perspective, education, health care and infrastructure when it comes to roads, must be a priority for our administration for us to be top ten.
Pryor: Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, thank you.
Pinnell: Thank you.
Pryor: That's Capitol Insider. It' you have questions, email us at news@kgouorg or contact us on Twitter at @kgounews. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net, on Apple podcasts and Spotify. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.