The Oklahoma Department of Commerce announced its goals for the new year, including alleviating a 140,000-person statewide workforce gap and diversifying the state's economy. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses plans for meeting these objectives.
Drew Hutchinson: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I’m Drew Hutchinson. Joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce has set its goal for the new year: fill workforce gaps and continue to diversify the state’s economy, paving the way for industries besides oil and natural gas, which Oklahoma has historically been reliant on. These hopes for 2020 are attributed to the state commerce department’s executive director Brent Kisling in a recent article by Journal Record reporter Steve Metzer.
Russell Ray: Well Kisling said leaders have been trying for a while to diversify the state’s economy. He noted that drilling rig counts in Oklahoma have gone down, and yet in November the state economy gained 1,000 jobs. He that said in the past, that never would have happened. He pointed to a healthy aerospace sector and a growing manufacturing sector beyond oil and gas. Those are signs the state is making progress in diversifying the state economy. And with the right workforce development strategies, the state could add tens of thousands of other jobs, according to Kisling.
Hutchinson: With that said, continued development of Oklahoma’s aerospace industry will remain a priority in 2020.
Ray: That’s right. The Aerospace Commerce Economic Services program director said the goal is to achieve 15 aerospace “wins” for Oklahoma. What we’re talking about there are expansions or investments in the aerospace industry in the state.
Hutchinson: And to help accomplish this and to kind of help out the aerospace industry, the state needs engineers and other highly trained professionals. In the bigger picture job-wise across the state, right now Oklahoma has around 140,000 total jobs that it can’t get filled. If this problem were to be solved, the commerce department’s executive director Brent Kisling said the state could have the fastest growing job economy and GDP in the country. Russell, how are officials planning to try to combat the large number of jobs that Oklahoma needs workers for?
Ray: Well Kisling said workforce teams will be formed in the new year in partnership with various communities in the state. He said they’ve collected data for each county. They’re going to establish local workforce advisory councils and local business centers of excellence. And these local councils will identify job needs for the next five years and what they need to do locally to fill those gaps.
Hutchinson: Right, and those gaps we were talking about might include a lack of facilities, equipment, teachers or curriculum. Kisling said lawmakers can expect QUOTE a big legislative ask this session in order to fund this.
Ray: That's right. The Commerce Department wants to invest more in local Main Street programs that stimulate business in towns across the state. Another focus will be on building “site ready” programs to attract business and industry investment to local communities. Kisling told lawmakers that the Commerce Department also will become more involved linking entrepreneurs in the state with venture capital and private equity investors.
Hutchinson: Russell, thank you so much for your time today.
Ray: My pleasure Drew, thank you.
Hutchinson: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @KGOUnews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. While you're there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Drew Hutchinson.
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
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