This week I would like to elaborate a bit on what I learned at the Governor’s Economic Development & Workforce Summit last week. I told you a bit about Day 1 and Day 2 was just a fascinating. I attended sessions on Community & Economic Development Finance; Opportunity Zones in Tribal Nation Areas; Attracting a Workforce for Community Needs; Sustaining the Workforce Pipeline & Growing Your Community; and Oklahoma Incentives: Traditional vs. Out-of-the-Box.

First, we heard Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell discuss tourism and branding in Oklahoma. The state has launched Project Blue Sky, which I believe will be a complete overhaul of the way that Oklahoma markets itself to the rest of the world. “Oklahoma is more than okay!” This will include new signage across the state, branding materials for sharing, and more. The best part is that it’s happening using the input of everyday, hard-working Oklahomans. You can be a part of it by going to www.projectbluesky.ok.gov. The details should roll out sometime in January.

In session, I learned about the Oklahoma Finance Authority. They assist with the creation and development of employment, has a loan program in which they partner with community banks, works on incentives, business retention and expansion, and is a resource for any business. MetaFund does impact investing and has a community development fund that can help with things like affordable housing and jobs, lending and investing, and New Market Tax Credit facilitation. BancFirst was represented on the panel, as well as i2E, which looks for high growth, competitive, disruptive market ideas.

Opportunity Zones are still a mystery to many. They are census tracts that have been deemed ‘distressed areas’ where new investments may be considered for tax benefits. It is an economic development tool that is meant to spur development and job creation in low income areas. Actually, if you go to www.locateok.com and use the incentive map, you’ll see that there are parts of Johnston County included in about every type of incentive zone there is.

Avalanche Consulting discussed that freelancing and business ownership are rising by 4% annually, and Kirstie McPhearson with Golden Shovel noted that there are now more people over the age of 65 than any other age demographic. That means workforce developers need to understand the talent pipeline and get people ready for the future. We also need to work on the perception of Johnston County. Perception trumps reality in most cases. How are we branding Johnston County? What do outsiders think about us and how does that affect their decisions to move and work here? We need to prime the correct reality of our community and share it.

Speaking of workforce development, Duncan has a really great program that includes their top industries and local schools. I’ll be studying their example more to see if it is something we could implement in our part of the state.

– Jordyn Frazier, Executive Director, JCCC

 

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