301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

12.10.23 – Oklahoma Voice 

Top state lawmakers recently presented different visions of how the state can attract major businesses to Oklahoma.

At the State Chamber of Oklahoma’s State of Business forum, Republican legislative leaders said tax reform, increasing the number of trained and talented workers and changing how the Oklahoma Department of Commerce operates could help the state land massive economic development deals.

Leading Democrats said improving Oklahoma’s education system and access to health care and affordable housing are key to recruiting new businesses. House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson and Sen. Carri Hicks, both Oklahoma City Democrats, said GOP policies and rhetoric at the Capitol also impact business recruitment efforts.

All four lawmakers agreed that helping the state retain and grow existing Oklahoma businesses should be top of mind for policymakers.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said lawmakers need to give the Commerce Department and other economic development organizations the tools necessary to broker deals with major employers.

‘It’s bad policy to rush something through’

Although the Oklahoma Legislature has rushed to pass multimillion-dollar incentive packages in recent years in an effort to lure major employers like PanasonicVolkswagen and Enel North America to the state, Treat decried the practice.

“We have to find a way to be able to give Commerce and others the tools to actually land these (deals) absent us having to rush a bill through and try to get something passed,” he said. “It’s bad policy to try and rush something through.”

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said having a trained workforce and offering competitive business incentives are key to recruitment.

Taxes also factor into the equation, he said.

“We have to be a state that rewards business, that rewards productivity, that allows people to keep more of their money that they’ve earned,” McCall said. “I think that attracts people. I think that attracts business.”

McCall has supported Gov. Kevin Stitt’s calls for the Oklahoma Legislature to cut taxes. McCall championed cuts to the state’s corporate and personal income taxes that took effect in 2022.

Munson said affordable and accessible child care and having a healthy workforce can help attract companies to Oklahoma. She noted the state ranks among the worst in many health rankings.

Hicks expressed concerns that politics at the state Capitol may deter some companies from considering Oklahoma.

“I think the rhetoric is damaging our state’s reputation right now,” Hicks said.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Janelle Stecklein for questions:info@oklahomavoice.com. Follow Oklahoma Voice onFacebook andTwitter.