SSTI Digest

Geography: Oklahoma

Raising Personal Income through Focused Efforts in Emerging Workforce Areas

In the midst of a national economic downturn, coupled with stagnant to little growth in wages for even college-educated individuals, state efforts to build a qualified workforce and attract industries in emerging fields that pay above-average wages are crucial to ensuring economic growth.
A recent report on income trends issued jointly by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute finds that one in five U.S. families has a lower income today than they did at the start of the decade. Analyzing state-by-state income trends over the past 20 years, the report also finds a long-standing trend of growing inequality between families in the wealthiest income bracket and those in the middle- to lower-income brackets. In fact, while incomes have declined by 2.5 percent among the bottom fifth of U.S. families since the late 1990s, the data indicates that incomes have increased by 9.1 percent among the top fifth.

People & TBED Organizations

Lori Broyles was appointed coordinator of the Women's Business Center in Oklahoma City.

Lawmakers Support Energy, STEM Initiatives in Upcoming Fiscal Year

Legislators in Alaska, Iowa and Oklahoma recently approved funding for several TBED-related initiatives within state operating and capital budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.

People & TBED Organizations

The Beaver County (Pa.) CO-OP announced it will change its name to StartingGate. The incubator will continue to assist entrepreneurs and new business start-ups and help expand existing businesses.

OCAST May Receive $12M Boost in FY 2009

Gov. Brad Henry unveiled the details of his fiscal year 2009 budget recommendation earlier this week, providing a substantial increase in funding to the state’s lead TBED agency and proposing a permanent funding mechanism for cutting-edge research through the EDGE Endowment.


Citing a sizable return on investment from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), the governor is recommending $34.5 million for FY09 – a 54 percent increase over last year’s appropriation. OCAST is slated to receive $6 million to replace one-time funding for the Bioenergy Center – established in 2007 – and $5 million to replace seed capital funds that were diverted last year for the center (see the June 6, 2007 issue of the Digest). An additional $4 million from OCAST seed funds appropriated last year would be allocated to the Bioenergy Center in FY09 for a total of $10 million. Gov. Henry also recommends $1 million to enhance existing OCAST programs.


Funding for the state’s research endowment is accumulating at a much slower rate than expected. With only $150 million deposited into the proposed $1 billion endowment since 2004, Gov. Henry is asking lawmakers to approve a permanent funding source using surplus gross production taxes on oil to grow the fund at a faster pace. Currently, oil revenues are deposited into a number of different accounts until they reach $150 million. The governor’s plan would direct any surplus revenues over the $150 million threshold to the EDGE endowment. Lawmakers did not allocate funding to the EDGE program last year. 


The budget recommendation for the Department of Commerce and Tourism is $32.9 million – a 17 percent increase over the FY08 appropriation. This includes $2 million for the Oklahoma Creativity Project, a collaborative statewide initiative to establish the state as a world-renowned center of creativity and innovation in commerce, education and culture. The governor’s budget also would remove one-time funding for the 2nd Century Entrepreneurship Program, which acts as a central point of access and information for new business enterprises.


In his State of the State Address, Gov. Henry asked lawmakers to continue the momentum of recent years in the arena of higher education and fully fund endowed chairs and reduce their backlog in colleges and universities. The budget recommendation also includes $1.5 million to expand the Middle School Math labs initiated in 2005. Initial funding was provided for 10 labs in middle schools with low math performance and was subsequently expanded the following year due to high success rates.


Two aerospace bills under consideration this legislative session would provide tax incentives to keep aerospace graduates in the state and support aerospace-related research and economic development activities. Held over from last session, HB 2784 provides an income tax credit of up to $5,000 for college graduates who work in aerospace or engineering for a period of five years, provides tax credits for employers of up to 30 percent of the qualified wage cost of employment, and offers incentives for recruiting college interns. HB 3098 creates the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute to support the aerospace industry in the areas of education and training, research and economic development. The institute will include a center for applied research to focus on R&D and technology transfer activities. 


Gov. Brad Henry’s FY 2009 budget recommendation is available at:

People & TBED Organizations

The Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence is now the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance.

People & TBED Organizations

Albert Johnson Jr. is the new vice president for university advancement at Cameron University. Ronna Vanderslice also has been selected as dean of the university's School of Education and Behavioral Sciences.

Oklahoma Lawmakers Approve $40M Bioenergy Center, Cut EDGE

Oklahoma is one step closer to positioning itself as a leader in sustainable energy production, with the creation of a $40 million Bioenergy Center. The legislature passed SB 510 at the close of the 2007 session last month, establishing the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center announced by Gov. Brad Henry during his State-of-the-State Address earlier this year (see the Feb. 19, 2007 issue of the Digest).


The Bioenergy Center is a joint collaboration between the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the Noble Foundation. The institution will coordinate the state’s resources and research programs in the fields of biofuels and bioenergy development and production utilizing a $10 million annual appropriation over the next four years. Research efforts will focus on sustainable economic production of cellulosic ethanol and developing critical steps in production of biodiesel and ethanol from non-cellulosic sources.


The center’s fiscal year 2008 appropriation will be channeled through the state’s lead TBED agency, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). The total OCAST budget for FY08 is $28.9 million, including surplus monies added throughout the year. OCAST will receive $6 million in surplus funds specifically for the Bioenergy Center. An additional $4 million from the OCAST budget also is directed to the center.


From the OCAST budget, $500,000 is directed to a Biofutures Institute in Tulsa and $350,000 is set aside for research equipment. Additionally, HB 1105, a spillover bill distributing excess revenues after the state’s maximum reserve balance is met, calls for $500,000 for OCAST to use to provide seed capital funding, a sharp decline from last year’s funding level of $5 million. The agency’s traditional programs will be funded at current levels.


Legislators also approved a $50 million increase of the authorization for endowed chairs at Oklahoma colleges and universities and $16.5 million for capital projects at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and regional universities, including the state’s Cancer Center. Department of Commerce appropriations for FY08 include $250,000 for the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence and $300,000 for the creation of a Small Rural Manufacturers Program at Oklahoma State University.


Lawmakers did not allocate funding for two of the governor’s major economic development initiatives. Gov. Henry’s proposed budget included $50 million to the Economic Development Generating Excellence endowment fund and $15 million to the Opportunity Fund from surplus general revenue funds. Both initiatives were funded last year (see the June 26, 2006 issue of the Digest).


The budget awaits Gov. Henry’s anticipated signature.


Leadership Oklahoma announced that Doug Fuller will be the organization's new director, effective May 7.


Willem Bakker was named president of the Technology Entrepreneur Center and executive director of the Information Technology Coalition, both in St. Louis.

Manufacturing Assistance Approved in Oklahoma

Voters in Oklahoma approved 54 percent to 46 percent State Question 725, which was intended to provide financial assistance to "high-risk" manufacturers in the state, in order to minimize the possible loss of employment. Funds provided to each manufacturer by the state would be limited to 10 percent of the manufacturers in-state capital investment. The source in the budget for this initiative would be Oklahoma's Rainy Day Fund, which can only be accessed when the fund is at least $80 million, and annual funding would be limited to $10 million total.


Ralph Schultz was named president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, effective Nov. 1. Schultz replaces Mike Neal, who resigned in July to assume the top job at the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce in Tulsa, Okla.