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Oklahoma growing in businesses and jobs

March 2, 2014

Tulsa World: No one can deny the beauty and charm of northeast Oklahoma. From the Art Deco skyline in Tulsa to the rolling hills and beautiful scenery that make up the rest of the region, anyone passing through Green Country is sure to be struck by the area's natural splendor. It's not just the scenery that is impressive, either. Whether it is big-name bands in Tulsa's music venues, the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, or sailing at Grand Lake, both native Oklahomans and visitors can enjoy a wide variety of culture and entertainment.

As governor, I can't take credit for a beautiful sunset in Grove or a sold-out show at the BOK Center.

But what I can do is try to build the best economic environment possible for families and businesses so that our state continues to grow and prosper. Attracting and retaining good jobs in Green Country is the best thing we can do to help our citizens to flourish.

To do that, I have pursued an aggressive pro-growth agenda with our state legislators.

For instance, we've worked hard to reduce cost-drivers for businesses by pursuing historic legal and workers compensation reforms. Now small-business owners can use their money to expand their businesses and create jobs rather than on legal fees.

We've also worked to improve outcomes in public education, giving our children the tools they need to succeed in college and the workforce.

And we've placed an emphasis on degree completion, because we know over 70 percent of the jobs created between now and 2020 will require either a college degree or a professional certificate from one of Oklahoma's great Career Technology centers.

We've attacked government waste, consolidating duplicative agencies, boards and commissions and saving millions of taxpayer dollars.

All of these reforms are working and helping to boost prosperity across the state.

Since 2011, the unemployment rate in Oklahoma has fallen from 7 percent to just 5.4 percent.

Oklahoma families are making more; per capita income growth has risen 6.3 percent, the second-highest growth rate in the nation. And our fiscal house is once again in order; our Rainy Day Fund has gone from just $2.03 to more than half a billion dollars.

Oklahoma is moving forward, and Green Country is helping to lead that charge. In the last three years, more than 200 businesses have either moved to northeast Oklahoma or expanded their operations there. That amounts to more than $3.5 billion in investments and 17,100 new jobs since 2011.

That kind of growth does not fly under the radar; in fact, it's getting noticed by some of the biggest companies in the world. More than 115 Fortune 500 companies now have operations in Green Country, and Oklahoma-based companies like ONEOK, Williams and NORDAM are internationally known.

Whether it's major companies with worldwide brand recognition, like Macy's Inc. and Verizon, or homegrown mom-and-pop operations, business owners and investors are seeing northeast Oklahoma for what it is: a hot bed of economic opportunity.

I spend several weekends a year at Grand Lake with my husband and our children. I love those trips. There is no better place to spend time with my family and enjoy our state's natural beauty.

But I'm also excited, every time I make the drive there, by what I see from the road: the "open" sign in the window of a new business; the construction equipment around a new office; and all the other signs of a thriving, growing community.

Green Country has always been great. Every day it gets better, and that's something we can all be proud of.

 

Mary Fallin in 2010 was the first woman to be elected governor of Oklahoma. She currently serves as the chair of the National Governors Association. Fallin served two terms as a state representative before becoming Oklahoma's first woman lieutenant governor in 1995. From 2006 to 2010, she served as a member of the U.S. House.

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