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SOIC Hosts Conference Focused on Southwest Oklahoma
February 1, 2006
Southwestern Oklahoma Impact Coalition (SOIC) recently held its first-ever regional conference in Chickasha with the focus of the event centering on various groups and individuals joining forces in an effort to maximize economic development opportunities in the southwest quadrant of Oklahoma.
Five institutions of higher education—Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Western Oklahoma State College in Altus, Cameron University in Lawton, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha and Redlands Community College in El Reno—and two councils of government—South Western Oklahoma Development Authority and the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments—joined forces to host the “Critical Issues Confronting Southwest Oklahoma Manufacturers” conference.
Dr. Marvin Hankins, director of the Center for Economic and Business Development at SWOSU, presented the aggregate results of structured interviews with area manufacturers. During the interview process, business owners and management were asked to share issues and concerns regarding the local workforce and their products, markets, industry, technology, utility providers and community services. The interviews, conducted using an e-Synchronist survey tool, identified critical issues common among southwest Oklahoma manufacturers. The e-Synchronist survey is a statewide effort by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
Hankins said the identification of these issues will provide a platform from which SOIC
participants will develop goals, objectives, and actions to be completed by the spring of 2007.
Hugh McCrabb, the director of Technical and Occupational Activity for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, presented a program on WorkKeys, a job skills assessment system that measures ‘real world’ skills which employers believe to be critical to job success. McCrabb said that employers on a state-wide basis will be receiving a letter of support for the WorkKeys initiative from Governor Brad Henry, addressing Oklahoma’s need to build a better trained workforce.
A four-person panel consisting of manufacturers interviewed during the e-Synchronist survey process offered their candid opinions on the challenges currently facing business and industry in southwest Oklahoma. Serving on the panel were Jeff Ledford, Hobart, SKF; Doug Schones, Elk City, Dyna-Turn; Judy Rector, Chickasha, American Mattress Co., Inc.; and David Delana, El Reno, Heritage Press. Marilyn Feaver, president of the Grady County Economic Development Council and the Chickasha Chamber of Commerce, served as panel moderator.
The conference was attended by area business people, educators, students, city officials, manufacturing alliance members, tribal officials, economic development professionals, and southwest Oklahoma state representatives and senators.
Pedro Garza, regional director of the southwest region of the United States Economic Development Authority, praised the newly formed SOIC for its unprecedented economic development initiative within the region. These seven entities are only the founding members and the coalition will eventually consist of a broad-based group of stakeholders.
A second and larger phase of the e-Synchronist survey process is scheduled to begin
within the next few weeks. During this phase, a number of local southwest Oklahoma business people in the convention, retail-trade, tourism, and service sectors will be contacted to schedule interviews. This data will be collected and analyzed via the e-Synchronist model and will target issues related to those business sectors.