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February 16, 2004 :: EDGE Action Plan Moving Forward

Media Contact

Oklahoma higher education will be taking an active role in helping implement many of the recommendations that came out of Gov. Brad Henry’s recently released 2004 EDGE Action Plan to improve Oklahoma’s economy.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education agreed at a recent meeting to provide leadership with a number of the EDGE (Economic Development Generating Excellence) recommendations. The EDGE plan includes transforming the state into the “Research Capital of the Plains;” dramatically updating Oklahoma’s public education system; reversing the state’s health trends; and reforming and improving the Oklahoma’s business climate.

“Many public and private entities in Oklahoma are involved in shaping our state’s economy,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “However, in a shared leadership role, the State Regents can provide the leadership in some areas because of our ability to focus resources and expertise.”

Risser said Oklahoma’s higher education system is important to the state’s future because it produces graduates with skills to drive the economy; transfers ideas from the research lab into existing and new businesses; and creates a high-quality environment for generating and retaining college graduates and attracting business to Oklahoma.

In support of transforming Oklahoma into the research capital of the Plains, the State Regents will assist the governor, lawmakers and private entities in planning the usage of a $1 billion EDGE endowment. Higher education will also develop policies to streamline the technology transfer process within the state and to organize workshop promoting the creation and commercialization of intellectual property. State Regents will also assist the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce (ODC) to identify research needs of Oklahoma business and industry.

The State Regents will work with the State Department of Education to help improve basic K-12 education and reduce remediation levels. A plan that will assure Oklahoma communities throughout the state have access to economically efficient higher education will be developed for state lawmakers. In addition, Oklahoma’s colleges and universities will offer a wider variety of professional development and continuing education courses aimed at meeting the educational needs of the workforce.

State Regents will help improve Oklahoma’s business climate in a number of ways. First, they will work with the ODC and the private sector to develop a plan for the “best in the world” weather industry. Second, State Regents will agree to assume the necessary debt in the endowed chairs program and use state appropriations to pay off the $45 million backlog over a number of years. Third, they will work with the ODC and others to evaluate other states’ recruiting campaigns aimed at attracting college graduates and members of the “creative class,” then propose an effective program for Oklahoma. Fourth, State Regents will conduct a study of the probable benefits of increasing the number of advanced degrees to Oklahoma, as well as propose a plan for incentives.

Although most of the actions concerning reversing Oklahoma’s health trends do not directly pertain to higher education, the State Regents say they will assist the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in creating the state’s first comprehensive cancer center and provide other health-related expertise.

“Higher education is the driving force behind any state’s economy, and Oklahoma is no different,” State Regents Chairman Ike Glass said. “We are excited about Oklahoma’s EDGE and the role that Oklahoma’s state system will play in helping transform our state into a major economic player in this region, if not the nation.”

Oklahoma’s EDGE is a far-reaching economic development action plan developed by Gov. Henry; Chancellor Risser; Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Kathy Taylor and a steering committee comprised of 23 expert teams and co-chaired by OU-Tulsa President Ken Levit and Dave Lopez, president of the Oklahoma City Downtown Association and economic advisor to Henry.

The goal of Oklahoma’s EDGE is to bring more wealth to Oklahoma and to increase the competitiveness of Oklahoma business and industry, as well as provide greater employment opportunities and assist in economic development efforts within the state.