NOVEMBER 18, 2009


Regional Economic Summit at NSU Concludes With Summary of Outcomes

Photo of NSU's economic summit.
Keynote speaker Bill Millett, founder and president of Scope View Strategic Advantage, speaks during Giving Voice to our Region: Leaders Crossing Borders to Build the Economy and our Communities Nov. 3 at Northeastern State University.

After two days of speakers, workshops and breakfasts, Northeastern State University's regional economic summit, "Giving Voice to our Region: Leaders
Crossing Borders to Build the Economy and our Communities" concluded with a summary of outcomes.

Tourism, natural resources, active civic organizations, a diverse workforce, lower cost of living, and access to higher education were identified as northeastern Oklahomas top assets by nearly 350 regional leaders who gathered at NSU for the region's first economic summit.

Co-sponsored by the Sequoyah-Adair-Cherokee Counties Empowerment Zone, the Cherokee Nation and NSU, the summit was an effort to study possibilities to marshal the economic and political capital of several northeast Oklahoma counties struggling with fiscal issues and poverty.

"Together we shall overcome the worst economic conditions we have seen in most of our lives, to give voice to this region, said Bill Langley, chairman of the SACC-EZ.

Civic and community leaders were joined by representatives from city, county, state, tribal and federal governmental entities. They participated in asset mapping sessions in which they were asked to identify the primary strengths in seven northeastern Oklahoma counties, and then broke into small workgroups that identified challenges to growth and prosperity within the region.

Barriers to growth included the need for a more skilled workforce, a high level of poverty, communication between the counties and familiarity with assets each has, having a common regional strategy for growth, lack of a legislative agenda, and the need for early childhood services, such as daycare and parenting training.

The summit included workshops focused on industry clusters, community infrastructure and the potential for collaboration with the northwest Arkansas and its growing economy. Speakers included Dr. Don Betz, NSU president and Ken Purdy, Tahlequah mayor.

Purdy said the summit addressed an array of topics and concerns shared among the region's communities.

We all have challenges, whether it's because of the changing demographics, the economy or what we all share in common, he said.

Participants will continue the work that was started with group meetings to develop a regional strategic plan, a legislative agenda, and a plan to network within the region to share goals, objectives and action steps.