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Chancellor's Column - January 2004  

An Early Spring?

With the Oklahoma winter now in full force, it’s hard to believe that spring will ever come. In fact, the superstitious may, in a few weeks, even be counting on “Punxsutawney Phil,” the famous groundhog, to predict an early spring.

For some of us, our attitudes about Oklahoma’s economic future reflect some of that same cold winter pessimism. It may be hard to believe that anything is going to come along and lead us to the "springtime" of an improved economy.

Well, I’m not a weather expert like our friend Phil, but I think we do have reason to be optimistic about Oklahoma’s economy.

On Jan. 9, co-chairs Ken Levit and Dave Lopez, Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Kathy Taylor and I presented the EDGE (Economic Development Generating Excellence) Action Plan 2004 to Gov. Brad Henry. It is the result of the participation of literally thousands of Oklahomans who were involved in the steering committee, expert teams, public forums and online discussions.

There are many solid recommendations for action, including updating our public education system, transforming Oklahoma into the research capital of the Plains, improving the health of Oklahomans and reforming and improving our business climate. Taken together, these actions can fundamentally change Oklahoma, moving us into a position of leadership in a technology-driven, knowledge-based, global environment.

And, I believe that these benefits will be felt throughout the state. Our state’s health issues know no geographic boundaries. The EDGE plan calls for reducing tobacco usage and addressing the need for improved health insurance coverage. Better coordination between the State Department of Education and the State Regents will mean better student performance in all schools and more college graduates throughout the state. Investing in research will open up opportunities for businesses – both large and small – to create new jobs. And, implementing meaningful reforms in areas such as regional economic development, tax policy and workers compensation will have a profound and positive impact statewide.

While other states may have been content with simply trying to survive the nationwide downturn, Gov. Henry has energized the state with EDGE. The result is an action plan that will give us an improved competitive “EDGE.” That’s just the kind of upbeat message that can warm up even the coldest of winter days.