Oklahoma Professional Economic Development Council Presents Requests

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Economic development professionals from across the state presented their legislative wish lists to lawmakers on Wednesday, when the Oklahoma Professional Economic Development Council held its annual Legislative Breakfast and Day at the Capitol.

Lawsuit reform topped the OEDC's printed list of business climate issues, though OEDC President Evan Zorn said the issue is not necessarily the group's highest priority.

It's very important for the business climate in Oklahoma, Zorn said of lawsuit reform, also known as tort reform. The group hopes lawmakers will work toward eliminating frivolous lawsuits and limiting jury awards without harming truly injured parties. The workers' compensation system will also be a topic of conversation again this year, Zorn said, as OEDC will work to make sure the reforms made last year are not eroded.

OEDC officials also stressed the importance of making the state's transportation infrastructure a funding priority, and to provide more funding for technology research made available through the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

The group will seek to preserve Oklahoma's eminent domain laws as they are, and work to create more public-private partnerships to secure military contracts.

Regarding incentives, the OEDC has taken a keen interest in Gov. Brad Henry's proposed Opportunity Fund. Patterned after Texas' Enterprise Fund, the state would put aside $100 million to be used for cash incentives when attempting to lure new businesses to the state.

That might be one that I might say was my personal favorite, of the new incentives that have been proposed, Zorn said. We're very pleased to see Governor Henry getting behind that, and it appears several other legislators are. And now's our opportunity while we have all of this growth revenue- That's important just from a competitive standpoint with Texas and other states around us, and it looks like other states are considering doing the same thing, too.

OEDC supports the Quality Investment Act, which would provide incentives to help companies modernize and/or retool their facilities. But the organization opposes a move to include claw back provisions in a number of state incentives, which would require companies that don't stay in Oklahoma to somehow reimburse the state for incentives previously received.

We do not need to put restrictions on it, because the state incentive programs in Oklahoma are performance-based, Zorn said. …