The transition of Oklahoma from an ideology of a strong separation
between business and government to more cooperation in economic
development has been uneasy at best, despite the heavy government
investment in projects such as air bases.
The Oklahoma Constitution was written with a suspicion of big
business. Also, the state's top industries of energy and
agriculture long have voiced concerns about "keeping government off
our backs" while lobbying for government incentives.
Now, with Oklahoma Futures producing a state five-year economic
development plan, we have seen hundreds of recommendations requiring
a closer relationship between government and business in planning,
education, financing, tourism, research, contracts, job training and
It took a five-year recession for us to reach this early stage
of a new cooperative thinking in our effort to diversify the
economy. However, while some of us may feel the results have been
slow in coming, evidently our struggle is natural.
The United States in general has grappled with the same
transition, with regions going through their own crisis at different
times, says Prof. George C. Lodge, a specialist in
government-business relations at the Harvard Business School.
"There is a peculiar mind set that one sees in the United States
regarding the roles and relations of government and business," said
Lodge, who will address a seminar sponsored by the RAM Group Ltd. on
Business's Obligation to Relate to Governments on April 20 at the
Lincoln Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.
"Every so often, a crisis comes along - forcing an inspection of
these old assumptions," said Lodge in a telephone interview.
"Oklahoma, which has been hard hit by energy and agriculture
problems, evidently has gone through such a crisis.
"When that happens, the changes that follow often require a
tremendous amount of waste and cost."
What Lodge does is identify these old assumptions - how we got
them, their effects on our society and, how they have changed in
spite of our ideas.
"I have grown to believe," said Lodge, "that the cost of
transition can be reduced if the mind set is made explicit. If we
can reveal it, instead of fudging it, people can deal with it
"I try to help people understand the mind set. They have the
choice of keeping it or rejecting it. If they don't know we have
the mind set, there is a feeling of helplessness."
During the last 15 years, said Lodge, the most dramatic crisis
of U.S. business have been the ecological problems of waste, water,
air and the environment, plus the competition from Japanese industry
in manufacturing items such as semiconductors, telecommunications
"The ecological problems required a basic re-evaluation of the
roles and relations of government and business," he said. "The
Japanese competition laid waste to much of our manufacturing.
"At the heart were old mind sets of the ways in which business
should function in areas such as the capital markets and labor
relations along with the role of government."
Eventually, Lodge said we have three choices:
- The crisis gradually kills our institutions or businesses.
- We are forced to leave the playing field.
- We are forced to change to meet the new conditions.
"We have to do something," he said, "or let the old mind sets
stand in the way."
While Lodge has not been to Oklahoma and professes no expertise
on this state's specific problems, he sees the five-year recession
and current diversification efforts as steps in a logical sequence. …