A host of newspaper stories could be gleaned from Gov. David
Walters' State of the State speech this week. Once again, I was
thankful and relieved that printed copies were provided to the
The address was 18 single-spaced pages long, and Walters spoke
for nearly an hour. He did a good job of taking an honest look at
Oklahoma. Until people quit kidding themselves, the state's not
going to be able to make progress.
"We are a small state in the middle of the country, 29th in
economic size, and 43rd in individual income," he said.
A Gallup poll commissioned last year by the Oklahoma
Department of Tourism and Recreation found that 22 percent of the
nation's public had no impression of Oklahoma. The most frequent
description was "a dry and dusty place," Walters said.
"Take a deep breath, strip away the political rhetoric and
take a hard look at Oklahoma," he invited. "You see a state that
lacks capital for its businesses and for growth.
"Our population is declining in the west and northwest. We
have large pockets of extreme poverty in the southeast, and two
major urban areas that rarely cooperate."
Oklahoma's economy is still based on the sale of raw
commodities and its industry is dominated by low value-added
manufacturing, the governor said. The energy sector has shrunk,
and Oklahoma workers make only 82 cents for every dollar earned
by the nation's average worker, he said.
"We are on the verge of being number one among all the states
in incarceration rates, divorce rates and child abuse, and we are
competing with only a handful of states to be last in health
expenditures, teachers' salaries and job creation," Walters
"Is this Oklahoma? Yes, undeniably, all that is a part of who
we are," he said. "It's a part we're not proud of, and it's a
part that drove me to run for office just like I suspect it drove
many of you to offer yourselves for public service."
Walters set 'em up, then came back with the positives.
Oklahoma was ranked number one by U.S. News and World Report
magazine for economic improvement in 1992. The state is home of
the top U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army bases in the nation. The
General Motors Corp. assembly plant in Oklahoma City last year
was cited by J.D. Powers and Associates for being the highest
quality plant in North America, and the Goodyear Tire and Rubber
Co. plant in Lawton was named most efficient among that
corporation's facilities, Walters said.
He started talking about findings of the Oklahoma Development
Strategy Project that was established last year, to do the
"vision thing" for the state. Here's what they came up with:
The current commodity-based Oklahoma economy is not powerful
enough to propel the state to a more prosperous future. Oil and
gas in 1923 generated 70 percent of state income, dropping to 20
percent by 1982 and is forecast to dwindle to 5.6 percent of
state revenue next year, Walters said.
In the future, good-paying jobs will be information intensive.
Many of these will be in the services sector as well as the
Distance and location are becoming increasingly irrelevant as
technology supersedes distance. Walters said he witnessed a
German language class beamed from Oklahoma State University's
telecommunication center to 40 states, 240 high schools, and
The communities, regions and states that get organized first and
best to live and work in the information age will win the race to
the new jobs. Being first and best in the information age will
take physical improvements and human resource development, he
The many information age businesses that are already thriving in
Oklahoma offer powerful proof that we can be successful, Walters
said, but the number of information-based jobs needs to be