New Program to Help Rural Areas in Economic Development

By Price, Marie | THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 24, 2002 | Go to article overview

New Program to Help Rural Areas in Economic Development


Price, Marie, THE JOURNAL RECORD


State government programs that help attract or retain larger business development, such as Quality Jobs, are being joined by an ever-growing number of measures aimed at rural economic development and small business.
Based at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah will be the Oklahoma Center for Rural Development, established in House Bill 1503 by House Speaker Larry Adair, D- Stilwell, Rep. Jim Wilson and Sen. Herbert Rozell. Wilson and Rozell are both Tahlequah Democrats.
A nine-member advisory board appointed by the NSU president will oversee the center.
Among other responsibilities, the new program is designed to help rural areas compete successfully for health, economic development, education, technology and other types of grant funding. It will also focus on issues such as community infrastructure and entrepreneurship through a partnership between the university and the state.
"Rural Oklahoma has amazing growth potential," said Adair. "If our rural areas of the state are to effectively compete for resources and jobs in the 21st century, we need to provide them with expert assistance."
Key to rural economic growth, the speaker said, is helping smaller communities improve their standard of living.
"We must give residents living outside of urban areas the tools to grow, retain and attract higher-paying jobs," Adair said.
Wilson said that 2nd District U.S. Rep. Brad Carson has been able to round up $250,000 to get the center off the ground with computer equipment, office supplies and the like. NSU is donating office space.
When the measure went through the House, Wilson said that officials envisioned a space where grant writers, possibly working on a commission basis, would seek grants to aid the funding- starved northeastern sector of the state.
The center will also serve as a repository for data about rural Oklahoma.
Among other duties, it will:
nAssist political subdivisions, tribal governments and other organizations in obtaining resources.
nDevelop alliances and partnerships with development organizations and rural communities, institutions and related groups.
nDevelop methods for evaluating the social and economic impact of alternative public investments upon the quality of life in rural Oklahoma.
nCreate a system to collect and analyze needs for work force development, a research and education agenda, a professional development program and a performance evaluation system.
The new law takes effect July 1.
Becoming law on the same day is Senate Bill 828, by Fisher and Rep. Curt Roggow, R- Enid, which expands the reach of the "Small Employer Quality Jobs Incentive Act."
The act passed three years ago, but its restrictive qualification criteria have limited its successes to fewer than a handful.
Under the revised law, employers in certain industries can qualify for quarterly incentive payments through the Oklahoma Tax Commission if they meet the statute's criteria:
nLocation in a county with a population of not more than 200,000.
nNo more than 90 full-time employees.
nIf located in a town with fewer than 3,500 residents or within 20 miles of such a community, creation of five new direct jobs within 12 months of application.
nIf located in a municipality with between 3,500 and 7,000 residents or within 20 miles of such a town, 10 new jobs.
nIf located in a municipality with a population of 7,000 or more or within 20 miles of such a municipality, 15 new jobs. …

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