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State commerce secretary to launch ‘guerrilla marketing campaign’

By Molly M. Fleming

The Journal Record

TULSA – Commerce Secretary Sean Kouplen is tired of getting calls from businesses saying that other states are trying to recruit them.

He wants to start making those calls to companies in other states, he said.

He has asked Oklahoma Department of Commerce staff members to research the states with the worst business climates. When the results are in, he’s going to pick five states and start calling their companies.

“In 90 days, you’ll see our guerrilla marketing campaign where we’ll go into certain cities with billboards and advertisements, telling those companies, ‘Here’s what you have,’ and ‘Here’s what you could have in Oklahoma,” he said.

Kouplen was the keynote speaker Thursday at the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors’ commercial market update. The event was held at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.

Kouplen still works full-time as Regent Bank’s chairman and CEO. The secretary position is unpaid. Oklahoma Department of Commerce Executive Director Brent Kisling handles the department’s daily operations, but reports to Kouplen.

Kouplen said his personal goal is to bring 100 out-of-state CEOs to Oklahoma this year.

“As you all know, people’s perception of Oklahoma and the reality of Oklahoma are 180 degrees,” he said. “It is a remarkable state to live in.”

The aggressive business recruitment strategy is one of five goals set by his 10-person advisory board. The group consists of experts in different economic development categories.

He said one initiative is improving workforce development programs. Chief Administrator of MidAmerica Industrial Park Dave Stewart is working on creating a workforce development plan.

“We have to align workforce development with education,” Kouplen said.

Another goal is to help cities and the state partner better on recruitment efforts. He said there shouldn’t be an “us versus them” strategy, where the state or a city feels like they’re competing on getting a business to an area.

He’d also like to see more of the money in the state put toward supporting innovation.

He plans on doing more to support existing business as well, he said. He’s hosting monthly dinners with companies at the Governor’s Mansion. In two weeks, the Commerce Department will feature its first “Oklahoma Success Story.” He asked the crowd to give him ideas of what companies would be good to feature.

Another way he’ll support existing businesses is with three new business councils: minorities, tribes, and nonprofit leadership. These councils will meet quarterly.

The tribal business council will feature leaders from the state’s 10 largest tribes.

“Instead of working against the tribes, we want to work with them,” he said. “We want to see what (business) incentives they can offer as well.”

One comment

  1. Dear Commerce Secretary Kouplen,

    You say “people’s perception of Oklahoma and the reality of Oklahoma are 180 degrees”. I could only wish.

    The first bill signed by Governor Stitt, with much fanfare, was constitutional carry. You will indeed hear about that priority from out of state CEOs. Then you can explain Stitt said he would “sign any bill” related to abortion and Leader Treat is going to send him one or more to test his veracity. Do you really think more restrictive and/or unconstitutional proposals on a woman’s right to choose is on any CEOs top ten to do list?

    As to workforce and education what is your explanation for candidate Stitt’s statement that he would have vetoed the tax increase bill that paid for the first teacher pay increase in over a decade? Just pandering to voters to get elected? Might not be the best answer but clearly the truth.

    Higher education, our best economic engine, received not one cent of funding increase in the governor’s executive budget even though it has been cut deeper over the last eight years than in any other state. You’ve got growth money. Use it.

    Further the out of state business executives will undoubtedly thank you for spending money on billboards and advertising in their cities especially if they are in those businesses. That is an ancient form of recruiting when funding into research, targeting our areas of excellence – weather, energy, aerospace, i2e,OCAST, OU Health Sciences Center, all ignored in initial budget proposals – would have sent more meaningful signals to the business types.

    No need Sean to re-invent the wheel here. Ask your dad what this state needs and he will tell you: Better schools and more health care. How? Per pupil spending is still in the bottom five in this country. Put money there, quit arguing about how many superintendents we have; that’s just a distraction and doesn’t amount to ten cents in the overall school budget. As to health care accept medicaid expansion. The business executives will ask you why you don’t and if you answer truthfully you will say we hate Obama. Then they will say on the phone “good bye and don’t call back until Oklahoma grows up”.

    One final thing. The tribes. I authored the legislation to tax and regulate casino wagering. Almost NO republicans helped with that so if you are looking for the major impediments to cooperation with our Native American co-equals, speak to the house and senate Republican caucuses. Therein is the problem.

    Sincerely Offered,

    Cal Hobson

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