Investment is essential for diversity in our state’s economy
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
In the wake of the big oil bust of the ’80s and in what seems now like a rare moment of legislative clarity, the Oklahoma Legislature passed the Oklahoma Economic Development Act of 1987.
Instead of accepting an economic future of boom and bust over which Oklahoma could expect little control, back then state policymakers said, “Let’s diversify Oklahoma’s economy.”
And they did.
Among other steps, the Economic Development Act established the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to promote research, innovation and commercialization of Oklahoma-born discovery and invention.
Nearly 30 years later, we are seeing again the critical importance of the goal of broadening Oklahoma’s economy by expanding the state’s technology and bioscience footprint.
As of last year, cumulative legislative allocations for OCAST of more than $250 million have produced returns totaling $5.2 billion in private and federal investment, a ratio of 20-to-1. i2E operates under the OCAST umbrella in assisting in the commercialization of Oklahoma based innovation. In 2014 alone, i2E client companies created more than 85 new jobs, more than $113 million in revenue, 132 products, 55 patents filed and 22 patents issued.
The OCAST/i2E model works as an engine to diversify and grow Oklahoma’s economy.
The challenge is that although the state started off right three decades ago, we drifted off course once things got good again. Over time, we’ve steadily disinvested in Oklahoma’s innovation model rather than working as a state to be more effective in creating commercialization of our innovation.
The news is full of talk that we might be heading for a repeat of the ’80s all over again — and in one sense, I hope they’re right.
Not in that I want $20 a barrel crude. I do not. But I do hope that current circumstances cause us to reassess how we are investing for the future. I hope this time, we’ll say enough is enough, and recognize and reaffirm that as a state, we’re off track in our historical overreliance on the oil and gas industry.
We can’t achieve economic diversification through international bidding wars for corporate headquarters. Sustainable diversification comes only through innovation and building new companies in Oklahoma.
The Economic Development Act and the oil bust of the ’80s laid the ground work for the economic diversification Oklahoma so desperately needs. OCAST and i2E are ready to do the heavy lifting.
It’s not too late for Oklahoma to reclaim innovation and diversification as our rallying cry.
Read the full story at The Oklahoman (requires subscription).
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did you know?
Business research and development growth had accounted for most of the nation’s R&D growth in terms of dollars and performance over the last five years. The academic sector is second in performance. The federal government is the second-largest funder.
Source: National Science Foundation