In an effort to boost economies in rural Oklahoma, two rural democrats have teamed up to push for passage of Senate Bill 1587. The measure’s authors, Senator Susan Paddack of Ada and State Rep. Wes Hilliard of Sulphur are pleased the measure unanimously won the approval of a House panel Wednesday.
Hilliard said the measure modifies the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Act by providing protection for communities and gives incentives to corporations who want to set up in areas after a negative economic event occurs.
“If a major corporation employing a significant number of individuals vacates an area leaving many without jobs, Senate Bill 1587 would make it easier for a new company to come in and qualify for the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Act,” Hilliard said.
Senate Majority Whip Susan Paddack said the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program provides quarterly cash payments of up to 5 percent of newly created payroll to qualifying companies. Generally, the program is applicable to manufacturing, research & development, central administrative offices, and selected service
“To date, more than 340 companies have claimed nearly $350 million in benefits, creating more than 35,000 new jobs,” Paddack said. “We want to ensure that rural Oklahoma reaps the benefits of the tremendously effective program. By doing so we are doing our part to strengthen rural Oklahoma, making it great place to live, work and raise a family.”
She said currently, for a company to qualify for the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Act the company’s average wage must meet the average wage in the local county. The Senator said in some cases, the loss of a company will actually drive up the average wage in a county despite job losses because the business employed numerous people at a lower wage. As a result, it is harder for other companies to then locate to the area and qualify for the Quality Jobs Act.
“Senate Bill 1587 would waive the average wage requirement for companies relocating to areas that have suffered a major, negative economic event,” Paddack said.
Hilliard, an Assistant Democratic Floor Leader in the House, said the bill would also help when natural disasters strike a community destroying a major business. He referred to the town of Stroud as a prime example.
“When a tornado struck the town of Stroud and destroyed the Stroud Outlet Mall it was never rebuilt,” Hilliard said. “This bill would make it easier for new companies to locate to areas that have been ravaged by the effects of a natural disaster.”
The two lawmakers said their bill is a win-win situation for not only rural Oklahoma communities but for the families that live there as well.
“The Legislature has an obligation to do everything possible to attract new companies and get these Oklahoma families back on their feet,” Hilliard said. “SB 1587 does just that. I firmly believe that should this legislation become law, we will see a tremendous boost to the economies of rural Oklahoma.”