A measure to boost the economy in rural Oklahoma recently became law with the governor’s signature.
The Rural Action Partnership Program (RAPP) was the result of a lengthy legislative study into ways to improve the economy in small-town Oklahoma.
Senator Jay Paul Gumm, Senate author of the bill, said the Rural Action Partnership Program gives the Department of Commerce more tools to focus efforts in rural areas of the state. The House sponsor was Rep. Dale Turner, D-Holdenville.
“Small-town Oklahoma is poised for tremendous economic growth,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “Our focus with the Rural Action Partnership Program is to provide assistance to communities that have the will to boost their economies, but which might not have the resources to commit to that effort.
“The Commerce Department will have more tools to even better focus its programs on Oklahoma’s smaller communities.”
The new law will base four regional economic development coordinators in the four quadrants of rural Oklahoma. These individuals will assist small communities, providing “hands-on” economic development services to communities that might not have the resources to provide for themselves.
The program directs the creation of a database to detail specific resources available in rural Oklahoma. Information from the database will help communities promote business and industrial growth by matching industry needs with community assets.
Gumm, former director of a local chamber of commerce, said the new law directs that a comprehensive survey of natural resources be developed. The goal, he said, is to help match industrial needs with rural Oklahoma’s many natural advantages.
Another important feature of the bill is clear direction to the Department of Commerce to sponsor rural development conferences and summits. Such events have been successful in drawing the attention of business and industry site locators to rural Oklahoma, the lawmaker related.
“We just completed the fifth annual Oklahoma Southeast rural development summit, which brought more than two dozen site locators to my district, giving leaders from 15 communities a chance visit with the individuals who decide where business goes,” Gumm said. “This event can serve as a model for economic growth in every part of rural Oklahoma.”
Enactment of the law was the culmination of months of planning by many rural policymakers. Gumm and Representative Turner carried the legislation in 2003 that created the task force that developed the Rural Action Partnership Program.
The lawmaker concluded by saying that strengthening rural Oklahoma will boost the entire state’s economy.
“Quality jobs are the key to the future of small towns across our state,” he said. “Rural communities have been an extremely important part of Oklahoma’s past; with innovative programs like the Rural Action Partnership Program, we give small towns the ability to be a vital part of Oklahoma’s future. Doing that will preserve our heritage and our strength for generations yet unborn.”