Earlier this year, Brent Kisling, executive director of Enid Regional Development Alliance, was selected by newly elected Gov. Kevin Stitt as executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

In that position, Kisling will oversee the operations of the Department of Commerce and will report to the secretary of commerce. He replaced Deby Snodgrass, who served as both executive director and secretary of commerce and tourism for Gov. Mary Fallin.

Jan. 14 was Kisling’s last day with ERDA, a position he had held since 2009. ERDA Associate Director Lisa Powell was approved unanimously to fill the role of executive director until a permanent replacement is chosen.

Since 2009, Powell has been the associate director of ERDA. She also has served on the Oklahoma Economic Development Council, Governor’s International Team and Main Street Enid.

Making an impact

Kisling said his new job has been “fantastic.”

“It’s a great job. It’s great to be working with the governor, the state and his team,” he said. “And I truly believe we’re be able to make an impact down here (in Oklahoma City).”

Weeks into the job, Kisling said there already are plans for the state and goals the governor wants to see met in an effort to make Oklahoma a top 10 state for businesses.

“We really want to spend more time focusing on growing existing business in Oklahoma,” he said. “We do a great job in bringing new companies in but to truly be a top 10 business state like Governor Stitt want us to be we need to grow our current businesses as well.”

He said there are also plans to consolidate workforce development by bringing all the state entities providing such development under one umbrella.

“We want to create a culture of innovation, focusing on entrepreneurship and starting business in Oklahoma,” Kisling said. “We need to be telling our success stories. We’ve had too much bad news in Oklahoma in the past years. We have businesses big and small, urban and rural, that are growing. We need to tell those stories as well.”

Bullish on Northwest Oklahoma

He said he also sees more economic success for Northwest Oklahoma.

“I’m very bullish on the future of Northwest Oklahoma. I think we’ve been very proactive in the past several years creating a network where we speak in one voice,” Kisling said. “We’ve had the wind industry come in, oil and gas grow in the area … value-added agriculture, such as ADM Milling.

“I think there’s a lot of good momentum in Northwest Oklahoma, and I have no doubt it will continue.”

Branding for the state

Stitt also named Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell to serve as his Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Branding earlier this year. Stitt made commerce and tourism separate posts. They had been combined under the administration of Fallin.

Kisling noted Pinnell is responsible for branding, which is another step the state will take to make improvements.

“Over the next several months, Gov. Stitt’s administration is going to be looking at a new brand for the state,” Kisling said. “Not a tagline or one sentence. A brand that says this is our state.

“When I go out to sell our state to Europe and Chicago and Dallas, I have to have a clear message, like we did in Enid,” he said. “I would implore the residents of Oklahoma to be thinking about what that message needs to be and how that quadrant to the state can be represented in that message.”

Efforts to rebrand Enid began in 2011 as a way to unify marketing efforts coming from the city’s main promotional and economic development entities.

“I have shown our Enid brand book to our lieutenant governor as a way a community can rebrand itself,” he said. “I think Enid was unique in the way we brought so many organizations to the table to buy into it. It was unique among communities.”

Mansion conversations

Kisling said it is an exciting time in Oklahoma government.

“There is a lot of energy within Gov. Stitt’s administration and cooperation with executive branch and legislative branch. It makes my job a whole lot easier,” he said. “I miss my colleagues in Enid and Northwest Oklahoma, but I’m excited to have the influence of Northwest Oklahoma … in state government right now.”

He said the governor is “very involved” with activities of the department of commerce and interacts often with business leaders.

“Every week, he and I invite businesses leaders cross the state to come to dinner with the governor,” he said. “That’s been some of my favorite parts so far. Those governor’s mansion conversations.”

Story provided by Enid News & Eagle

Written by: Cass Rains