OKLAHOMA CITY — State officials sang Enid’s praises in the wake of economic and social uncertainty during a forum with local leaders at the state Capitol on Tuesday.

“Enid has all the things businesses want,” Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell told more than 20 leaders representing numerous sectors of the community such as local government, public education, commerce and community service for Enid’s Day at the Capitol.

Pinnell said by encouraging both large businesses and “singles and doubles” of workers to relocate, Oklahoma — and Enid specifically — can attract longer-term developments in education, economy and infrastructure.

Pinnell, who oversees the state’s tourism department, said last year, 2 million more people visited the state than in 2019.

He called tourism the “front door” to everything else state officials want to bring to all 77 Oklahoma counties, not just to Tulsa or Oklahoma City. This includes the state’s growing film and TV industry, which Pinnell said he’d want to bring to Enid, too.

“I think over the next 10 years, the sky’s the limit,” Pinnell said.

Senate Pro Tem President Greg Treat said Enid still is a regional hub that’s “taken very seriously” at the state Capitol.

“Enid is an extremely important economic driver,” Treat reminded those attending the Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce’s annual forum.

Pinnell, Treat and Enid’s locally elected state legislators each stood from the front of the board room in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s new building — named for John Groendyke, the longest-serving wildlife commissioner in Oklahoma and head of Groendyke Transport, which is based in Enid.

Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, said he believed the current legislative session had been relatively quiet, compared to past sessions that included a teacher strike walkout and a $1.6 billion deficit — despite a record 2,400 number of bills and resolutions being pre-filed in January for 2021’s session that was partly due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

“You’ll jinx it, you know,” City Commissioner Jeff Funk interjected, to which Caldwell knocked on the wood of the podium panel behind him.

“So we have money, which is always helpful, so I think we’re going to be able to take care of our budgetary needs,” Caldwell then said. “We were pretty conservative with our budget last year, and I think that really served us well going in just due to the great unknown.

“I don’t know if you guys have heard, but there’s a small virus that’s been going around the world that’s had a slight impact on things,” he said, “so because of that, we were really conservative with how we budgeted last year, and that set us up for a good position this year.”

Reflecting Gov. Kevin Stitt’s comments during

his own recent visit to Enid, Caldwell said the state of Oklahoma has been in a good position from fully reopening up its economy in June, sooner than most states did during the pandemic.

Enid followed suit with Stitt’s plan to reopen, a month earlier than originally planned.

Both the city and the state then saw comparable economic growth, as well as a swift increase in new COVID cases and death statewide.

Caldwell said sales tax revenue continues to “drive the train” in Enid, which has seen recent revenue increases unlike the rest of the state.

“I think because of that leadership (from Stitt), we’ve been in a much better position” from a budgetary standpoint during the pandemic, Caldwell said.

He and his local colleagues, state Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader and Sen. Roland Pederson, all said Tuesday they’d be ramping up for the second half of the legislative session.

Enid Mayor George Pankonin said the return to the state Capitol felt like a “return to normal” after last year’s trip was canceled because of then-new COVID concerns, as was the city’s annual voyage to Washington.

Pankonin said comments during Tuesday’s session interested him in what he called two major “moving

targets”: a Senate proposal to change the Oklahoma’s Promise college scholarship program and the ongoing attempts to reform the state’s Medicaid system.

“Those are issues that affect everybody in Enid,” Pankonin said

Article by: Alex Ewald – Enid News & Eagle