Jay played host to the first Delaware County Economic Development and Tourism Summit, on August 9, at the RFC Center, the summit co-MC’d by Grove Area Chamber of Commerce President Donnie Crain and Jay Mayor Becki Farley.
Keynote speaker was Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, sharing plans and accomplishments of the new administration.
Other speakers were; NORA chairman Johnny Earp, Dep. Chief of the Cherokee Nation Brian Warner, OK House Representative Josh West, Grand Gateway Exe. Dir. Ed Crone, West Siloam Mayor Elaine Carr and Chairman of the Board of South Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce, Alicia Hampton.
Representatives from almost every town in Delaware County were on hand to hear the specifics.
This summit was the first and will, hopefully, become an annual event for Delaware County, according to Earp.
Different speakers espoused opportunities in NE Oklahoma and in Delaware County, like the old stage coach trail outside of Kansas and GRDA partnering with the Walton Foundation to help create a trail system.
Pinnell elaborated further when he spoke about tourism in NE Oklahoma saying, “Tourism is the front door to growing business here.”
He said the state of Oklahoma should be “a top ten state in tourism.”
Delaware County has so much to offer tourists with the Rt. 66 corridor (an international draw), Native Americans, Grand Lake and small towns that people love to visit.
He is committed to expanding the Fishing Trail that he began, here on Grand Lake across the state because “Oklahoma has the most diverse fishing available in the country and the Fishing Trail will build on that.”
“Honey Creek State Park will become a premium state park very soon,” Pinnell pointed out, adding it will drive tourism all around Grand Lake.
Land has been acquired for expansion and amenities will be added and improved, in the park, making it a destination location.
Another trail planned will be the Music Trail, highlighting past and present musicians from Oklahoma, but a marketing budget and someone accountable is needed before it can become a reality.
“Tourism is currently the third largest industry in Oklahoma,” according to Pinnell and studies have shown that “every $1 spent on marketing tourism brings back $8.”
Currently, Oklahoma generates $650 million in taxes currently from taxes…and that’s essentially by accident, since the state has spent almost nothing on marketing, but he added his goal is to see $1 billion annually.
So far, marketing dollars have been found within the current budget by ferreting out waste and duplicity, then “re-locating those tax dollars to tourism”
Last year Oklahoma spent $1 million on tourism, compared to other states like Texas and Michigan who spent $41+ million last year.
Those attending were exciting to hear what the administration has planned and that Governor Stitt has given Pinnell “full rein” to move this along as it fits into Stitt’s re-branding plans for the state.
NE Oklahoma and specifically, Delaware County is well-positioned to profit early from the administration’s plans and felt that this summit is something that should be copied across the state.
Attendees seemed to be in agreement that they would meet annually to help build tourism and business in the area, where they would work as a team, instead of in their own small circle.
Many speakers shared there is a lot of interest in Oklahoma by companies, across the nation, looking to expand or relocate and all believe Delaware County would make a great home for those companies.