Top Takeaways from Insights@Meridian with Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt

On Thursday, September 30, Meridian hosted a hybrid in-person and live-streamed Insights@Meridian with Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt, moderated by Rina Shah, businesswoman, media contributor, and founder of Rilax Strategies.

Governor Stitt, who was elected governor as a first-time politician in 2019, outlined his plan to make the state top ten in job growth, infrastructure, education and more.

Here are some top takeaways from this fireside chat:

  1. Oklahoma a “pioneer in everything energy.” Oklahoma is rich with natural resources as oil was discovered there in the 1920s. As a result, Oklahoma is a leader in energy production, including being the fourth largest producer of natural gas and sixth largest producer of oil in the U.S. with just 10 percent of their energy coming from coal. The governor believes in an “all of the above approach” to energy, noting coal as an important back-up energy source. During the 2020 February’s polar vortex, Oklahoma’s wind turbines and natural gas stocks froze over but coal production was filled the energy gap. Governor Stitt reinforced Oklahoma as a “pioneer in renewable energy,” due to being the second largest producer of wind energy in the U.S. with 40 percent of their energy used coming from wind power. They have also embraced electric vehicle technology and implemented more electric vehicle charging stations per capita than any other state.
  2. Bringing the world to Oklahoma and Oklahomans to the world. Governor Stitt described U.S. states as “50 laboratories of democracy,” and while they do not have a large role in foreign policy on the national level, Governor Stitt believes in global economic engagement. He is a proponent of free trade and commerce and wants to expand Oklahoma’s engagement with foreign businesses. The governor mentioned that there are many international exchange programs at Oklahoma State University. “We want to bring the world to Oklahoma and bring Oklahomans to the world,” he shared.
  3. Responding to the pandemic. Governor Stitt’s priorities during the pandemic were to ensure health and safety of his constituents, protect businesses by remaining open and provide children access to in-person education. Oklahoma was the first state to lift pandemic restrictions in June 2020 and many school districts stayed open for in-person education throughout 2020 and 2021. Oklahoma’s economy grew during the pandemic and the state established the Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence (OPCIE) to study COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics. OPCIE is working to put together a repository of animal, human and plant specimens to encourage more biotechnology companies to do more research in the state as well.
  4. ​​​​​“We’re open for business.” Oklahoma seeks to create an environment conducive to private sector growth. Many businesses have relocated there over the past several years and the state is actively looking for new companies, both domestic and international, to make the move. There is a growing innovation sector with aerospace, defense, drone, biotech and technology start-ups rapidly moving to the state. 600 global corporations are based in Oklahoma with an invested $4.5 billion including Google’s largest data center in the world. Thanks to Oklahoma’s abundance of wind energy, Google's data center is 96 percent carbon neutral.
  5. Creating a Workforce of the Future. A father of six, Governor Stitt emphasized the importance of education in creating a strong, competitive workforce for the future. Regarding higher education, Governor Stitt mentioned that about half of all Oklahoma high school graduates attend college and emphasized the abundance of training programs and other career pathways for those students who choose not to attend a traditional 4-year institution such as mentorship and apprenticeship programs with companies like Boeing. While the unemployment rate in the state is one of the lowest in the countries at 3.2 percent, the Governor wants to create more re-training programs for the 40 percent of Oklahomans who are currently out of the workforce.

Insights@Meridian  is designed to provide ambassadors and other senior diplomats with an intimate opportunity to hear directly from Administration leaders, members of Congress, policymakers and business visionaries on vital policy issues of the day.

Project summary

Top Takeaways from Insights@Meridian with Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt | September 2021
Number of Attendees: 22
Regions: Africa, Europe and Eurasia, South and Central Asia, Western Hemisphere
Countries: Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Mauritius, Spain, Ukraine, Zambia, Canada
Impact Areas: Business and Trade, Public Diplomacy
Program Areas: Diplomatic Engagement
Partners: Public Sector