Editor’s notebook: Disasters, a watchdog, manufacturing impact

 Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, in New York City for an association conference of the emerging unmanned aircraft industry, will ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange Thursday (August 18). Fallin was also slated to appear on a morning segment of “Fox & Friends” early Thursday. The chief executive participated in a Bloomberg TV program on Wednesday.

Earlier week, in a session with reporters at the state Capitol, Fallin was joined by a range of government officials and National Guard officers for a detailed briefing on the impact of recent natural disasters and the continuing drought in Oklahoma.

Wednesday, a total of $8.7 million in operational grants were sent to 877 rural fire departments in the state, following up on discussion Fallin had with reporters in her briefing. Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese announced the grants.

In that same session, the governor said she would encourage the Legislature to replenish the state Emergency Fund, which has not reimbursed local jurisdictions for emergency expenses since 2007. Those obligations now total more than $36 million.

Joining Gov. Fallin at this week’s briefing on emergency preparedness needs were Office of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood, Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese, National Guard Col. Emery Fountain and Col. John Harrison, Department of Health Chief Emergency Preparedness and Response Service Director Chief Scott Sproat, Department of Public Safety Assistant Commissioner Rick Adams, Oklahoma City American Red Cross CEO Janienne Bella and Tulsa CEO Regina Moon from the Tulsa Region.

In that briefing, the Guard officers detailed a range of missions this spring and summer to drop water on raging fires to assist state and local firefighters.

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Peter J. Rudy of Oklahoma Watchdog has steadily accumulated a comprehensive picture of Higher Education budgets, documenting that most schools have increased annual spending even in the midst of comparatively challenging budget years.

His look at fourteen campuses/systems found (in comparison to 2011) increased spending at 12 in Fiscal Year 2012, with lower spending at only two. One of the schools spending less is Tulsa Community College. Still, that campus has increased its reserve fund in the midst of the lower spending.

Rudy has pursued the issue doggedly for the past two months. Last weekend, Higher Ed spending began to get fresh scrutiny from The Oklahoman, as well.
Rudy also “set the table” for journalistic focus on apparent open meetings violation at a recent Human Services Commission meeting. His reporting was the prelude to a stern letter from Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater asking commissioners for an explanation of decisions made without public votes.

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A new report from the research foundation affiliate of The State Chamber concludes that over 130,000 Oklahomans work in the Sooner State’s manufacturing sector. The document was released Wednesday by Oklahoma 21st Century, an arm of the Chamber.

There are 4,500 manufacturers in Oklahoma. The new study estimates that for every 100 new manufacturing jobs, another 240 jobs are created. The report projected 300,000 new net jobs for Oklahoma in the next two decades.

The “Economic Impact of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Sector” report — prepared by the Center for Economic & Business Development at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford — was sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Professional Economic Development Council. The report was released August 17 by Oklahoma 21st Century, a foundation affiliated with the Chamber.

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Mike Seney, executive director of the foundation, said, “Manufacturing is not only alive and well in Oklahoma, but it is a thriving industry that will create thousands of new jobs for Oklahomans in the years to come. This report shows how important this industry is to our state, but also indicates the enormous growth potential within this industry.”

Manufacturing has an estimated impact of $41.826 billion on Oklahoma’s annual Gross State Product. Chucks Mills of Shawnee’s Mills Machine Company, said the report “proves that manufacturing is the backbone of industry and employment across our state.”

The report asserts, “In 2009, the Oklahoma City MSA region was comprised of 1,333 manufacturers, which supported more than 32,750 jobs with an average annual wage of $50,237.”