Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell believes in getting hands-on when it comes to growing and updating Oklahoma’s perception by those who travel to be here.
The latest example of that is that for the last several months, Pinnell has been climbing into a patrol car with Oklahoma Highway Patrol each morning and doing a surprise visit to one of the Sooner State’s welcome centers. He doesn’t go to look at the tourism literature or meet the people at the front desk—at least not at first—Pinnell’s first stop is the bathroom.
He calls it his “Toilet Tour”. Later, Roger Johnson joked that “it might not be the state’s number one priority, but it’s a strong number two.”
At Wednesday’s Joint Civic Luncheon, Pinnell began his speech by praising the local politicians we have serving us in the county, including Senator James Leewright, and State Representatives Mark Lawson and Kyle Hilbert.
“If you’re going to pass legislation,” Pinnell began, “You have to be able to build consensus—on both Republican and Democrat side sometimes too, by the way—and because of that you have very effective legislators for you down at the state capitol advocating for you, doing things for your districts. So please continue to send them to us because they’re effective, they’re likable, and they’re doing it the right way.”
He said that Governor Stitt is a rare specimen in the political realm that makes it a point to strategically hire good people: “He hires good people, he cuts them loose to go do the job. That’s very rare in politics.”
“We have less than 4 million people in the state of Oklahoma today. We like to say we have 4 million; we don’t. We have less than 4 million. Now, that ‘nation’ down there to the south of us—I’m not going to mention the name—but it’s got about 28 million people. And that’s a that’s a whole lot of people who are paying very high property taxes. That are supporting their local public schools. That that’s how commerce works. It‘s when someone buys a house to pay property taxes and support these local public schools that we have to support.”
“That means we gotta figure it out. Every state needs a workforce, every state needs to fill a skills gap. Where we have to leapfrog now is really this accelerator, incubator, entrepreneurship space, and we’re going to do it.”
One way that Pinnell said that Oklahoma still stands to gain a lot in the way of tourism is Route 66: “There are a lot of Oklahomans that do not realize how big of an asset Route 66 is,” Pinnell said. “I will tell you right now, when we are done, Oklahoma will be the premier space for Route 66 in the country. No doubt about it. Oklahoma will be the center of the world when it comes to Route 66. And the reason I say “world” is because a lot of these tourists—and you know this—are international tourists who are on fire for Route 66.”
Pinnell says we have to work to rebrand ourselves a state that people want to come to. “Our first impressions have got to get better, for a lot of reasons. If we don’t define who we are as a state, 49 other states will define it for us.”