Oklahomans have a vision for the future, the vision of a diversified innovation economy — from agriculture to aerospace to energy to biotechnology and IT/software — a diversified economy that produces jobs that pay well.
We have the cornerstones of that economy — entrepreneurial ambition, ready sources of risk capital, and private and public sector initiatives that support new company creation.
But we're missing a long-range plan to focus our efforts.
And even if we had such a plan, we lack a mechanism to queue up recommendations for serious action through consideration, discussion and debate among state policymakers.
Typically, Oklahoma's state budget and planning cycles are on a legislative session-to-session basis. That's a one-year planning horizon.
It is nearly impossible to build a vibrant innovation economy by only planning and committing resources on a year-to-year basis.
It isn't that Oklahoma hasn't tried.
From time to time, we've had blue ribbon panels, commissions and studies looking at what we should be doing, but all too often their reports gather dust because we lack the methodology (and sometimes the will) to efficiently integrate those ideas and recommendations into specific policy initiatives and legislative action.
It's time to figure out a better approach.
Shouldn't we embrace a long-term planning process that includes a well-defined, committed way to turn the output of that planning into action?
We could borrow from the way business does long-range planning and form a multidisciplinary state commission, appointed by the executive branch to operate outside the influence of all the interested parties and separate from the constituencies of government.
This commission could have the ongoing mission of mapping a rolling 10-year plan to achieve the economic goal of building a diversified economy, including all the necessary subcomponents, such as education systems, advanced technology initiatives, infrastructure needs and incentives.
To be successful, such a planning process would require an agreed upon mechanism for the state Legislature to give its recommendations serious consideration.
For continuity, this commission could operate with long-term, staggered membership.
We could measure success over time by the number of new economy startups in Oklahoma and the growth of higher paying jobs.
CNBC, Forbes and others all give Oklahoma high marks on our business climate, but we are in a very competitive world. If we want to keep our lofty rankings, we are going to have to plan for the future.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state's technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW
i2E's portfolio of high-growth companies report that 80 percent of their revenue is generated from sales outside Oklahoma, bringing revenue into the state and creating jobs and wealth for Oklahomans.