Oklahoma's positive image of having a strong economy and being a good state for businesses to locate and people to live won't be darkened despite two horrific tornadoes that struck the state days apart, Gov. Mary Fallin says.
Gripping scenes were on television, the Internet and in newspapers for days after deadly tornadoes ripped through the state last month.
“Even though we went through a terrible time and had a really unfortunate set of circumstances happen in our state, the strength of our state showed through very well,” Fallin said.
How state, local officials and residents responded to those tornadoes became the main — and lasting — story, the governor said.
“We had all hands on deck,” Fallin said. “When you have that much national and international media in our state, you worry about what is the image your state is going to have.
“We're going to have an image of, like I think we earned and we accomplished, that we're a strong people. We're resilient. We're compassionate.”
Fallin gave about 40 interviews with reporters from across the country. Her message was EF5 tornadoes are rare and Oklahoma's economy is strong.
“We're becoming a standard-bearer for economic growth with solid revenue collections and an enviable unemployment rate, now 4.9 percent, compared to a national jobless rate of 7.6 percent,” she said. “Oklahoma is very much open for business, and business is good.”
Fallin said she has received letters from people around the world saying they were impressed with how Oklahomans responded to the storms.
Fallin said Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez told her his staff had been contacted by about 100 national business site locators to express their sympathy, but also to let them know that Oklahoma has not been taken off any business prospect's list, despite the tornadoes.
She said that they admired how the people responded, saying that's the type of employees that companies would like to have working for them.
“From a business recruiting prospect and economic standpoint, there may be some people that may be concerned about Oklahoma, but … our tremendous response in taking care of our people earned our state a great deal of respect and gratitude for how hard our people worked to help each other,” Fallin said.
Fallin was lieutenant governor and watched how then-Gov. Frank Keating responded to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Keating gained high marks across the country after the bombing; New Jersey's Seton Hall University presented Keating with an honorary doctor of humanitarian service degree for his leadership and humanitarian response to the April 19 bombing.