The Edmond Sun

January 24, 2014

Tourism continues to spark state’s economy

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The topography of Oklahoma’s hills, mountains and prairies is a growing interest for Hollywood with movies such as “August: Osage County” filmed here, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said.

“If you want plains, we got it. You want some rocks and some valleys we got it,” Lamb said. “It’s right here in Oklahoma. If you want water, we got it.”

Movies enhance Oklahoma’s tourism industry, bringing people to the state who otherwise would never know of what the state offers, Lamb said.

Tourism is one of the state’s leading economic engines. This speaks highly of the state’s hospitality industry, Lamb said.

According to the U.S Travel Association, Oklahoma tourism generated $1.1 billion in local, state and federal taxes in 2012, said Leslie Blair, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. More than $385 million in state taxes were generated in tourism in 2012, she said.

Domestic travelers spent nearly $7.2 billion in Oklahoma during 2012, which was a 6.1 percent over 2011, Blair said.

“We have a lot of Texans that come north over the Red River to spend their money in Oklahoma at our state parks, our resorts, our private bed and breakfasts, our motels, hotels and marinas,” Lamb said.

Oklahoma’s economy also relies on small business. Ninety-seven percent of all of the state’s employers are small business employers, according to the Small Business Administration

“That’s such an important fact because that shows you whether it’s oil and gas, agriculture, aerospace, tourism and hospitality — you pick the business — it’s a small business more times than not in Oklahoma,” Lamb said. “So that’s the backbone of or economy.”

Lamb has a subtitle of Small Business advocate as lieutenant governor. He travels to every Oklahoma county to learn what’s on the mind of business owners. He will meet with them one-on-one or have a town hall meeting.

“I ask that individual business woman or business man — or collectively at my town hall meeting — I ask this rhetorical question, ‘Based on your business model and your life experience, what’s Oklahoma’s greatest impediment to growth?’”

He asks them for their greatest advice so that government gets out of their way and removes bad public policy that will allow them to prosper.

The implementation of workers compensation reform is the most important thing state government did in 2013 to help Oklahoma business, Lamb said. It allows people to keep their jobs and business to expand, prosper and hire more college graduates, he said.

“It was a very arbitrary system. It pitted employer against employee,” Lamb said. “And I’ve never met any employer who wants to keep an injured worker injured.”

Small business owners view their employees as family and want to take care of them, said Lamb, who has not announced for his re-election campaign.

Oklahoma City Democrat Cathy Cummings announced in December that she is a 2014 candidate vying for the office of lieutenant governor. Lamb released a statement earlier this week that he is not a candidate for U.S. Senate, which is opening up with the early retirement of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee.

“That’s not a desire of mine and never has been a desire of mine,” Lamb said, a former Secret Service agent. “I like working on state issues.” | 341-2121