Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb boasted about the state’s economic statistics Thursday. Oklahoma enjoys the most rapidly growing manufacturing growth rate in the U.S. with a rate of 6.7 percent, Lamb said at Thursday’s grand opening of the Francis Tuttle Business Innovation Center.
“We’ve led the nation with the lowest state-wide unemployment rate hovering between 4.9 and 6.1 percent. Thank you career tech,” said Lamb, keynote speaker of the event.
Business and community leaders gathered Thursday to celebrate the Francis Tuttle Business Innovation Center, 2824 Progressive Drive. The 38,000-square-foot building is near the northeast corner of Covell Road and Interstate 35.
The center also will accommodate Adult and Career Development courses and workshops with a business innovation center, classrooms and offices for a 12,000-square-foot business incubator.
Oklahoma has led the nation in net job growth during the past two years, Lamb said. The state ranks 10th in the U.S. as a job growth generator and employment leader, he said.
“If you take career tech — if you take Francis Tuttle — if you take business incubation out of the equation, we wouldn’t have one of those rankings,” Lamb told a crowd of more than 100 people.
The Francis Tuttle Business Innovation Center began development six years ago to enhance business development for success in the workplace, said Peggy Geib, assistant superintendent for Business and Industry Services.
“Whether you come to complete professional licensing requirements or you’ve sent your employees to learn about enhancing their skills that are needed in your workplace, we value that you chose Francis Tuttle as your training partner, and we value you.”
Francis Tuttle Technology Center began employment training in 1979, prior to the Oklahoma City opening of its first campus in 1982, said Suzette Northcutt Rhodes, an original board member.
“Now we have multiple strategic locations throughout the communities that form our district,” Rhodes said. “Those campuses were built because of the demand for an Oklahoma trained and educated workforce.”
Every tax dollar invested in career tech returns $7 in wages to Oklahoma communities, she said. Career tech graduates earn $188 million more during their expected work life, compared to high school graduates who do not have career training education, Rhodes said.
“That adds $3.4 billion annually to the Oklahoma economy,” said Rhodes, president of the Francis Tuttle Board of Education.
The I-35 and Covell Francis Tuttle location joins three campuses in northwest Oklahoma City. The Francis Tuttle district is a consolidation of six school districts, and has three existing campuses: 12777 N. Rockwell Ave., adjacent to the border between the Putnam City and Deer Creek districts; 3500 N.W. 150th St., in the Edmond school district; and 7301 W. Reno Ave., in the Western Heights district.
Francis Tuttle provides consultant activities for more than 300 businesses annually, said Tom Friedemann, Francis Tuttle superintendent and CEO.
The Francis Tuttle Business Innovation Center also will house the Center for Municipal Excellence to save money not only for the municipal workers of Edmond, Friedemann said, but other municipalities that will now train there.
“We’re offsetting those costs by bringing folks from other communities throughout the state,” Friedemann said. The Center for Municipal Excellence was originally located in the Cross Timbers Municipal Complex, less than a mile from the new Francis Tuttle location.
A business incubator is a concept that accelerates successful development of entrepreneurial companies by providing an array of business support resources and services, said Fred Green, executive director.
The University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma Christian University are generating ideas for the Francis Tuttle Business Innovation Center, Friedemann said.
“I believe there is a natural connection between career tech and the work we do for the future of the community and for the state,” said Don Betz, president of the University of Central Oklahoma. “Tom and I share that belief. So we are here thinking about incubators and innovation, connections that can serve all of us.”
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