Oklahoma Capitol

The dome of the Oklahoma state Capitol is seen from behind the Connors Building.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma lawmakers plan to invest $250 million in funds earmarked for rural development with nearly two dozen projects benefiting airports, railways, industrial development sites and international trade.

Lawmakers released the complete, detailed list of spending priorities Thursday only after both chambers approved spending the taxpayer funds previously allocated for the Progressing Rural Economic Prosperity (PREP) fund.

Nearly a quarter of the funds earmarked for PREP use will be spent in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The remainder will address economic development needs across the rest of the state.

Senate President Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said Friday that legislators tried to “be abundantly transparent in the whole process.”

He said that all of the projects had been spoken about publicly, and bills with descriptions of the projects were posted on the Legislature’s website by Monday.” The bills contained descriptions of the intended projects but had no specific project names.

Treat said all projects were “well vetted.”

“I think we were very transparent through the whole process,” Treat said.

Treat said legislators always wanted to maximize the benefits of the PREP funds because when people talk about investing in Oklahoma, often times Pryor’s MidAmerica Industrial Park has been the only option.

Lawmakers wanted to change that.

He said legislators worked closely with the Department of Commerce, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration and local economic development officials to identify what that “biggest bang for our buck around the state was.”

“Workforce issues are something that we really invested in heavily, but also just site development,” Treat said. “You need to have natural gas. You need to have broadband. You need to have sewer and water infrastructure in some of these places. It’s not the sexiest investment, but it will have the best return on our dollars that we will see.”

He said the investments will create “generational change” and are “a tremendous investment in our future.”

The fund can be a model for future investment in Oklahoma, Treat said.

“The PREP projects will be transformational for rural communities and a boon for economic development,” State Sen. Chuck Hall, R-Perry, who worked on the funding, said in a statement. “By building out the infrastructure, or making improvements to existing structures, we will attract more investments, which means jobs and prosperity for Oklahomans.”

State Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, said he’s thrilled by the $20 million investment the Woodward Airpark will receive to add to the city’s industrial development.

He said the investment will help bring an aviation business to the airpark. A California man plans to start a nationwide flight school catering to planes, helicopters and ultra-lights using the Woodward and Seiling airports.

“My district is a perfect place for something like that,” Murdock said. “If something goes wrong, there’s no trees you’re going to hit if you want to put it down. You’ve got clear skies to do this school.”

He said the student pilots will eat at local restaurants, perhaps stay at local motels, and bring money into the area.

“The main thing we hear from businesses considering investment in Oklahoma is that they want an educated workforce and infrastructure that can support their investment,” said State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, in a statement. “The PREP projects address these critical needs, and more, as we lay the groundwork for the exciting new jobs of tomorrow. We always say Oklahoma is open for business, and these PREP funds will ensure that is the case both now and in the future.”

The PREP funding projects include:

• $2.5 million, Ada Industrial Park

• $4 million, Altus Industrial Airpark

• $22.35 million, Ardmore taxiways and runways

• $25 million, Ardmore Intermodal Project (Rail)

• $3 million, Atoka Heavy Industrial Park

• $5 million, Avard Regional Rail Park

• $450,000, Sunset Manufacturing Center in Bartlesville

• $22.5 million, Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority

• $5 million, Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority

• $5 million, Claremore Industrial Park

• $1 million, Eastland Industrial Park, Northland Industrial Park, and South Industrial Park in Duncan

• $3 million, Steven W. Taylor Industrial Park in McAlester

• $1.25 million, Southside Industrial Park and John T. Griffin Industrial Park in Muskogee

• $20 million, Will Rogers Airport Hanger in Oklahoma City

• $20 million, Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City

• $2 million, Okmulgee Business Complex Industrial Park and Okmulgee Airport

• $19 million, Catoosa Intermodal in Rogers County

• $14 million, statewide hanger program

• $4 million, flight subsidization

• $1 million, international trade

• $29.95 million, other industrial parks or economic development areas

• $20 million, Tulsa International Airport tower

• $20 million, Woodward Airpark

Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at jstecklein@cnhinews.com.

Trending Video