WATCH TODAY: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt hosts the 2022 Western Prosperity Roundtable Forum

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stittopened the 2022 Western Prosperity Roundtable by touting the recent growth of his state’s economy and highlighting the significant opportunities throughout the region to continue growing, including manufacturing electric vehicles, producing hydrogen fuel, securing a domestic supply of critical minerals, and expanding access to broadband. 

“Everybody wants the best opportunity for wage growth, everybody wants the best opportunity for our kids coming out of college,” he said.  “So we’re pushing economic development and getting our economy going… it helps education, it helps infrastructure, it helps health care.”  

Day One of the two-day event also featured roundtable discussions about state strategies for effectively implementing the recent influx of federal funding, the development of programs that ensure those resources are equitably allocated in rural and underserved communities and processes to help those communities apply for and secure the competitive grants outlined in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.     

You can view all of the sessions from Day One of the Roundtable by clicking on the links below or by visiting WGA’s YouTube Channel and Facebook page. 

Day Two of the 2022 Western Prosperity Roundtable Forum will begin at 8 a.m CDT on May 18 with a conversation between Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and Xochitl Torres Small, Under Secretary for Rural Development at USDA, about economic opportunities in the rural West. Regional experts will also host roundtable discussions on broadband expansion, new energy technology, and modernizing rural economies. 

To view the sessions for Day Two, click on the links below at the scheduled times. You can also follow along via live tweets from WGA’s Twitter account. 

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18

8:00 a.m.: A Conversation on Expanding Rural Prosperity

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and Xochitl Torres Small, Under Secretary for Rural Development at USDA, will discuss prosperity and economic opportunity in the rural West, including USDA’s efforts to improve service and strengthen support for community-driven solutions. 

8:35 a.m.: Roundtable 4: Investing in Broadband 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made a historic $65 billion investment in broadband to help close this digital divide, creating new broadband programs and increasing funding for existing efforts. This panel will examine the challenges and opportunities for states and stakeholders in leveraging these funding streams and addressing broadband infrastructure gaps. Participants include: Eric Forsch, Broadband Development Manager, Idaho Department of Commerce; Steven Harpe, Chief Operating Officer, State of Oklahoma; Nicholas Alexander, Senior Telecommunications Policy Specialist, Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, National Telecommunications and Information Administration; and Jake Varn, Principal Associate, Broadband Access Initiative, The Pew Charitable Trusts.  

10:00 a.m.: Roundtable 5: Energy Communities in the West

The development and expansion of new energy technologies, such as hydrogen fuel and carbon capture and storage, could spur economic growth and diversification in western states and rural communities with existing energy assets. Panelists will discuss state strategies to lead the deployment of advanced energy technologies, leverage new federal funding opportunities and support rural communities and workers affected by the energy transition. Participants include: Matt Fry, Senior Policy Manager, Carbon Management, Great Plains Institute; Secretary Kenneth Wagner, Oklahoma Office of the Secretary of Energy and Environment; and Glen Murrell, Executive Director, Wyoming Energy Authority. 

11:00 a.m.: Roundtable 6: Modernizing Rural Economic Development 

This panel will explore how rural economic development practices have evolved to keep pace with current economic realities and trends.  Panelists will discuss how states, local governments, USDA Rural Development and the Economic Development Administration are implementing changes to better meet the needs of rural communities and what additional tools or changes could further encourage equitable economic growth. Participants include: Stephen Lisonbee, Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs, Office of Utah Governor Spencer Cox; Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry; Maria Effertz Hanson, Director, Division of Community Services, North Dakota Department of Commerce; and Apurva Naik, Economic Development Integrator, U.S. Economic Development Administration.

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