Pinnell preaches tourism, small business growth at Jenks chamber luncheon
Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell took center stage Wednesday at the Jenks Chamber of Commerce Luncheon.
Pinnell addressed a sold-out crowd and spoke on tourism and small-business growth, two items that Governor Kevin Stitt put Pinnell in charge of after they were elected last November.
“Tourism is the front door to economic development,” Pinnell said in his speech. “States that recognize that are making a lot of money. I have been frustrated that our state has not utilized tourism. No state can match our rich heritage and history. Oklahoma needs to be this country’s tourism state.”
One of the areas Pinnell said needs to be addressed is the amount of marketing dollars Oklahoma is spending compared other states.
“The budget needs to grow. We spent $2.3 million on our spring marketing campaign compared to Michigan, which spent $28 million and Texas, which spent $41 million with $10 million of that going to international marketing.”
The lieutenant governor said there is a particular road that Oklahoma needs to highlight when it comes to tourism.
“We need to take advantage of Route 66. Route 66 is the most popular road in the world, and we have more drivable miles on Route 66 than any other state. We need to put a marketing budget behind it. There is a passion around the world for Route 66. Tourists want to get the authentic American experience and we have that here.”
“We are getting beat by Arkansas. Our tourism dollars are crossing over into Arkansas. Multiple minivans are crossing state lines every week into Arkansas to spend money and to me, that is unacceptable.”Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell
Pinnell is hosting the first-ever stake holders convention for Route 66 on the first Tuesday of this coming December to put a plan together to make Route 66 more appealing to tourists.
Oklahoma is one of the most sales tax dependent states in the nation and Pinnell said a key to increasing sales tax revenue across the state is creating more tourism dollars.
“We have to have a plan to raise our sales tax revenue and tourism has to be at the center of that discussion. I want communities across Oklahoma like Jenks to think in matters of conventions and festivals. Those are things that will help with that.”
Pinnell said Oklahoma citizens driving to surrounding states to seek tourism enjoyment is something he wants to see come to a hault.
“We are getting beat by Arkansas. Our tourism dollars are crossing over into Arkansas. Multiple minivans are crossing state lines every week into Arkansas to spend money and to me, that is unacceptable.”
State parks are another issue Pinnell addressed Wednesday.
“We are not doing state parks well right now. They are a legacy for any state. We are looking at ideas on how to operate state parks better. We have 12 ecosystems in Oklahoma, and we need to highlight those through our state parks.”
Pinnell also addressed small businesses and how important they are in the future of Oklahoma.
“We need to create more private sector jobs. That is the most important thing when it comes to growth. We want to attract companies to this state, and we want to keep companies here. We need feedback from the citizens on what we can do to be better. We are losing too many young business owners to other states because they have better incentive programs.”
Pinnell said being honest with themselves about what is going on in the state is crucial moving forward.
“Entrepreneurship is the future. We need to stop depending on the price of oil. Right now, when the price of oil is down, we don’t have enough money to operate the state government. It is a constant rollercoaster at the state capital. If we don’t get it right, surrounding states will continue to take from us.”
Pinnell was sworn in Jan. 14 as Oklahoma’s 17th lieutenant governor. He graduated high school from Metro Christian Academy and college from Oral Roberts University. He lives in Tulsa, where all four of his children attend Jenks Public Schools.