Let’s be honest. Oklahoma has a problem when it comes to landing big economic development projects.

What that problem is, we don’t know at this point. But after the announcement that Oklahoma again missed out on an opportunity to secure a Volkswagen EV battery plant, it’s time to start asking some tough questions — and also to ask those businesses not selecting our state to give us an honest assessment of what they perceive to be our shortfalls.

Oklahoma, no doubt, is one of the best states for business when it comes to tax structures and regulations. Large-scale incentives, state-of-the-art infrastructure and energy costs more than 20% lower than the national average make Oklahoma a great opportunity for a business looking to relocate or develop here. Our location right in the middle of the U.S. at the crossroads of major transportation is also a plus.

But, we also know that our workforce availability has been cited as a concern. A recent Forbes review of our state showed a poor showing in financial accessibility and a slightly-below-median score in workforce ranking.

These are issues our state has been aware of, and efforts must increase to improve our education system and our post-secondary education system at all levels.

But, we also have to ask if Oklahoma has a perception problem due to recent controversial political and partisan measures that many progressive large companies like the Volkswagen battery company might find troubling. These include women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and racial concerns.

Volkswagen’s comments about how Canada better aligns with the company’s {span}values of “sustainability, responsibility and cooperation” might be a clue.{/span}

The focus of our governor, state superintendent and many lawmakers on creating restrictions in education regarding how controversial issues are taught could also be a concern for those businesses that are worried about our state’s educational climate.

Sen. President Pro-Tem Greg Treat says he wants to create a MAPS-like economic development task force to get to the bottom of why Oklahoma is missing out. We think that’s a good idea; however, only if he and other lawmakers and stakeholders are willing to take what could be critical observations of our state based on some of these political issues.

Oklahoma has much to offer. We have a good work ethic and our communities have made meaningful strides in making our state an attractive place to live, work and do business.

We hope whatever we learn from this exercise, our lawmakers take to heart and work to balance idealogical issues with real workable solutions to put Oklahoma in the win column for big business development.

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