Wrapped up in Oklahoma

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins is presented a Centennial quilt by Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Lyle Roggow, left, and DAEDF Board President Don Gooch during Askins’ trip to Duncan for the annual lieutenant governor’s turkey hunt. The hunt brings business owners to prospective site locations in southwestern Oklahoma. Duncan was the first stop on the hunt.

It was appropriate that the new lieutenant governor of Oklahoma be in Duncan for the annual turkey hunt.

Jari Askins, who attended the past three turkey hunts as state representative, was in town in her latest calling as the state’s No. 2 elected official.

The turkey hunt was a natural for Askins to continue as she had stressed economic development during her tenure as the popular representative from Duncan and Stephens County. And it was even more natural for her to make Duncan the first stop on her first hunt in her new capacity.

Appropriately, she began her remarks to the assemblage of city, county and state officials, volunteers and the hunters at The Territory with that theme in mind.

“To be able to start in my hometown is very special to me. The turkey hunt is about having a good time and building a good impression of our state and our communities.

“This is about getting to know Duncan and the resources that are available to you as you consider locating new business here or expanding existing business.

“We believe in Oklahoma and southwestern Oklahoma. This is an exciting time with our state’s Centennial, that we can share our communities with you.”

The annual turkey hunt continues a project that began over 17 years ago as a way for the lieutenant governor’s office to give a boost to rural Oklahoma and economic development.

Five Oklahoma communities put on their best faces for a two-day hunt each year designed to impress business prospects.

Those with an interest in locating a new business or industry here are the targets.

Also targeted are individuals called “site locators,” whose job it is to find potential homes for their employers.

The 2007 effort has over 60 business prospects, 10 of which were in Duncan Wednesday and Thursday.

“During our tour, we were able to show what we put together, the tremendous assets we have, and the pride and appreciation we have for our community,” said Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Lyle Roggow.

Those who have journeyed to Duncan have included firms in aerospace, biotechnology, communications, distribution, manufacturing, service industries and research.

After an introductory session in Oklahoma City Wednesday afternoon, the hunters were given a tour of the community.

Highlights were Red River Technology Center, Cameron University-Duncan, the Simmons Center, Duncan Regional Hospital, Halliburton, Family Dollar, the industrial parks and the library.

Following the tour, a welcoming and get-acquainted dinner Wednesday night matched up the hunters with their guides and also gave the local contingent an opportunity to share more about Duncan.

The hunt began at selected locations in and around Duncan Thursday morning and wound up with another dinner that night, where hunting tales were recounted and gifts given for bagging the biggest turkey.

Askins, who was off to Hugo Wednesday night, will follow with stops in Okemah, Woodward and Alva.

The work on this year’s turkey hunt actually began before she was sworn in to office, Askins noted, adding that her familiarity with the Duncan portion made it easier to be involved.

“It was nice to have a working knowledge. And my staff has been very supportive.”

She said she plans to survey the host communities and the hunters when this year’s event concludes for suggestions “to make it more beneficial.

“This is about the opportunity for Oklahoma and our rural communities as future business locations.”

This year’s hunt is off to a strong start, she added. “Our prospects tell us they’ve never had a tour of Duncan like they had today. And that’s due to the facilities, the volunteers, and the turnout of the Duncan community.

“We want to be attractive not just to visit but to move businesses, jobs and employees here.

“As the lieutenant governor, one of my roles is to supplement the efforts of local economic development professionals in achieving that.

“We can display our quality of life, our workforce and work ethic, our skill level and our dedication.

“I have enjoyed visiting with the site locators and the business prospects and we’re excited about the opportunities to visit during our Centennial year and help promote our state,” she said before leaving by plane for the next stop on the hunt.

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