By SEAN ROWLEY
Hundreds of community leaders were present Tuesday to hear presentations from experts and take part in workshops during the fifth annual Regional Summit on the Northeastern State University campus.
The summit, which focuses on economic development and enhanced quality of life, was organized by the Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance, NSU and the Cherokee Nation.
Among the attendees were Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols, Harley Buzzard of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, and State Sen. Wayne Shaw of Grove. Mayors and city council members from other communities in northeast Oklahoma also attended.
Setting the tone was Dr. Andy Hines, a futurist and executive-in-residence with the future studies graduate program at the University of Houston, who gave the morning keynote address.
Hines outlined nine expected characteristics of a future economy, saying it would transform; continue to squeeze mid-range salaries and move toward higher- and lower paying jobs; and be smarter, more open, sustainable, local and virtual. He also said the new economy would require different, frequently updated skills, and that the “bottom line” would only be one factor when measuring success.
“Groups like NORA need to think about where they want to go in a new economy,” Hines said. “You need to sort of live in both worlds. You can’t throw away everything you know about the old economy and only work toward the new. You need to transition gradually. It can be hard to see where the new economy is happening, but it is important to look for opportunities to build toward it.”
The keynote speakers during lunch were Marilyn Feaver, director of the Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition, and Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, deputy chief medical officer for the American Heart Association National Center.
The theme of the 2013 summit was “Building Tomorrow’s Communities Today,” and the workshops followed one of four “tracks.”
Track 1 focused on infrastructure and included sessions on the future of energy and technology. The Track 2 topic was innovation, and breakout sessions discussed rural entrepreneurism and future financing opportunities.
The Track 3 topic was economic transformation and included discussions of poverty reduction policy and development partnerships. Track 4 emphasized the workforce, and workshops covered anticipated trends and securing education funding through grassroots political action.
Giving short welcoming addresses to open the summit were Dr. Steve Turner, NSU president; Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; Dr. Larry Rice, Rogers State University president; and Jim Wilson, NORA chair.
“The Cherokee Nation makes a $1.3 billion impact in northeast Oklahoma each year,” Baker said. “We are proud to be part of this group. If we all work together and pull the same rope, we can make Oklahoma the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
Wilson also emphasized the collaborative character of NORA and the Regional Summit.
“This started as a three-county organization that now covers 14 counties,” he said. “Our goal is to improve quality of life. We discuss and sometimes may dispute how to do it, but we all want to get there.”
For information about NORA, visit www.neokregion.org.