Earlier this week the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber held its annual State of Aerospace luncheon to update the business community on both the military and civilian sides of the industry.
Tinker Air Force Base wants to work with small businesses, but The Journal Record’s senior reporter and digital strategist Sarah Terry-Cobo says the federal government’s seven-year budget impasse means defense contractors suffer from a pay delay.
As the government passes these continuing resolutions kind of bit-by-bit, they get a little bit of money allotted, and Tinker and other bases can pay those small businesses,” Terry-Cobo said.
During that meeting, Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II basically admitted it sounds like he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, since the base wants this small business experience but might not be able to pay for it, The Journal Record’s Molly Fleming reports:
Levy understands that the delay can send those small companies to another client. He said small businesses have had to close their doors because they were not paid on time.
“Last year, we spent $57 million in small businesses,” he said. “That’s not enough. We want them closer to us. We want them to help us.”
On the state level, there’s little Oklahoma can do to expedite a federal defense budget – about the only people who do have a tangible say are Oklahoma’s five Congressmen and two U.S. Senators. But Levy and Boeing Co. Global Services and Support President Ed Dolanski both said the state can be a champion of science, technology, engineering, and math – or STEM – education, Fleming writes:
Dolanski said he can’t hire enough engineers. Levy said while Oklahoma thinks of STEM education as an economic issue, he sees it as a national defense issue. China and Russia are developing military aircraft often, and China can take its concept to the runway in 18 months.
“This is a long-term intellectual property challenge you will have to face at some time,” he said.
Diversified businesses usually do better when they're able to wait for money,” Terry-Cobo said. “So they don't rely solely on Tinker for their contracts.”
Energy Industry Providing Teacher Training
A pair of Oklahoma teachers recently traveled to Philadelphia to learn about ways to bring lessons about wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources to their classrooms.
Sarah Kendrick teaches at Pawhuska High School in Osage County – where many of her students have parents who work in the oil and gas industry, Terry-Cobo reports:
“Some of my freshmen students might see the impact of (diminishing) fossil fuels in their lifetime,” Kendrick said. “They need to be aware of renewable power so they don’t wake up one day and wish they would’ve learned more.”
Kendrick said it’s important to teach about wind power, in part because her students see the nearby wind farm and don’t understand the potential for that energy sector in Oklahoma.
Enel installed a 150-megawatt wind farm in Osage County in 2014. Developers met resistance from the Osage Nation, which argued the company’s construction violated tribal mineral rights. A federal judge ruled against the tribe, dismissing the lawsuit in 2015.
Enel sustainability director Marcus Krembs wrote in an email to The Journal Record that the company supports educator training so that renewable energy topics are included in classroom instruction. Students are more likely to get interested in renewable energy at a young age if they learn about it in school, he wrote.
For years, the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board provided teacher training and reimbursed districts for the cost of field trips to science museums. Terry-Cobo says this new program is similar, but on a much larger scale.
“So the industry has partnered with this independent education company that does all the training, and that's really intensive. And then the industry itself actually picks up the tab, and that's a huge benefit for these cash-strapped school districts,” Terry-Cobo said. “And now Green Power North America is actually the one that paid for the Oklahoma teachers to attend this academy in Philadelphia.”
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.