We live in a world where change is all around us, yet some resist the notion to even examine laws that were put in place more than a century ago. The business community in Oklahoma City believes the time has come to review these laws and hold a dialogue with all stakeholders to determine if it’s time to amend the constitution and modernize our laws.
I am concerned that the restrictions on the purchase of wine and single-strength beer send a message to some that we are living in a time long gone. I believe that is the wrong message for us to send to visitors and new residents. Additionally, we are working to recruit retail that will help secure our city’s tax base, but time and time again we run into dead ends because of the current laws. The national chains, which many Oklahomans desperately seek, believe investing here is a less attractive option to other markets with more modern laws that are also courting their attention.
There are many interested in this process, from those who are in the business of selling alcoholic beverages, to those who wish they could, to the consumers who buy them, and more. It is time for everyone to come together and look for changes that can benefit our state.
Holding this discussion is important, but there are other critical tasks in the upcoming legislative session. It is vital that we take the opportunity this year to make meaningful improvements in our state’s business climate. Oklahoma City has the good fortune of a more stable work and employment outlook; coming out of this recession we have an advantage over other markets. We can create an even stronger position by addressing some perennial issues that have not seen meaningful reform: our workers’ compensation and civil justice systems.
Another issue that deserves both dialogue and action at our Legislature is education reform. Our city has shown its willingness to step up to the plate and invest in our children. It is time we have a system of laws that facilitate the changes we all desire, and for our community to engage in finding new solutions to this challenge. It is complex, and no single solution will remedy the situation, but again, I am confident a conversation between all of the stakeholders can and will make a difference.
Oklahoma is poised for success, but we must focus on the issues that make us more competitive, create opportunity for our citizens and put more and more fuel into our economy. This is a year when we can do more than just advance our state, but leapfrog our competitors for jobs and investment. I challenge everyone to come to the table, engage in the dialogue and keep talking with each other, looking for common ground and a path for improvement. We can and will make this a better state if we do just that.
Williams is president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.