Manufacturing ‘game changer’: Oklahoma commerce officials tout portal

Published: Friday, November 6, 2020 By: Steve Metzer Source: The Journal Record

An online “supply chain portal” to be launched soon by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce should help manufacturers make connections and possibly land new contracts with others in commerce in the state and around the globe.

Commerce officials offered an update on the portal as part of a virtual forum held this week with business leaders and others. They said it could amount to a “game changer” for companies seeking to establish new relationships or make investments. It will leverage emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to assist companies with data mining and analysis in an online “vendor discovery” process designed especially to advance state business interests.

According to Executive Director of Commerce Brent Kisling, a major goal is to connect manufacturers, service providers and other related businesses – and especially those that might have experienced supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic. Some Oklahoma companies may be in prime position to benefit from others interested in “shortening” supply chains to better ensure sustainability of operations. The portal should benefit companies both “upstream and downstream” in turning out finished products.

“I really want to hammer home that this is a game changer for us in Oklahoma,” Kisling said. “It is a way for you as a manufacturer in Oklahoma to see what else is being made here in the state and also to amplify what you make and hopefully land more customers. I think it is probably the biggest thing coming out of the pandemic that we learned and are going to be able to do better than any other state.”

Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Rowland said the portal could become a valuable tool for manufacturers and others looking for new opportunities.

“I think it’s going to be exciting for manufacturers and we’re looking forward to rolling that out after the first of the year,” he said.

The portal should be useful to companies involved in aerospace, automotive, agriculture, energy and a range of other industries, including medical research. It also will support wider-scale economic development, strategy development and out-of-state and foreign company recruitment, commerce officials said. It will be designed to consolidate spreadsheets and disparate information provided by vendors into a single-source, comprehensive, easy-to-access database.

Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Sean Kouplen said the department also has launched a new initiative to encourage economic development by staging regular online meetings between entrepreneurs and capital investors. The first featured Cortado Ventures, a new private equity firm in Oklahoma City that invests in Oklahoma companies, and Stampede Ventures, a film production company looking to invest in Oklahoma.

“There were about 80 accredited investors online and 10-15% of those ended up committing to invest with one of those two companies,” Kouplen said.

Online calls are anticipated to take place on the fourth Wednesday of each month, arranged through the Commerce Department.

Kouplen added that efforts to market Oklahoma as a business destination are continuing in California and elsewhere. A goal is to highlight the state’s business-friendly environment as compared to environments in other states that may be more restrictive or even closed to commerce as a result of the pandemic.

Efforts to sustain state businesses or even to encourage their growth during the pandemic have paid dividends, he said. Whereas Oklahoma’s unemployment rate spiked along with rates in other states across the nation this past spring, it has declined from a high of more than 14% down to 5.3%. Kouplen said some 265,000 jobs have come back in the state since April, landing total employment numbers somewhere above where they were in the first part of 2019. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate this week was marked at 7.9%.

“We obviously continue to see the challenges from aerospace and energy and probably are going to for a while, but the job numbers in Oklahoma are (improving),” Kouplen said. “We are seeing recovery, although it is certainly not where we want it to be.”

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