The COVID test, Part 2: Results

Breaking news on the COVID front. The COVID-19 test I took on Thursday came back negative today.

Huge exhale.

As a reminder, my daughter, Sarah, and I both had COVID tests done at the IMMY Labs free “Swab Pod” mobile testing site near UCO.  Here is a blog post about our experience.

Sarah’s test came back negative, as well.

If you were wondering what type of test we took, the IMMY website describe it as a “PCR” test, whatever that means. I understand that it’s more accurate than the tests that return results in 15 minutes.

The negative result was important to me because I’m technically a “senior citizen” with underlying medical conditions.

For Sarah, it was important, because the negative result allows her to get back to her job immediately.

Now, on with our lives.

The COVID test. Don’t fear the reaper

My daughter, Sarah, reacts as a nurse inserts a swab into her sinus cavity for a COVID test.

You’ve no doubt seen video clips of people being tested for COVID-19 where a health care professional inserts a long cotton swab into their nostril. I wince each time because it looks like they’re trying to make the brain squeaky clean instead of probing for virus.

So, wouldn’t you know it that my turn came today for a COVID test.

Both my daughter and I have been showing some symptoms, although she was originally diagnosed with an ear infection. And I have ongoing allergy challenges.

But Sarah also has a hacking cough and needed to have the test done for her work. I have been incredibly tired in recent days, so I decided to join her.

Our first decision was where to have the test done.

My friends at Norman-based IMMY, a developer and manufacturer of innovative lines of diagnostic tests and reagents for infectious diseases, have also developed an FDA approved COVID test. It set up a subsidiary company called IMMY Labs to conduct the testing.

IMMY conducts free, drive-by testing daily in the Edmond/Oklahoma City area and locations across the state that include Tulsa, Blanchard, Norman, Moore, Midwest City, Chickasha, Purcell and more. They call their testing sites the Swab Pod. Results are promised in two days or less.

So, Sarah and I chose the Swab Pod near the UCO campus and drove over for our tests this afternoon.

I have to admit that I was fairly apprehensive. Those news clips didn’t do me any favors.

We drove up about 5 minutes before our scheduled time and got in line behind about three other vehicles. There was a check-in table where they scanned a registration code on our phone and placed vials on our windshield beneath the wipers.

The vehicle in front of us pauses for a quick swab test.

We were told to fall in line and follow the vehicles to the nurse’s station. Less than two minutes later we were there.

The nurse approached Sarah’s side first, and I took photos as she was swabbed. It took only seconds, and she didn’t show any discomfort.

My time came. I closed my eyes, leaned back in the seat and anticipated the worst, which I’m not sure what that would have been. The swab scraping my brain? Hitting a nerve? Blinding me?

The nurse inserted the swab and counted down from five. Just like that it was over. I had a tickling sensation and almost sneezed. That was it.

We drove off the lot and were on our way in less than 30 seconds, slightly giddy at how painless and easy it was. We’ll know the results probably sometime tomorrow.

The lesson for me? Don’t fear the reaper.

Stay tuned.

C is for Cookie. That’s good enough for me

The crowd waits for cookies outside Crumbl Cookies on the recent Free Cookie Day

I have an admission to make. I am The Original Cookie Monster. No cookie is safe around me, which you can kind of tell by sizing up my physique.

Anyway, the recent entrance of Crumbl Cookies into the Oklahoma City market caught my attention because of a couple of reasons.

Reason No. 1: OK, my daughter got a job there before the store opened for its first day of business.

Reason No. 2: See the “Cookie Monster” comment in the first line.

When my wife and I showed up on Free Cookie Day during Crumbl’s grand opening week, there was a 20-minute wait in line down the sidewalk outside the door.

We waited it out, of course. The cookie was warm and delicious. 

Crumbl is a franchised location of a chain launched less than three years ago in Logan, Utah, by founder Jason McGowan. The OKC store, opened by franchise owners C.J. Roundy and Jefferson Palmer, was store No. 115.

So you can see how quickly the concept has spread across the nation.

I spoke with Roundy the other day, and he told me the pair located their store in OKC’s Chisholm Creek shopping center because it fit all their criteria for launching a store: prime shopping location with high traffic count, demographics and a business-friendly community.

Here are a few other observations from the franchise co-owner:

“Our grand opening, compared to others in the Midwest and South region, was probably one of the better ones ever,” Roundy said. “We had 10,000 cookies go through our door in three days.”

Did you catch that? 10,000 COOKIES IN THREE DAYS.

“It was hectic,” he said. “We had lines out the door Friday and Saturday, almost all day long. We had really high sales. I would say our sales were about 15 to 30 percent higher than what we expected. It was really fantastic for us. “

Crumbl cookies are large, but not cheap. A single cookie will cost you $3.48. A box of 4 is $10.98.

“We are a premium product, but we use only the best quality ingredients,” Roundy said. “Everything is made fresh in our store. We really think the price that we charge is equivalent to the quality.”

Sarah Stafford outside Crumbl Cookies on opening day

One last thing. Since Crumbl is a franchise based in Utah, it doesn’t fit the “shop local” criteria that has become a theme for many residents across the city.

“All of our employees are from here; It’s only my business partner and I who moved here,” Roundy told me. “But we moved here in the hopes of being here a long time. We want to open six or seven more locations in the Oklahoma City area. We want this to feel local even though it started in another state.”

Crumbl employs cutting edge technology in its cookie marketing, offering catering, curbside pickup and home delivery. There’s an eye-catching Crumbl website, mobile app and a company-developed point-of-sale software system that gives customers the option of checking out at kiosks without actually having to go up to the sales counter.

Roundy said Crumbl’s cookie lineup rotates weekly with chocolate chip and sugar cookies being constants. He hopes the store, located on the N. Pennsylvania segment of Chisholm Creek shopping center, becomes a regular staple for the city’s cookie lovers.

So, what does that mean for me?

Well, I know that C is for Crumbl Cookie. That’s good enough for me. Apologies, Cookie Monster.

Baseball deaths and the passage of time

Colt Stadium in Houston was the locale for my first Major League baseball experience

The death of baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan this week took me back to the early 1960s and a rickety old stadium in Houston where I saw my first Major League Baseball game. I was there with my Little League team from Bryan/College Station.

We all wore our uniforms, as did about 5,000 other Little Leaguers that day. The outfield stands were a splash of rainbow colors from so many uniformed youngsters sitting together.

While I don’t remember anything about that game from 1963, I do remember that Joe Morgan was a member of the Houston Colt 45s, who were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. Jimmy Wynn, known as the Toy Cannon, also was a member of that team.

Bonus memory: We could see the Astrodome under construction right next door to Colt Stadium, so the baseball future held a lot of promise for a 10-year-old.

Of course, Morgan eventually was traded from Houston and built his Hall of Fame career as a key player with the 1970s Big Red Machine in Cincinnati. The Houston Chronicle published a story this week about how he was the one that got away. Read it here.

That 1963 Houston Colt 45s experience pretty much ensured I would be a lifelong baseball fan.

Like most kids of the time, I collected baseball cards and memorized the starting lineups of the teams. I even made up my own stats-based game that mimicked the APBA baseball board game but used a spinner instead of dice.

Joe Morgan as a Cincinnati Red

Fast forward more than half a century to the awful year of 2020. Morgan and Wynn both died this year. They are among a host of former Major League players who passed away in 2020, a list that includes all-time greats like Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver, Al Kaline and Whitey Ford.

Baseball Reference publishes a running list of every former player who died this year. You can see the list here.

The deaths of Seaver, Ford, Brock, Gibson and Morgan came in rapid succession. It hurt. As a child of the ‘60s, it’s painful to watch my heroes pass into history. 

Each death hammers home the passage of time, but I’m hanging on to the distant memories. It’s all we have left in the end.

Oka’ Institute takes 2020 Water Sustainability Conference to worldwide audience with online presentation

Connor Cox, left, with OCAST, Tom Wavering with the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma, and James Eldridge with the Ada Jobs Foundation in a Zoom presentation during the Oka’ Water Conference

Editor’s note: For the past several years, I have attended the Oka’ Water Sustainability Conference in Ada at the invitation of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). This year, the conference was forced off the campus of East Central University by the pandemic and onto the World Wide Web as a virtual event. I sat in on the first day and wrote this report on behalf of OCAST:

By Jim Stafford

ADA – The Water Sustainability Conference presented by the Oka’ Institute at East Central University recently took critical topics such as water conservation, research and economics to the screens of participants across Oklahoma and around the world. No masks required.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic mandated a change for the 2020 conference. And that required brainstorming from conference planners to execute a virtual presentation on the Zoom video conferencing platform.

“Our attendance was strong,” said Susan Paddack, executive director of the Oka’ Institute. “We had 302 register this year, which was an increase of over 50 from last year. Participation averaged about 120 people per session throughout the two days of the conference.”

The Oka’ Institute sponsors the Water Sustainability Conference annually to tackle issues that impact not only the southeast Oklahoma region, but the rest of the state and nation.

Formally known as Oka’, The Water Institute at East Central University, the Institute was created in 2016 with support from the Chickasaw Nation, the Ada Jobs Foundation and the City of Ada with seed money from the Sciences and Natural Resources Foundation. “Oka’” is the Chickasaw word for water.

This year, speakers included regulatory and conservation agency officials, economic development professionals, entrepreneurs and Oklahoma farmers and ranchers honored for their water conservation efforts.

“We found that we were able to attract speakers from across the state and out of state because the virtual format saves travel time for them,” Paddack said.

Virtual participants came from across Oklahoma, as well as distant locales like California and Australia.

“We love the diversity of our audience,” Paddack said. “Our goal is to provide them with timely information on water research, policy education and the economics/value of water.”

Among the speakers was Ken Wagner, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment and a former administrator with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Water sustainability issues invoke passion among people like few other issues, Wagner said.

“People are willing to fight over that,” he said. “It is conferences like this that allow people of different viewpoints to be heard, to get their priorities and passions known so that policy makers like me and director Paddack and certainly Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby and the Chickasaw Nation can actually hear what is important to Oklahomans.”

Water continues to be an ongoing topic for Oklahoma regulators, he said.

“Our office is in the process of working on many water projects of sustainability and protection around the state,” Wagner said. “We see this as the highest priority.”

The state, along with the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations and the city of Oklahoma City signed an historic agreement in 2016 designed to ensure water abundance for decades into the future.

“The agreement provides a framework to ensure sustainable management of our water resources for rural areas and urban communities alike,” Gov. Anoatubby told conference participants in his address.

“Water availability is the greatest economic building block for all communities,” he said. “The Chickasaw Nation is committed to working with local communities to develop tangible solutions to protect the groundwater and surface water we all depend upon.”

Stillwater’s XploSafe presents in a discussion moderated by Dia Ghosh with the Ada Jobs Foundtion

The conference also featured a panel discussion that included three recent Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award winners who have taken decisive steps such as no-till farming and controlled burning of unwanted vegetation to ensure the land they manage can hold moisture and fight erosion.

The Leopold Award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land.

Oklahoma Leopold winners who described their conservation efforts included Jimmy Emmons (2017 winner) of Leedy in far western Oklahoma, Russ Jackson (2018 winner) from Kiowa County in southwestern Oklahoma and Chuck Coffey (2020 winner) from the Arbuckle Mountain region.

Also featured were economic development officers from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), the Tom Love Innovation Hub on the University of Oklahoma campus, as well as Oklahoma entrepreneurs, elected officials, representatives from the EPA, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and other stakeholders.

“In these challenging times, our sponsors stepped up to make sure that this high quality, valuable information was still shared through our conference,” Paddack said. “Water is needed for life. Water is needed for economic growth. We must keep focused on our efforts to ensure water sustainability, and Oka’ is grateful and proud to be a part of this vital discussion.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Lt. Gov. Pinnell, OCAST highlight Oklahoma innovators in new podcast

Dr. Richard Kopke (left) with the Hough Ear Institute was the historic first guest on the Innovate That! podcast hosted by Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell

Editor’s note: My friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) recently launched their first podcast, which highlights Oklahoma innovators and companies across the state. I listened to the first three podcasts hosted by Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and wrote this story about the podcast and the folks Pinnell interviewed:

“Thank you to all who are listening to the Innovate That! podcast.”

With those words, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell launched the initial podcast produced by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and highlighting innovative Oklahoma companies and entrepreneurs.

OCAST is a legislatively funded state agency with a mission to expand and diversify Oklahoma’s economy by supporting research and development of new projects, processes and industries.

Pinnell serves as host of the Innovate That! podcast, interviewing Oklahoma innovators and highlighting the collaborative Oklahoma Innovation Model that provides assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“I’m really excited to start this podcast with OCAST,” Pinnell said. “They are all about innovation, all about helping companies create, helping companies grow their businesses in the state of Oklahoma. For us to build a top 10 state and build a state in the right way, we have to have OCAST and the Innovation Pipeline Model.”

The podcast is produced by Lyle Walters, OCAST’s Policy and Planning Legislative Liaison. You can listen to the Innovate That podcast on most major podcast apps including Podbean, Apple, Google, Amazon and Spotify.

The historic first Innovate That! podcast featured Dr. Richard Kopke, CEO of Oklahoma City’s Hough Ear Institute. The Institute developed a drug known as NHPN-1010 in cooperation with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) that can prevent and potentially restore hearing loss.

Hough Ear Institute is a not-for-profit research organization with a mission to restore hearing worldwide through research, education and humanitarian efforts.

Stillwater-based XploSafe was the second innovative company highlighted by the podcast, with Gas Tech Engineering of Sapulpa completing the trio of launch podcasts.

The positive influence of OCAST and its partners in the Oklahoma Innovation Model – i2E Inc., the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, the New Product Development Center at Oklahoma State University and the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma – was a common theme in the first three podcasts.

“OCAST has been key to it all,” Kopke said of Hough Ear Institute’s success in both developing the drug and licensing it last year to Oblato Inc., which has indicated it plans to initiate Phase 2 clinical trials of NHPN-1010. “And through their granting process, OCAST has provided grants that were leveraged into several millions of dollars of Department of Defense funding.”

Kopke’s words were echoed by entrepreneurs in companies with different missions and in far different industries.

XploSafe is a provider of critical safety solutions for homeland security and chemical safety.

“OCAST programs have been instrumental in us being able to not only find funding to push out new products, but they’ve also helped us find the people that we hire,” said Michael Teicheira, operations manager for XploSafe. “The OCAST intern program funding in particular has been great for us.”

Gas Tech Engineering, which provides expertise in process engineering, design, fabrication and service, received OCAST funding to develop a new product for the oil and gas industry.

“Without the OCAST process, as a small, privately held company, I don’t think we could have done the project,” said Ron Key, chief technology officer at Gas Tech Engineering. “Now we are working with another Oklahoma agency, the OSU New Product Development Center.”

OCAST Executive Director Michael Carolina said the involvement of Pinnell and the Lt. Governor’s office shows the world of potential listeners that Oklahoma is all-in on developing new technologies and new companies.

“We’re so pleased Lt. Gov. Pinnell agreed to host our new podcast,” Carolina said. “He brings an enthusiasm for Oklahoma innovation that will make listeners across Oklahoma and the nation want to know more about innovation in our state.”

Oklahoma innovators have a great story to tell, and the Innovate That! podcast makes its accessible to potentially a worldwide audience, Pinnell said.

“That’s why Innovate That! is the name of this podcast,” he said. “To really bring amazing Oklahoma companies to the 4 million Oklahomans inside the state of Oklahoma, and, hopefully, to people around the country and around the world as well, who will be listening to this to see and to hear what an amazing state that Oklahoma is when it comes to innovation.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology is a state agency tasked with leading Oklahoma’s technology-based economic development efforts, supporting the efforts of start-ups and entrepreneurs to transform promising innovations from concepts into commercial products. OCAST also is an active supporter of STEM education across Oklahoma and provides funding to support internships between local industries and two- and four-year colleges and universities. Visit to learn more.


Fellow Census takers weigh in with their perspective

I recently posted an item on this blog about my short career as a Census Bureau enumerator, and the challenges that I encountered from neighbors unwilling to participate in the Census.

You can read the post here.

After the blog post was published, I heard from a couple of my fellow Census takers who added their own perspective to the discussion. I decided to post them here.

First up is Cyrus, who described it as the “most fun” job he’s ever had.  Obviously, Cyrus handles rejection better than I do. Read what he had to say below.

Then my friend and neighbor Rebekah weighed in with her thoughts on the good and the bad of knocking on doors for the Census count. I’m sharing her thoughts on what she liked about the job. Here is some of what she had to say:

“…parts I liked: meeting people from all walks of life, learning that assumptions and appearances differed so much from reality. Time again, I would be out at an old broken trailer and meet intelligent, grateful and interesting people and I would approach a beautiful home in an affluent area and be met with a misanthropic hostility and ignorance that astounded me. I had to remind myself of my intentions when things got tough and whoop in silence as you walked away from the grumpy man who I just convinced to participate. Quite an adventure but brutal.”

Thank you, Rebekah and Cyrus, for your resilience to stay with the Census Bureau job.  And for finding the positive in the experience.

When the next Census arrives in 2030, I hope whoever is out knocking on doors discovers a more receptive population that is willing to stand up and be counted.

OKC’s MedEncentive finds success in new partnership for its health care innovation

I first met Jeff Greene about 15 years ago when I was working at The Oklahoman as a business news reporter and he approached me about a concept that he considered to be the answer to runaway health care costs.

Jeff had sold his interest in one of the nation’s largest medical practice management firms and founded a company here in town called MedEncentive.

His idea was to use an incentive mechanism that rewards both doctors and patients for holding each other accountable for engaging in “information therapy,” a process that promotes health literacy and adherence to health behaviors and quality care.

Jeff’s idea was so innovative that it earned him three U.S. patents and a Canadian patent.  It has been proven in a myriad of independently validated studies to simultaneously improve health, improve healthcare, lower costs and provide doctor and patient fulfillment.

Jeff describes this combination of objectives as the “Triple/Quadruple/Quintuple Aim.”

Jeff and Jim Dempster, MedEncentive’s director of Business Development, have tirelessly promoted their innovation to health care providers, employers and insurers for well over a decade.

People are finally starting to see the “win-win-win” potential.

Earlier this month, Buck, one of the five largest HR consulting firms in the world, announced a partnership with MedEncentive, in which Buck will introduce the MedEncentive Mutual Accountability and Information Therapy (MAIT) Program to its clients, as well as adopt the Program for its own employees health plan.

It’s a big deal for MedEncentive, as well as for Buck and its employees and clients. And for Oklahoma.

Congratulations Jeff!

If you want to read more about the partnership, click here. And also visit the MedEncentive website for more info about the OKC-based company.

Confessions of a former U.S. Census taker

First-day-on-the-job pic taken by Paula Stafford as I hit the streets

My friend Ed told me that I should write about my experience as a Census Enumerator, even though I quit the job after just two weeks in the field. This is my story.

In the beginning, I signed up to be a Census taker after seeing an ad posted in late January about the need for workers. The actual Census date was April 1, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused everything to be delayed until mid-summer.

The Census is an important component of our federal system because accurate population assessment helps determine federal dollars that are returned to the community, as well as the number of Congressional representatives a state is awarded.

I was part of a small group that trained together for the position in Arcadia in early July, and we hit the streets on Thursday, July 16.

With my official Census Bureau brief case and new clothes purchased for the occasion, I felt like a kid heading off for the first day of school.

In fact, my wife took first day photos before I climbed into the car.

I’m not positive, but it may have been one of the hottest weeks of the century. I’m 67 years old and haven’t been to the gym lately, so the heat took a pretty big toll on my enthusiasm that first week.

But it wasn’t the heat, it was the unwelcoming reception from people that spoiled the job for me.   Too busy. Too angry at the government. Too suspicious of a stranger knocking on their door. 

Although my territory included my Northwest OKC neighborhood and surrounding territory, knocking on doors of people who wanted nothing to do with me or the Census was incredibly discouraging.

Of course, showing up unannounced on someone’s porch while wearing a mask because of the pandemic did not create the most congenial of environments.

I would knock on 30 to 40 doors in an afternoon and be “welcomed” by maybe three people who actually cooperated in the process with enthusiasm.

Sometimes, as soon as the resident opened the front door after I knocked, they would see me and my clipboard and close the door before I could say “I’m from the Census Bureau.”

I blame the incredible number of roofing contractor reps circulating in the area over the past year for ruining it for the rest of us.

Other residents told me they wanted nothing to do with the Census or objected to the mostly demographic-type questions. One guy quit in a huff mid-interview because I asked for names and birth dates of everyone in his household.

A common theme I heard was “we already filled out the Census, so why are you here?”  

Anyway, after the first week my wife asked me to quit, because she was concerned over the effects of working in the heat and the dangers that COVID presented someone my age.

I told her I was committed for eight weeks.

But midway through the second week, I decided that this would be my last.

The thought of knocking on a stranger’s door and being greeted with either suspicion or anger was not what I signed up for. Or maybe it was.

In fact, on my last day a woman told me she did not want to participate and to get off her porch. As she was shutting the door, I told her that I was required to leave a formal notice of visit on her door.

Before I could fill out the information sheet a man came out and told me not to leave anything on their property. I thanked him and quickly walked to my car.

So, the next day I called Paul, my incredibly kind and understanding supervisor, and told him I was hanging it up. He accepted my decision without shaming me.

One of my neighbors, Rebekah, also is a Census Enumerator and still knocking on doors as I write this.

I am in awe of her tenacity for withstanding both the summer heat and the withering resentment and suspicion from her fellow Americans who refuse to stand up and be counted.

Well done, Rebekah and to all of your fellow Census workers still on the job.

Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance unveils Career Pathways tool as industry occupational ‘roadmap’

Helping launch the OMA’s Career Pathways online tool for manufacturing workers were (from left): Michael Grant, VP of operations for Ditch Witch and chairman of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Workforce Committee; Sharon Harrison, director of workforce development for the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance; Sarah Ashmore, deputy director for the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development; and Dave Rowland, president of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance.

Editor’s note: I was invited recently by the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance (OMA) to witness the formal launch of its “Career Pathways” online tool for manufacturing workers across the state. This is the report I wrote on OMA’s behalf:

The Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance (OMA) recently launched an online tool that provides a career advancement “roadmap” for manufacturing workers across the state.

OMA leaders announced the launch of its interactive Career Pathways tool in a special ceremony held at Progressive Stamping & Fabrication in NW OKC.

The Career Pathways site features critical manufacturing occupations and the potential career progression workers can pursue within each area.

“Our Workforce Development Committee surveyed manufacturers across the state – small, medium and large – asking what critical occupations are you going to be hiring for over the next five years, and they gave us eight specific occupations,” said Sharon Harrison, Ed.D., OMA’s workforce development director.

The occupations and specific career pathways identified by the 35-member Workforce Development Committee are:

Assembler, Material Handler, Machine Operator, CNC Machinist, CNC Programmer, Maintenance Technician, Welder and Front Line Supervisor.

Once the critical occupations were identified, the work-based learning subcommittee conducted focus groups for more than eight months assessing required competencies, skill progression and education providers to produce pathways that reflected industry input and needs.

“We hope this tool will help people envision how these occupations are interconnected and how the progression of skills builds manufacturing careers,” Harrison said. “Our goal was to visualize multiple occupations and to illustrate the necessary education, training and competencies required at each level.”

Manufacturers can use the Career Pathways site as a tool to recruit and retain talent for critical occupations, said Michael Grant, vice president of Operations & Supply Chain at Perry’s Ditch Witch, which is now a subsidiary of The Toro Co.

Grant chaired the Workforce Development Committee that identified the eight critical occupational categories for Oklahoma manufacturers.

“Being able to attract talent to the manufacturing industry is key to us,” Grant said. “It was one of the hot-button topics as we talked to industry across Oklahoma. This is another tool we can put in their hands to help them develop their workforce, keep them engaged and retain that talent.”

The Career Pathways tool was developed and launched with the aid of a grant from the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development and in partnership with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Central Oklahoma Workforce Investment Board, Harrison said.

Manufacturing companies represented on the committee includes: Ditch Witch, Kimray, M-D Building Products, Valiant Artificial Lifts, Baker Hughes, PACCAR Winch, AW Bruggerman, Flexibility Concepts, OSECO, HEMSaw, United Holdings, Spiers New Technology, Tulsa Centerless Bar Processing and Mohawk.

Workforce development is an ongoing critical issue for Oklahoma manufacturers, said Dave Rowland, president of the Oklahoma Manufacturers Alliance. Career Pathways is designed as an innovative solution to showcase manufacturing jobs to attract and retain workers.

“Even in the pandemic, it is turning into a major challenge, how you interview your people, how you onboard them, how you find people and get them into the workforce,” Rowland said. “In the next few years, manufacturing will see a retirement of almost 30 percent of its workforce.”

The Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance is an integral part of the Oklahoma Innovation Model, which works to grow and diversify Oklahoma’s economy through entrepreneurship, advanced technology and innovation.

“We believe that what we are presenting here is a great step forward for Oklahoma manufacturers and our careers,” Rowland said.