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Gov. Stitt touts Oklahoma's COVID-19 relief for small businesses in visits to Owasso, Broken Arrow
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Gov. Stitt touts Oklahoma's COVID-19 relief for small businesses in visits to Owasso, Broken Arrow

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Gov. Kevin Stitt spent Tuesday listening to the coronavirus tribulations and occasional triumphs of small business operators in Broken Arrow and Owasso while also promoting his administration’s handling of the epidemic.

Stitt and his entourage, which included Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Department of Commerce Executive Director Brent Kisling and Economic Development Director Jennifer Springer, toured an aircraft manufacturing plant in Owasso and a small factory in Broken Arrow that has transitioned from building oil and gas field equipment to high-end firearms.

They also heard from a number of other businesses that benefited from state programs intended to get Oklahoma businesses through this year’s sharp COVID-related downturn.

In Broken Arrow, Stitt visited Rise Armaments, a small manufacturer that until a few years ago supplied oil field equipment. Now it makes firearms and trigger mechanisms, and it used $70,000 from Stitt’s new Manufacturing Reboot Program to buy new equipment.

Rise employs 53, up from 32 at the beginning of the year, according to President Matt Torres.

Later, at a meeting with other business owners, Stitt and his team heard about problems with availability and cost of building supplies, counterfeit face masks and sharp reductions in sales.

Kisling said the current situation has alerted his department and Oklahoma manufacturers to opportunities presented by disrupted supply chains and shifts in demand.

Stitt’s remarks at the meeting primarily dealt with his handling of the epidemic, which he said has permitted Oklahoma’s economy to continue functioning at a relatively high level.

He encouraged the return of school children to the classroom, saying, “We cannot lose another school year, and nobody can guarantee me things will be better in January.”

“There is always risk,” Stitt said. “Whenever you decide to go with virtual school, there’s a risk. Ask my (Department of Human Services) director about the abuse that’s not being reported right now because the kids are not in school.”

Earlier, in Owasso, Stitt met with nearly a dozen small-businesses owners who received more than $331,400 through the CARES Act, Oklahoma Business Relief Program, Oklahoma Manufacturing Reboot Program and Oklahoma Bounce Back Assistance Program.

Stitt toured Mingo Aerospace, an Owasso-based aircraft component repair and manufacturing facility, which received a $113,550 award from the Oklahoma Bounce Back Assistance Program to fund a project designed to bring outsourced repairs for Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City back into the state.

“Aerospace and defense is a huge driver for Oklahoma’s economy,” Stitt said during the visit. “We have Tinker … we’ve got American Airlines. So there’s companies like Mingo that are really the supply chain for all those. … So, really proud of their leadership, the Emery family, here in Owasso.”

Bill Emery, managing director at Mingo Aerospace, oversees 45 employees at the family-owned company. He had to lay off six technicians during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic but has since rehired two of them, thanks in part to Stitt’s relief efforts.

“It meant a lot just to know that he’s so supportive of small business,” Emery said. “The program that we were able to participate in did help and kind of pushed us over the edge to buy that equipment, and hopefully develop the new capabilities … where we can maybe pull some work out of Tinker that we weren’t able to do before.”

After the tour, Stitt traveled to Bailey Ranch Golf Club, where he and his staff held a roundtable luncheon with Oklahoma Business Relief Program recipients. He was joined by Kisling, Owasso city officials and other members of the community.

Dr. Jillian Prather, a dentist in Owasso, shared how the funds kept her in business amid a challenging time.

“Going from zero revenue to a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, I was able to retain our staff,” Prather said. “And in the middle of that, I was also given the opportunity to expand my practice, doubling it in size in square footage wise, patient wise and staff wise. We were up 30% last month … and this month we’re on track to beat that.”

Josh Cordova, director of operations at Sherco Machine and Engineering, added, “We knew we were going to have a downturn in our industry … but this has definitely helped us. With (the funds), it’s going to help us buy the raw materials we need and specialized equipment with the contracts we’re trying to get. It’ll carry us through the year and into next year for sure.”

Several other Owasso recipients, including owners of Charis Music Studio, Blue Sky Productions, WaterStone Dry Cleaning, and MAD Eats and SMOKE Woodfire Grill, also shared their experiences.

“That’s why I’m here,” Stitt said. “I wanted to put my eye on these businesses, thank them for investing and hear the stories, because these are real families that are affected.

“Keeping businesses employed and keep them growing is so important to the overall health of the state.”


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Gallery: Gov. Kevin Stitt visits Owasso and Broken Arrow

Randy Krehbiel

918-581-8365

randy.krehbiel

@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @rkrehbiel

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