Local leaders: Healthcare, alternative energy keys to economic growth

Lawton_At Wednesday's forum at Cameron University, leaders said they have found that the future of southwest Oklahoma's economy depends on healthcare and alternative energy.  State government, business, and military leaders debated the best way to promote the economic and political growth of the region on Wednesday, and all agreed that the area will sink or swim depending on how those two issues are handled.

Oklahoma State Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud, and CEO of Comanche County Memorial Hospital Randy Segler shared their opinions on state and local outlooks, and how those would help to shape the national outlook.

Economic growth will not bypass southwest Oklahoma by if local leaders have any input, and Segler says healthcare is key.  He says he has seen with his own eyes the difference that attention to healthcare can make.  "They should get healthcare close to home, and that keeps those revenues here in our local economy," he said.  "That keeps the jobs here."  Segler says population growth because of Fort Sill's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) mandates will fuel healthcare needs, and in turn increase local employment opportunities.

Cloud says some new jobs may come with alternative energy companies that will develop more wind energy.  "We can serve our load here and ship it off to other parts of the state that don't have that abundant resource," he said.  "That'll come back and benefit southwest Oklahoma."  He says the region is known as the "Saudi Arabia of wind energy," and it could possibly contribute to providing wind power to the nation.

Segler says that in addition to providing a boost to healthcare, southwest Oklahoma should speak with one voice to help bring federal dollars to Lawton.  "Those federal stimulus dollars are going somewhere - so why shouldn't Lawton get those dollars?"  Cloud says he hopes southwest Oklahoma will become a nationwide leader in alternative energy, and drive extra funds to the state.

Most who attended the event left with a positive impression about southwest Oklahoma's ability to help its citizens flourish even with the dour economic climate.

Count on 7News to keep you updated on how the federal stimulus dollars are spent in this area.