Lots of plaudits and praise, plenty of handshakes, some backslapping and perhaps a bit of politickin’ were part of the scene at the Josie Adams Cultural Center Thursday evening.

It was the annual meeting of the Woodward Industrial Foundation and members – and non-members for that matter – were in a festive mood.

For good reason.

The Woodward Industrial Foundation had a very strong year and the Woodward economy is continuing to perform at a strong level.

Bruce Benbrook, chairman of the foundation’s board, simplified it quite well by saying, “It’s been a great year for Northwest Oklahoma.”

Indeed, and the industrial foundation played a role in many areas, from helping secure funding for the Southern Plains Range Research expansion, to the Northwestern Oklahoma State University campus project, to an assisted living center, transportation areas and many others.

One quote Benbrook used was this, “The final test of a leader is what he leaves behind for future generations.”

The folks in the foundation, and in Woodward as a whole, opened some pathways for future generations in the past year.

The Northwestern campus is one example. The November groundbreaking showed the payoff of hard work and determined effort.

“The higher education facility took many years and many hours to bring about,” said Benbrook.

Another was the $25 million Crystal Beach Park renovation over the next five years. That project will do “many, many things for our children and grandchildren for many years to come,” Benbrook said.

Industrial Foundation Chairman LaVern Phillips praised the leadership in Woodward and at the state capitol.

“The future looks great because of that leadership,” Phillips said.

In addition to the annual report, the meeting featured some legislative updates from Reps. Jeff Hickman and Rob Johnson and updates from Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach of Mooreland.

Hickman spoke of Woodward’s importance in the area’s economic ventures.

“Woodward is really the leader for this part of the state,” he said. “When good things happen for Woodward, good things happen for the rest of the county and for Northwest Oklahoma.”

Hickman said a goal of the area delegation in the legislature is to continue to work and make resources available for four-lane access highways, both to the south and east. He also said the delegation is working to get a property tax exemption to help the new Providence Place assisted living center.

He said his proposal for a five-year income tax exemption for people who move into rural areas and buy or build a home didn’t get a hearing, but could still be kept alive by becoming attached to other pieces of legislation.

The big talk at the capitol is the budget, or lack of one.

Actually, the legislature passed a budget already, but Gov. Brad Henry vetoed it and things are at a bit of a standstill.

“It was a bipartisan budget and met deadlines for funding education,” Hickman said. “It was the earliest a budget had been completed.”

Hickman said the budget fully funded teacher pay raises, provided more money for roads and bridges and additional tax cuts for working families.

“And contrary to what you’ve heard, the governor’s office was involved,” Hickman added.

The Dacoma Republican said everything looks to be at a standstill until the governor presents a plan.

Johnson, a Republican from Kingfisher, is the majority whip in the House and thus the chief vote counter.

He said until the budget was vetoed, his primary work was on passing lawsuit reform and he believes that with the advent of new rules in the equally divided Senate, “I think we have enough votes to get something done this year.”

Johnson said his goal was to reduce the amount of “frivolous” lawsuits.

On the budget, which passed the Senate unanimously and only had 16 no votes in the House, Johnson said he was working with Democrat representatives to “pass a budget for the people, whether the governor wants to participate or not.”

Johnson said Gov. Henry has not presented a new budget and the one he talked about in February can’t be used as a base because the numbers are off and would violate the state’s balanced budget requirement.

Peach urged those in attendance to study and contact legislators on any concerns they have about immigration legislation that could have a major impact on employers.

Water, though, was his big target.

The state water board is getting ready to hold a series of meetings across the state this year to develop a comprehensive water plan - the first one ever in Oklahoma.

“I challenge you to take an active role in every one of the water meetings,” he said. “This may be the biggest issue in the state of Oklahoma for the next five years. Help us get a good water plan so we can develop western Oklahoma.”

Peach also said he expects continued growth of agritourism with possibly as many as 500 venues being identified in Oklahoma.

Peach believes there could be at least 1,000 ag tourism businesses in the state in the next two years.

Note: The industrial foundation elected three people, Kimberlee Smithton, Sandi Liles and Dr. Lloyd Peck.

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