In an effort to better connect our members, we wanted to send out a brief, unofficial report on May 16’s meeting. This does not supplant nor replace the minutes, which will be distributed closer to our July 18, 2017 meeting.

Due to a scheduling conflict we held our meeting at the new offices of Catholic Charities OKC, where their Executive Director Patrick Raglow welcomed the OKGIT to their Chickasaw Conference Center and gave a brief summary of his organization’s work in the community. Learn more about Catholic Charities OKC here, and contact them if you’re in need of a meeting place in central OKC, their venue is top notch and very affordable.

After a brief discussion on the professional backgrounds and qualifications, the group voted on new members. The OKGIT’s newest members are Jane Kuchko, Vice-Provost for Global Education at the University of Tulsa, and Peggy Millikin, a registered patent and trademark attorney with extensive experience in international and national intellectual property law.

Representative Travis Dunlap joined the meeting and discussed the April 2017 International Day at the Capitol, which was ultimately cancelled due to construction at the state capitol building. Further discussions will be held closer to next year’s event for better coordination and preparation between Rep. Dunlap’s office, the OK Secretary of State’s office and the OKGIT.

Oklahoma Consular Corps Representative Rico Buchli noted that Edmond is in the process of solidifying a sister city agreement with a Chinese municipality of Qingyang, which will hopefully be finalized later this year.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Trade, Oklahoma Department of Commerce and Oklahoma Department of Education gave updates on their offices’ respective work and events in the coming summer months. For a listing of these events, please see our OKGIT calendar by clicking here.

Recently appointed Oklahoma Secretary of State Dave Lopez joined the meeting as the invited guest speaker, giving a summation of his recent work and plans for the rest of his term that runs until 2018. After discussing the ongoing budget negotiations at the capitol as the legislative session closed, Secretary Lopez also mentioned research his office had conducted for apprenticeship programs available in Oklahoma. The list of these programs can be found here.

Chris Morriss, chief of protocol in the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office, mentioned that Guatemala will have an honorary consul in Oklahoma City in the coming year.

The group also agreed on an initial guest list for the September 6-7 Oklahoma Consular Summit for 2017. The initial guest list was decided due to existing trade and commercial relationships between Oklahoma and these nations.

  • Canada
  • U.K.
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • France

The OKGIT will hold its next bi-monthy meeting: Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 9 a.m. at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

If you are or know of a member that is not receiving emails or is not on the membership section of the website, please email me at info@okgit.com or theokgit@gmail.com

Governor Governor Nigh

Governor Governor Nigh

As a delegation from Japan visits the Sooner State to celebrate 30 years of the Kyoto-Oklahoma Sister State relationship on November 18, 2015, one former state leader can be largely credited with the initially forging those ties.

“I’m very pleased that we were able to get Oklahoma to start thinking internationally,” said former Governor George Nigh. “There were times when I was governor that we had trouble convincing people of the importance of connecting Oklahoma internationally, but I’m very proud of what it is today.”

Nigh credits his ties to the Junior Chamber International organization and his role as a pitchman of Oklahoma City as host of the group’s 1965 international congress. As both a governmental representative and junior chamber member, Nigh attended international meetings in locales as far flung as Paris and Hong Kong to promote Oklahoma City as a host for the International Jaycees.

“We had representatives from 70 countries from around the world come to Oklahoma City to attend that conference,” said Nigh in a July 2015 article on www.OKGIT.com. “Getting that international conference held here, that is what got me interested in more international things as they related to Oklahoma.”

He acknowledges that there were some feelings of resentment towards his administration’s efforts to forger global ties with Oklahoma, as well as his office’s use of funds to send the then-governor on international trips promoting the Sooner State. More so, when it came to Japanese companies, the memories of WWII and Pearl Harbor were hard to forget for many Oklahomans, even forty years after the war’s end.

“I was in the navy at the end of WWII, so I know the resentment. But, the world had changed,” said the McAlester, Oklahoma-native.

Senator Randy Bass

Senator Randy Bass

The governor made it a point of selling a landlocked state like Oklahoma as the center of the U.S. Thanks in large part to its road, rail and river infrastructure, Oklahoma is roughly one day’s journey from the east and west coasts and borders with Canada and Mexico. Its location, educated workforce and low cost of living have been selling points for many an international firm. Nigh counts the Hitachi Corporation’s basing of its factory in Norman, Oklahoma as proof of these factors.

In his trip to inaugurate the Kyoto Prefecture – Oklahoma Sister State relationship in 1985, Nigh found out he wouldn’t be the only ‘Okie in attendance at his reception press conference. Current State Senator Randy Bass, from Lawton, Oklahoma, was a professional baseball player in Japan at the time of Nigh’s visit. As a fellow Oklahoman, Bass had been invited to the governor’s reception. Though the two had never met before, Bass greeted the governor and gave a brief statement to a packed room of Japanese media.

“Randy was the most popular baseball player in Japan when I visited,” recalled Nigh. “When I saw how many people were at the reception, I said ‘My gosh, I have never received this much press attention in my whole political career!’”

The plan was for Nigh to address the assembled crowd following Bass’ remarks, who himself had to leave before the governor spoke in order to get ready for the game. However, all did not go to plan. After speaking, Bass shook the governor’s hand and excused himself from the press conference.

“He left, and every member of the press but two left before I spoke” said Nigh with a laugh. “Here I am speaking, and they’re coming up and pulling the microphones off the podium from in front of me. They came to Randy Bass. But Randy being there allowed me to become known in Japan.”

Despite that, Nigh credits Bass’ boost as being vitally important in his cementing the Kyoto-Oklahoma relationship. The two are slated to attend Wednesday’s afternoon at the reception Oklahoma State Capitol to celebrate 30 years of the sister state relationship.

Roger Randle While many their counterparts near international borders or the coasts have a distinct advantage to forging international ties, landlocked states like Oklahoma often rely on building on personal connections through well-known public servants and private citizens. One former Oklahoma politician, Roger Randle serves just such role as the honorary consul for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Tulsa-born Randle first went abroad as a member of the Peace Corps, a volunteer program begun during the Kennedy Administration that sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. When asked on how a native Tulsan found himself heading across international borders and time zones to serve others on behalf of the United States at the height of the Cold War, Randle laughs.

“That’s a natural question us Peace Corps people ask each other, ‘Why did you go into the Peace Corps?’” said Randle. “I was at the very beginning of the program, and in those days it was quite a romantic undertaking. It was a combination of a sense of adventure and a confidence of believe in our ability to go out into the world and do good based on our best intentions.”

Randle explained that the sense of Americans’ “can do” mentality often ran into the reality of life on the ground once their assignments began.

“We learned that these local people know about some things a lot better than we do. We got caught up in reality.”

Randle served a year in the Peace Corps, stationed in the Brazilian of Pernambuco. In a somewhat strange twist, Randle’s future wife was also serving in Brazil at the same time in the adjoining state, though they did not meet until years later.

Though his stint in Brazil was cut short due to the death of his father, Randle is fluent in Portuguese. In fact, he says that the majority of the reading he does to this day is in it or Spanish.

“When I was a civil servant for the City of Tulsa, there wasn’t very much global interest in Oklahoma, but I did travel. Whenever I had my vacation time, I would leave the country and head to Mexico or South America. I went because in those days, with airplane tickets being so expensive, I tried to visit places that didn’t require a lot of flying.”

Returning to Oklahoma, he was elected to the state house of representatives in 1970 and state senate in 1972. He served four terms total as a senator, twice as President Pro Tempore. While focused on Oklahoma’s domestic concerns as a member of the legislature, Randle maintained an interest in the world outside America’s borders. He credits the vision of Governor George Nigh and Lieutenant Governor Spencer Bernard with helping expand Oklahoma’s international ties.

“We had leaders who had a vision of the value of being international, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he recalled.

In 1988, Randle moved from the statehouse to city hall as the elected mayor of Tulsa. In that role he led the way in developing that town’s international ties, including extending invitations to the then-president of Venezuela.

“We tried to raise the horizon of the community of the value and importance of international ties,” he explained. “We had activities to get the community involved, and I supported the effort to bring the national conference of the Sister Cities Program to Tulsa while I was mayor.”

As the former mayor looks back at the conference, in which he and the Sister Cities’ representative entered on horseback, he notes it as another great opportunity to build Oklahoma’s international ties. Through Tulsa’s hosting of the event, then-Mayor Randle served on the Sister Cities’ national board of directors, a position that eventually led to a term as the president and chairman of the group.

Randle also sits on the board of the Governor’s International Economic Development Team, the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team and the Tulsa Global Alliance. He is past chairman of the Tulsa Committee on Foreign Relations and a former member of the U.N. Association of Northeastern Oklahoma. He is currently Director for the Center for Studies in Democracy and Culture and a professor of human relations at the University of Oklahoma’s Tulsa campus.

Prominent amongst those roles is his current position as the Honorary British Consul in Oklahoma. Randle is amongst a handful of honorary consuls in the Sooner State working as local representatives of foreign nations in their relations, be they commercial, cultural or educational with Oklahoma.

“I have enjoyed being able to observe the British administrative system,” noted Randle. “It’s fascinating for me to see administrators in a different national and cultural context operate when we have meetings. We have such close cultural ties to the U.K., but the differences are very interesting.”

If you would like to learn more about the honorary consuls based in Oklahoma, please contact the Rico Buchli of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team. If you would like to learn more about Roger Randle, Honorary Consul for the United Kingdom, please email randle@ou.edu.

(Top photo: Tulsa Skyline – By Caleb Long)

Though globalization has become the norm in the 21st Century, it wasn’t long ago that building academic, cultural and commercial ties with the world outside America’s border was a new concept for many Oklahoman political leaders. One such statesman, former Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick, was at the forefront in leading the state’s capitol city into the age of globalization that followed the end of the Cold War, serving as mayor from 1987-1998. Mayor Norick spoke with the OKGIT about his experiences and the unique role that municipalities can play in forging an international Oklahoma.

Mayor Ron Norick

Mayor Ron Norick

On the importance of international ties for Oklahoma…“For one thing our farmers rely on it, that’s something that has always been important to the state.

“We also have a number of companies that sell domestically and internationally, which has only become more prevalent over time. You must have ties internationally; you can’t be isolated.”

On the successes of forging global partnerships during his time as mayor of Oklahoma City…

“When I came in as mayor, there was already sister cities in Taiwan which had been developed by the Oklahoma City Police Department. The departments, Oklahoma City and their counterparts in Taiwan, were cross training on best policing techniques.

“I also established one with the Hed College of Music in Yehud, Israel and Oklahoma City University. Like most of these kinds of ties and exchanges, they’re educational and cultural-based.

“We also had an exchange program at OCU with individuals coming from the former USSR in the early 1990s.They were business and economic professionals in their aviation sector who were coming here to learn about the free market, capitalism and the way the West does business. These were very high officials in their aviation sector, but they were steeped in working in the socialist and Soviet system. They were eager to learn, and they really picked up a lot in an intensive, four or five week program.”

“Haiko, the biggest city in Hainan Province, an island just off mainland of China, was a Sister City relationship that dealt with infrastructure. They got ahold of us and asked about our interest in coming to their city, which they explained was growing very rapidly.

“Hainan is known as the Hawaii of China with white beaches and is very pretty. Their city officials were interested in infrastructure developments for a municipality that was growing like crazy. They were behind in their streets, their water and sewer infrastructure, and we met with them over there and they reciprocated and met with our public works administration here. Our public works department made a great effort and helped show their officials how to plan 10, 20 or 30 years ahead of time for that kind of growth.”

On Oklahomans’ awareness of the state’s international ties…

“I don’t think international ties are on most Oklahomans’ radar, they have other things going on. Unless you have a business with international ties, you don’t worry about that.

“Those relationships are developed company to company for the most part. They’re not fostered by the consulate general or the governor at the beginning.

“If the city leaders are interested in promoting those ties and drawing international businesses to their towns, it’s pretty easy for them to know who to contact in terms of a local company that can help foster those relationships. In contrast to the state department of commerce or the U.S. Department of Commerce, it’s our town. We know the specifics and what we as a city have to offer. It’s more targeted.

“In Asia especially, when a mayor travels to a country there, it is a big deal. It’s like the President of the United States is visiting. The difference of having companies go to a foreign country on their own and say ‘I’m from Oklahoma and I want to do business,’ is not going to carry as much weight as an official delegation visiting from a mayor’s office. It legitimizes the company you’re travelling with.”

On Oklahoma’s reputation after the Murrah Building bombing in 1995…

“It might have been easier after the bombing in that a lot of people who had never thought about us before recognized where Oklahoma was and what we were about. We showed that we could take care of ourselves and our people in such a time, and that was a positive reflection.”

Mayor Ron Norick is a graduate of Oklahoma City University and served as mayor of Oklahoma City from 1987-1998. He currently serves as the controlling manager of Norick Investment Company, LLC, and is a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

(Photo of OKC Skyline courtesy of Urbanative at Wikipedia Commons).