Oklahoma Chambers Of Commerce Fly Into D.C. To Meet With Congressmembers

Spring may be severe weather season in Oklahoma, but it’s Fly-In season in Washington. Because, traditionally, this is the time of year when budget decisions for the coming fiscal year are being made, groups like local chambers of commerce fly in to get an audience with those who make those decisions.

Wednesday, May 8th 2024, 5:40 pm



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An important and time-consuming aspect of any member of Congress’s job is meeting with constituents and advocacy groups, when they're at home in their districts, but especially when they're on Capitol Hill. And there’s a lot of that going on right now.

Spring may be severe weather season in Oklahoma, but it’s Fly-In season in Washington. Because, traditionally, this is the time of year when budget decisions for the coming fiscal year are being made, groups like local chambers of commerce fly in to get an audience with those who make those decisions.

People like Congressman Tom Cole. As the new Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Cole (R-OK4) is in especially high demand right now. He spoke to the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce Wednesday and to his hometown Norman Chamber Tuesday.

"For us, it gives us a chance to share with him some of our needs that we have in our community," said Normal Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Scott Martin, "for instance, for some infrastructure, road projects, [and] Max Westheimer Airport."

Martin says they see Cole back in Oklahoma, but not the other members of the delegation, and it's important, he says, to check in with all of them. He says he knows they have busy schedules, but the face-to-face meetings matter.

"I think it means a lot to them," said Martin. "I know it means a lot to us that they spend time with our members."

And that is exactly why Mike Neal, President and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, says a big part of their message, when they're in DC, is simply one of appreciation.

"They’re working their tails off, they’re underpaid, they have a lot of big challenges at hand," said Neal in an interview Wednesday, "and so we’re really just here today to say thank you."

Of course, they are also in Washington to advocate on behalf of their stakeholders—for things like expanded oil and gas production, the creation of more affordable housing, increasing the number of H-1B visas for high-tech workers, and, at the top of their list, permitting reform.

"Quite often when we’re trying to do major energy projects or we’re trying to do major construction projects for public infrastructure," explained Neal, "the federal government permitting tends to delay these projects, tends to escalate the costs of these projects significantly."

Chamber leaders say they’re well aware that the issues they raise may not be acted on this year, perhaps not for several years, if ever. But they say this is about planting the seed and trusting someday it will bear fruit.

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