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Today I’d like to talk about a recent partnership with the state of Oklahoma. On Wednesday, I joined Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt on the Oklahoma State University-Tulsa campus to sign a Memorandum of Understanding stating that we are working together to make the Arkansas-Oklahoma corridor a center of excellence in advanced mobility. This includes autonomous vehicles, drone deliveries, and electric vehicles.
Arkansas and Oklahoma already lead the nation in advanced mobility, so joining our two sandboxes of innovation together will bolster our competitiveness for the future.
The East and West coasts get a lot of attention as tech centers, but Arkansas and Oklahoma are rich with a history of leading in aviation and transportation.
From the pioneer aviator Wiley Post in Oklahoma to our own Louise Thaden, who set transcontinental speed records, we have set the pace for innovation and new modes of transportation.
This partnership will accelerate work on advanced mobility and further enhance our region’s reputation as a leader in technological innovation.
Oklahoma has been a vital economic partner to the Natural State for many decades, and this MOU will provide an opportunity for our states to continue the partnership we’ve experienced over the years to make our region a hub for advanced mobility.
Crossing state lines to join forces with other states’ governors is not something unfamiliar. Binding our different perspectives and resources with our like-minded goals allows us to produce bigger and better results.
Earlier this year, I was joined again by Governor Stitt and Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana to establish a regional hub for the development, production, and use of clean hydrogen as fuel and manufacturing feedstock.
This is a bipartisan agreement that combines our three states to compete for funding from the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act of 2021. With the portfolios each of our states offer combined, we are competitive due to our ability to uniquely handle the production, storage and distribution, and consumption of hydrogen.
Another example of the cooperation with neighboring states is the I-49 corridor with Missouri. At the end of last year we completed the final stretch of the I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector. Joining forces with Missouri and Governor Mike Parson, the I-49 connecter now consists of more than 1,600 miles of roadway, connecting six states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
Another example is when a crack was discovered and shut down the I-40 bridge in Memphis in May 2021. Arkansas joined with Tennessee to fix and reopen the bridge because the closure threatened many lives and put a pause on the much-needed movement of commerce.
Governor Bill Lee and I understood the importance of the connector bridge, and we both knew we needed to act quickly. Our two teams developed a plan that emphasized a sense of urgency while keeping safety as the number one priority.
On the front of cybersecurity, Governor John Bel Edwards and I share similar views on the importance of preparing our country for the digital age. Our two states have been on the frontlines of cybersecurity education, in addition to working toward a comprehensive cybersecurity ecosystem. Good stewardship of our resources includes guarding the gates into our systems and protecting information.
States become stronger when they combine their resources and expertise, and it starts with governors who share similar goals bridging the gap.