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Oklahoma Chambers of Commerce fly to Washington DC to meet with members of Congress

Oklahoma Chambers of Commerce fly to Washington DC to meet with members of Congress

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

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

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

“For us, it gives us an opportunity to share with him some of our needs in our community,” said Scott Martin, president and CEO of the Normal Chamber of Commerce, “for example, for certain 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 them all. He says he knows they have busy schedules, but in-person meetings are important.

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

And that’s exactly why Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, says a lot of their message, when they’re in Washington, is simply about appreciation.

“They’re working their tails off, they’re underpaid, they’ve got a lot of big challenges ahead of them,” Neal said in an interview Wednesday, “and so we’re really here today to thank you.”

Of course, they are also in Washington to advocate for their stakeholders’ interests, including expanding oil and gas production, creating more affordable housing, increasing the number of H-1B visas for high-tech workers and, at the top of their list, enabling reform.

“Very often when we’re trying to do large energy projects or public infrastructure construction,” Neal explained, “the federal government’s approvals tend to delay those projects and drive up the costs of those projects significantly. “

Chamber leaders say they are keenly aware that the issues they raise may not be resolved this year, perhaps not for several years, if ever. But they say it’s about planting the seed and hoping that one day it will bear fruit.