Amy Walton, OCAST Director, Government Relations and Strategic Initiatives.
When Amy Walton, OCAST’s director of government relations and strategic initiatives, talks, passion about pushing Oklahoma’s innovation forward just spills out. Quickly, she’s telling stories about innovative startups, tech companies moving to Oklahoma or how an entrepreneur is changing his or her industry.
“Innovation is in everything we do,” Walton said. “We are always looking for a way to work smarter not harder. Innovation allows us to think critically and creatively about improving a process or designing something completely new that solves a problem. It gives us the opportunity to advance technologies to always be improving the way we do things. Not only is innovation a product of something tangible that we can see and touch, it takes on a deeper meaning.”
And, while Walton is leaving her role at OCAST, she’s quick to point all praise back to the substantial work OCAST is doing to propel innovative companies in Oklahoma forward: The governmental state agency has funded 132 startups with millions of dollars of funding deployed, creating 5,384 jobs in the past five years alone. And they boast an average return on investment of 22 to 1, meaning for every one dollar of state funding OCAST receives, it returns $22 in economic development.
Why is innovation important to the future of Oklahoma?
“Innovation allows Oklahoma to compete in the global marketplace. This brings new dollars into the state and grows the GDP.”
What role does the state of Oklahoma plays in innovation growth?
“The state of Oklahoma was really strategic in their vision when they thought about what they wanted to do to grow Oklahoma when they created OCAST. We are a technology-driven economic development engine for the state. Through the years, we have evolved to meet the needs of Oklahoma innovators, entrepreneurs and manufacturers. If you think about it when OCAST was created the personal cell phone did not even exist. Now days we carry around miniature computers in our pockets. As technology has evolved, so has OCAST. We have become more nimble, focused more on developmental opportunities that are closer to market.”
Innovation Advocate of the Year Finalists:
- Katy Boren, Oklahoma City Innovation District president and CEO;
- Hannah Schmitt, The Treasury owner.