The region is comprised of fourteen counties in northeast Oklahoma with a total estimated 2009 population of 584,513 individuals; the Region has expanded from the seven-county area initially identified. In a collaborative effort, Northeast Oklahoma Rural Alliance, formerly SACC-EZ, a regional economic development cooperative, Cherokee Nation, and Northeastern State University envisioned a regional gathering to tell our story. These three founding partners, along with the Northeast Oklahoma Planning Partners, conducted a regional summit aimed to develop a regional plan and a regional collaborative in order to strengthen the long-term economic well being of the region and improve the quality of life for all citizens.
At the 2009 Summit, leaders from across the region discussed assets on which to build our Region and issues which must be addressed to achieve optimal growth. Northeast Oklahoma is an area rich in cultural and natural beauty, with abundant recreational opportunities, and a strong, proud citizenry. However, the partners also acknowledged the region is home to some of the poorest in the country with approximately 21% of the population living below the poverty threshold. The solution determined at the 2009 Summit was to build a strong regional collaboration and encourage leaders from chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, business owners, non-profit groups, educators, workforce development, and government, including tribal, local, state, and federal, to join together and develop a broad regional plan.
The planning process would bond our communities together through common interests and provide a common voice to communicate regional needs to tribal, local, state, and federal officials. At this point many regions or communities might engage a consultant to develop a regional plan, nevertheless, this group of community leaders agreed to take this task on themselves and conducted the 2009 inaugural summit as a means to increase regional understanding and begin the planning process by identifying assets and issues. Regional growth hinges on our ability as a region to share a common voice, a common agenda, a common plan, and a common commitment. In 2010, the draft regional plan was reviewed, modified, and adopted by over 300 community leaders representing the 14 counties targeted by the regional plan and collaboration.
The regional plan includes a regional vision, findings, results, action steps and indicators of success necessary to achieve the shared agenda through commitment and leadership. The plan is intended to enable a future for the Region whereby the people of northeast Oklahoma have opportunities for meaningful, productive work and effective community involvement amidst a high quality natural and culturally rich environment.