According to a report by the state capitol political news site, NonDoc, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and state leaders are in secret negotiations with Volkswagen to possibly land a large manufacturing plant in Oklahoma.
The web site reported the talks are similar to those in 2022 in which Oklahoma hoped to land a $4 billion Pansonic battery-manufacturing factory but lost in competition to Kansas.
NonDoc reported the Governor is still tight-lipped about the latest possible talks with VW, witnessed by his measured references during a Friday meeting with reporters.
Here is how NonDoc reported the story on Monday:
Remember last year when negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor mucked up a month of session to create the LEAD Act — a new business incentive program for “mega” manufacturers — and to place about $700 million into the LEAD Fund in hopes of luring Panasonic to build a battery plant at the Mid-America Industrial Park in Pryor? (The company ultimately chose Kansas, which gave away the proverbial farm to strike the deal.)
If you were longing for more of that drama from last year, we’ve got good news: A similar secret conversation is occurring this session, with Gov. Kevin Stitt and his Commerce Department allegedly seeking an additional $200 million or so for the LEAD Fund in an effort to land the development of a separate electric-vehicle-related manufacturing project. Dubbed “Project Connect,” this year’s mega manufacturing pursuit (reportedly) involves Volkswagen.
Stitt discussed the situation during a Friday press briefing, stopping just short of revealing what lawmakers privately say is his effort to increase the LEAD Fund’s financial cap to lure the new project, which Stitt said would be “the largest factory that would be built in Oklahoma ever and one of the largest in the country.”
“I hope we get this across the finish line. There is now some politics happening, which is really really disappointing, because we have a transformative company — a top-10 company in the country, or in the world, really — size-wise and revenue-wise that wants to build in the state of Oklahoma if we can just, you know, ninth-hour — so my encouragement to everybody is let’s not — if we win this, it’s going to be awesome for Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “Then we can argue later, but we need to get this across the finish line. That’s why I’m working on raising — the Legislature controls those packages and those things, and I think it would be great for our state to get it done.”
Asked to elaborate on the politics involved with the Legislature, Stitt exhaled heavily and simply said, “It’s a longer conversation than (for) here.”
Stitt said the company is expected to make a decision by April 1, which would allign with rumblings that its governing board is meeting soon and that Stitt would prefer the Legislature to move more money into the LEAD Fund this week.
That, however, would be an extremely quick timeline for legislative caucuses that may have not have had time to talk thoroughly about Project Connect and about how dedicating an additional $200 million would affect this year’s budget negotiations on topics like education funding, the proposed parental choice tax credit, tax reform and more.