TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Route 66 will be the focus of promotions in Oklahoma as officials work to boost the state's tourism industry, officials said.
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell toured the historic highway Tuesday. The state's new administration hopes to increase tourism by promoting Oklahoma's scenic beauty and international interest in the Mother Road, he said.
"We're going to own it. We're going all in," Pinnell said. "And we're going to make a lot of money on it."
Tourism has potential for growth as the state's third largest industry, behind oil and gas, and aerospace, Pinnell said. He will host a convention in December to develop plans to improve signage along the route and improve tourism in all towns.
"Tourism is the front door for economic development," Pinnell said. "It's the front door for everything else that we want to do in Oklahoma."
Route 66 was decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985. It covered more than 2,400 miles (3,800 kilometers) connecting Chicago to Los Angeles and passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Tulsa's Route 66 Commission is tasked with promoting tourism and development along the stretch that passes through the city. The organization hopes to expand its vision and opportunities, said Rhys Martin, the commission's chairman.
The commission recently launched a grant program to help Tulsa businesses invest in neon signage along the route.
Officials are also looking at ways to improve tourist attractions along the road, such as the Brookshire Motel. The building dates back to the 1940s and is listed as one of Oklahoma's Most Endangered Places. The motel has been closed since 2017 following multiple code violations, but the city hopes to find a new owner willing to invest in the building's renovation, said Ken Busby, executive director and CEO of the Route 66 Alliance, an organization that promotes the historic highway nationwide.
"Imagine the potential," Busby said. "What Route 66 tourists really want is authenticity, and this is an authentic piece of Route 66 history."