OKLAHOMA CITY — A $1 million federal grant will help rural Oklahoma oil and natural gas companies diversify to help create jobs and boost the region’s economy.

The U.S. Economic Development Authority grant was presented to the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. It is the most funding OCAST has received, The Oklahoman reported (http://bit.ly/2drkKNl ).

The state technology agency says it will match the grant with $500,000 in state funds and use the money to work with companies throughout rural Oklahoma. The grant is designed to create at least 340 jobs over the next two years.

“We have some challenges in the energy world now, so there are a lot of companies as well as individuals who need to transform or move to other areas of work,” OCAST Executive Director C. Michael Carolina said. “So we’re going to help work with pivoting from energy into other markets. We do expect that the energy industry will come back. That’s great, but it’s an opportunity to show flexibility in our state by taking companies that manufacture a product and look at other applications for those products.”

OCAST already is working with a dirt-moving company that sells and maintains attachments for Caterpillar tractors designed to help set up oil-field rig sites. That company is exploring how to use that technology on farm tractors to boost agriculture development.

Another company designs valves and parts for oil-field equipment and is adapting that technology for aviation and defense uses.

“The oil and gas companies have always been a little skittish about looking for new markets. They always want to work for oil and gas because that’s huge money,” OCAST Programs Director Dan Luton said. “We want them to always have that, but by helping them become more efficient and realizing they can do both, now they’re ready to penetrate new markets. So we help them find those new markets and write a road map for them to penetrate those markets.”

OCAST has partnered with the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance and the New Product Development Center at Oklahoma State University to help provide specific, technical guidance to the oil and natural gas services companies.

Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com