Exciting Times….. BUT!
Just four years ago, a local economic development office in a town the size of Okmulgee might see twenty RFPs/RFIs. Request for Proposal or Information. Out of those twenty prospects we might have made it to the second level of a project once or twice. That would be in a good year. But on average, less than one site visit per year. In the last twelve months we have received over eighty requests for proposal or information. We respond to every request if there is even the slightest possibility of our area meeting the clients’ requirements.
Out of those eighty RFPs, the OADC made it to the second cut on about twenty, we have had over a dozen site visits. Okmulgee is now in the final selection stage with five clients.
Competition is stiff, especially out of Texas. You can take it to the bank that your local staff will go to the final bell on each one of these projects.
Just about three years ago, the owners of a large building downtown put out a call for
proposals for redevelopment. That RFP was met with “0” responses. Now the past year or two has seen four or five buildings change hands, be remodeled and new businesses located. Some of which brought cutting-edge business models. (pun intended) Especially if you compare them to the recent past. Small towns are now seeing their fair share of interest from companies both large and small. Plus it is so cool that local business owners are ramping up their investments and re-investments in Okmulgee, especially in our historic downtown area, way to go Heather and Main Street!
The current four or five projects on US 75 are also encouraging. Having the
Nation’s fourth largest convenience store chain build a new store at our 100% corner
announces Okmulgee and our traffic count as a place to do business.
Our single biggest issue now seems to be housing. Some of our largest employers are reporting to our office that they are successfully recruiting highly educated and skilled employees, but they have to live in South Tulsa for a lack of housing. So did we really make a difference to the local economy if they take their pay check and leave town? This needs to be addressed immediately and by a local effort this County has never seen before. Every city and town in the county needs to be involved. Going hand in hand with new housing is the other end of the spectrum. What are we as citizens going to do about all the sub-standard housing? Several thousand Okmulgee (area) residents are living in totally unlivable structures. With over 4,000 local employees driving into the Okmulgee are each day to work from other Oklahoma counties, just think what our local economy would look like if they all moved to Okmulgee and the surrounding area? We have to develop a housing plan that would attract those families to live where they earn their paychecks.
Big opportunities require high level, professional responses. With professional planning, and local support. We are entering a growth period that Okmulgee has not seen in many years. Are our local development offices going to get the support they need? Support at all levels, government, corporate and from our fellow citizens.