Odds and Ends Around the Economic Development Office
A person might think that with the pandemic raging on, City Hall with restricted access, and good old hot and humid August-Dog Days of Summer the staff might be kicking back or even taking a little vacation time. In spite of all the ‘crazy’ going on in the world, not only do we remain focused on the mission of promoting Okmulgee County for economic development but the truth is that the OADC office is busier in the past few months than any time I can remember in my thirty plus years of doing economic development work.
We have three industrial companies we’ve been working with for some time now that are very deep into the site selection process. All three really like what they see here in Okmulgee. We have good industrial parks, we have an established Tax Increment Finance District that covers two of our four industrial parks/areas. Much of our industrial land has rail access, which is another asset that is getting the attention of some companies. Okmulgee’s ace-in-the-hole for workforce and education is Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology. Any company that takes a site visit to Okmulgee is shown OSUIT; time after time they are in awe of what is going on here. It’s exactly what industry is looking for nationwide. Don’t be surprised if it’s not the deciding factor in several company location decisions.
A lot of people ask what they can do to help with the economic development process - in other words how can YOU help the OADC attract good companies and people to Okmulgee? There are two factors (out of many) I want to highlight in this column. First, companies still do “stealth visits.” A stealth visit is where the company thinks they have an interest in a community, so they send in one or two employees to spend a day or a few days in the town to just listen and learn about a community. They listen to conversations at shops and restaurants. They may also engage in conversation and ask questions. So if someone asks you: hey we’re just passing through, what’s there to do in town? Find positive things to share about Okmulgee. Talk about our community events (non-covid years), our lakes, parks, and museums. Talk about Jandebeur’s Race Track, hunting and fishing. Be positive.
Another little tactic a company might use is social media. They will follow community pages like Okmulgee County Events and Chat, the Okmulgee Times, Okmulgee Public Schools, Okmulgee Jobs, etc. Recently a number of folks have asked on social media about bringing industry and jobs here. That’s what we actively do on a daily basis - and it would be disappointing to lose a deal because of a lot of negative talk on social media. If you step back and view some of the pages and posts from the perspective of an interested company - what would YOU think about the community!? We understand that social media can be an effective place to air concerns and advocate for change - but…..we seriously and sincerely ask that the next time you’re mad at a store, the City, the County, please be constructive with your comments. Anyone can complain, point fingers, make assumptions, call people names and type cuss words, stop it. Be a critic with a point and make it professional, please. Also check your grammar and spelling.
Next point. Okmulgee County is known to us all as an impoverished community. We don’t have a lot of extra money laying around this town or county. That makes this decennial Census even that more important. When it comes to getting our fair share of Federal Funding Programs, it’s all based on the Census numbers. By this point, you can’t have missed all of the mailings, Facebook posts, newspaper articles, etc about this. At this time, Oklahoma has a 59% rate of response; Okmulgee County has 54%. This impacts our schools, our aid programs, early childhood education, conservation efforts, roads, highways and bridges. This is one issue where letting your neighbor do the work doesn’t count. And it really takes little to no effort (a few minutes). Complete the information online at www.2020census.gov If you don’t have a computer you can call: Call the Census Bureau Customer Service Center at 1-800-923-8282 or 301-763-INFO (4636.)
Continuing with Odds and Ends: The end of our fiscal year at the OADC saw the election of new officers and directors: Dr. Bill Path (OSUIT) is continuing for a second year as Chairman of the Board, Kyle Powell (First National Bank) is Vice-Chair, Christie Baldridge (Deep Fork Community Foundation) is our new Secretary/Treasurer and Fred Harlan (Harlan Motors) stays on as our Immediate Past Chairman. New Board Members include Ron Goedecke (Bullet Fence Company) and Deanna Roberts (CPKelco). Welcome new board members and our leadership team.
We are anticipating a site visit by a national manufacturing company in the coming month. Please mow your lawn and pick up the trash. If your neighbor is elderly or disabled help them also. Find ways to be involved. Find positive things to share about Okmulgee County even when you are unhappy about particular issues. Let’s find ways to impact positive change, have constructive conversations, and work together.
We know that Okmulgee County isn’t perfect, there are warts and flaws, challenges and issues. Some of those issues are minor, some are more serious. So does every community. But we also have a lot of good things in Okmulgee County, these are hard times and people are weary but there are still good people, and good businesses and good ideas. The OADC is doing our best to market Okmulgee County for industrial companies - again, which means capital investment and jobs. Have faith, more jobs are coming. Thanks for reading.
About the Author
Court Newkirk is the Executive Director of Okmulgee Area Development Corp (OADC). A native of Oklahoma, he has decades of community and economic development experience, some of which was in Okmulgee in the 90s. Court is a big believer that Okmulgee can be anything it wants to be, if we all work together. Contact Court at Court@ChooseOkmulgee.com.