Predictably someone will ask, “Sure you were busy, but what did you get done?” Great question and one that is asked almost on a daily basis in this profession. There is another common denominator in the business of economic development and that is it requires patience.
Patience is a virtue that is in short supply these days, with everyone seemingly clamoring for what they want, when they want it, and how they believe something should happen right NOW to satisfy their instant gratification addiction.
As we look back over the past 10 years, we see that some of the best growth opportunities this community has experienced has required a great deal of patience. That statement of “That which is easy is rarely good”, comes to mind and in hindsight that is often the case in economic development.
As we look down memory lane, we noticed that project like Chick-fil-A took three years to open from the first time a site selector made a call looking for building sites, until they opened their doors to the clamoring fans. Primrose Retirement Community took four years to become a reality from the first inquiry of where land was available to their first resident moving in.
Universal Forest Products Inc. was a 2 1/2 years project from the time they contacted us about what they thought was a perfect site, to when they cut the ribbon to celebrate the location and building of their first Oklahoma facility.
During this past decade projects like the Garage took six years from the initial begging on our part to the leadership of Hal Smith restaurants to locate a store here, and over seven years to finally lure a top-notch C-store operator like Domino to our fair city.
While some may think it was an easy process, the developer of the Shawnee Market Place started visiting with us five years before they finally opened the Hobby Lobby, much to the enjoyment of the ladies in this community and those who appreciate the sales taxes that are derived from that retail development.
Some projects have been ongoing for the past two decades when we mix in some of the manufacturers who are expanding, acquiring new companies, adding to their product lines and even changing ownership such as the recent Bison Tubing Technologies announcement.
A long time ago someone asked what our favorite projects was, and the answer was, “The one we haven’t done yet.” Economic development is paying attention to the details, answering a million and one questions, staying in the game, and at times going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
None of us knows what tomorrow holds, or if any of the 158 projects we dealt with in 2019 will be our next BFF. But we do know that it takes time, patience and a lot of great partners to make success happen. That is a really long way to say, “Wait the best is yet to come.”