Development effort puts focus on county

By Traci Chapman
Published on May 24, 2008

A push to bring new jobs to Canadian County through a countywide partnership is ramping up, and backers contend a focused effort could deliver “big payoffs” for area communities.

Robert Coleman, director of the El Reno Economic Development Partnership, is spearheading the effort to recruit area cities and county officials to join the venture — the Canadian County Economic Development Partnership. Coleman said his own city’s “baby steps” in economic development “are just the beginning,” and expanding the effort throughout the county would result in new businesses locating in the area and strengthening the sales tax.

“Everyone wants retail because that’s where the sales tax dollars are,” he said. “We also need industry, and we have the land for it — what we need is someone who can catalog and market those properties so we’re viable for businesses looking to bring jobs and money into the county.”

Coleman said the problem is a lack of “cohesiveness” in efforts to attract light industry and to develop a focused plan for future development.

“The problem is we are too fractured, and there is no real concerted effort to move things forward. This is a way to bring everyone together,” he said. “We’ve got some great minds out there — across the county — but we’re not all on the same page. In order to become competitive, we really need to work together.”

While some cities — such as Mustang — don’t want industry within their city limits, Coleman said manufacturing in surrounding areas could greatly enhance “quality of life” for residents because industrial employees would likely live and spend their tax dollars at that city’s retail establishments.

County wide economic development

Why not use just a portion of the money requested and use it to put more pressure on the Greater Oklahoma City Partnership to bring more prospects to Canadian County instead of creating another office with the associated overhead costs? The Partnership is much better positioned for this effort, but more money and more participation with the Partnership from Canadian County would be a much more efficient use of these dollars. The cities in Canadian County didn't even pony up to become members of the Parnership. It was left up to the Commissioners to provide the membership costs. If the cities aren't willing to take this first step then how could they ever agree on this type of effort.

And, by the way, private business can be a great "support" system, but will NOT, CAN not provide the leadership in such efforts as it is the City's that derive the most benefit and subsequently should provide the services, infrastructure and leadership for a truly successful economic development effort.

Canadian County would serve itself better by buying land and insuring proper infrastructure be in place on that land than creating two "staff" positions.

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