Backers: Chamber working hard for city of Mustang

By Traci Chapman
Published on June 12, 2008

Perceived “isolationism” on the part of a few City Council members has left some Mustang Chamber of Commerce members feeling “left out in the cold.”

Chamber board member Ryan Tate said the cold front started with remarks made by Mayor Jeff Landrith and Ward 2 Councilwoman Kathleen Moon during recent budget sessions. During those meetings, Landrith and Moon questioned the need for an annual $10,000 allocation to the chamber, saying they had reservations about the benefit Mustang proper received for the investment. Moon also raised concerns about the chamber having an office in Mustang Town Center free of charge.

“It’s not our chamber,” Moon said. “I don’t know why we’re giving them money and giving them free rent. I’m not happy with that.”

“I have a hard time with the chamber. I wish they were more on their own from a funding perspective,” Landrith said. “I think about who shows up to volunteer, and it is more those folks from outside of Mustang. I don’t like the idea that this is not a true Mustang chamber.”

Landrith and Moon agreed to the funding but reserved the right to revisit the item after examining the contract between the two entities. That type of talk poses a problem for chamber members, Tate said.

“We need to know what the problem is, and why there seems to be this ‘us versus them’ theory working,” Tate said. “Isolationism doesn’t work out very well, and that’s exactly what this is. I don’t see how anyone could say this is not a Mustang chamber.”

Ward 3 Councilman Scott Gibson agreed.

“They keep driving that wedge back in — who is a resident and who will benefit from city services,” he said. “He (Landrith) has said it repeatedly — that he does not want Mustang to grow. I think he wants at all costs to be against growth and the further advancement of this community. His actions show me that he’s pulling us backwards.”

Chamber president Jack Price said while the chamber has members located both inside and outside the city, its work benefits Mustang first.

“Look at Western Days, for example — we work on that for a full year, and we do it for the city of Mustang,” he said. “I think the chamber and city have a good partnership.”

The $10,000 payment from the city represents that partnership, Tate said, helping the chamber in its work to find new business and spur economic development.

“This funding is a sign of involvement, of a commitment to work together for the good of everyone in Mustang — which is the entire Mustang School District, not just the city limits,” he said.

Gibson said the focus on the “12 square miles” is dangerous for the city’s future.

“You need to go back to that basic information — that every family living in Mustang proper would have to spend $2,400 in taxable goods in the city limits every month in order to make up the sales tax lost if what those the mayor calls ‘outsiders’ decided to take their business to Yukon or Oklahoma City,” he said. “There’s just no way that could be done, and why would you want to make that division?”

Former chamber president Chad Fulton said while he lives in the Mustang School District and owns one business in the city limits and one outside, “We all have a choice of where to place our tax dollars, and we have chosen to spend them inside Mustang.”

Chamber director Becky Julian said her organization works to promote business development in the city and works on “quality of life” issues through its committees, such as the roads and legislative/economic development committee, social committee, public relations committee, membership committee, youth committee and Western Days committee.

“The roads and legislative/economic development committee, they are the biggest advocate the city of Mustang has, in partnership with the city,” she said.

She said the partnership provides a medium for Mustang to have a voice on city and state levels, and allows for lobbying opportunities.

The chamber also provides data sheets that provide Mustang statistics for incoming businesses, works closely with business site selectors and gives community tours.
Julian said the partnership with the city continues when she schedules meetings with prospective businesses. She said both chamber representatives and city officials oftentimes attend these meetings, which have “paid off” several times. In an interview earlier this year, City Manager David Cockrell called it sharing information and having common goals.

“They work as a team with myself and my staff,” he said, adding he sees funding the chamber as an investment in Mustang’s economic development efforts by aggressively seeking retail and light industrial clientele for the city.

Another service the chamber provides is the business retention program, which determines how industrial businesses are faring in Mustang. Although industry is not a big facet in Mustang business, Julian said it is important to keep up with developments and possibilities for bringing more light industrial business to the area.

Cockrell said while it’s great to get new businesses, leaders must also keep the businesses and industries that already exist.

For smaller “mom and pop” businesses in Mustang, Julian said the chamber provides a marketing cooperative, allowing them to get the name of their business out through membership in the chamber of commerce and being listed in the directory.

“We provide a bigger voice in representing them, both politically and through meeting their needs,” she said.

Fulton said the chamber benefits the city directly with its annual directory, which is mailed to every resident and business in the 73064 zip code and given to new residents by city staff.

“That is a significant cost — about $30,000,” he said. “Granted, that’s also a fundraiser for us, but that’s a great plug for the city. It’s also a huge opportunity for the businesses who are involved, including many businesses located in Mustang.”
Another “selling point” is the city map printed every other year by the chamber at a cost of about $7,500, which he said is given to the city for distribution to potential residents and visitors.

“The 12 square miles couldn’t support either one of these projects. It takes all of us contributing to that,” he said. “I live outside and support Mustang 110 percent. I don’t like the implication that I’m not a real resident of this city.”

Developer Robert Crout, a chamber board member, said he was “concerned” about statements made by the mayor about growth and the division of residents on “both sides” of the city limits.

“It’s just another silly thing he’s said. Like it or not, this town is growing, and we need economic development to keep sales tax going and help us survive and grow,” Crout said. “We’re long past the time when the chamber and city are truly separate.”
“The chamber is a small investment for what they bring back to us,” Gibson said. “They do a lot of things we cannot do — we need to appreciate that relationship, not question it.”

Attempts to contact Landrith and Moon were unsuccessful as of press time.

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