Enid’s economy has remained strong in spite of oil prices, said Brent Kisling, executive director of Enid Regional Development Alliance. Some of that strength is due to more than $2 billion in construction projects throughout the past couple of years.
For 2016, Kisling said ERDA will focus on several projects, including construction projects like the continuation of the Koch Fertilizer expansion. Vance Air Force Base also will break ground on its new runway this year, a project that is a cooperative effort between military, state and federal local entities. That is on the heels of another runway project at Enid Woodring Regional Airport.
“The Woodring expansion last year makes the Vance project possible,” Kisling said. “The new runway at Woodring accommodates military aircraft like the T38s, which made Vance free to tear up their runway and replace it.” Enid Woodring Regional Airport completed a project to extend its runway last year.
Kisling also said plans are in the works to bring more wind energy development to the area but said there are no official announcements yet. In retail, however, an Academy Sports and Outdoors store already has been announced, and Kisling said there would be more retail development in the Stonebridge area at Cleveland and Chestnut.
Work continues in clearing the Lahoma Courts area on the southeast corner of Cleveland and Garriott for future retail development plans by Hunt Properties. City officials have been acquiring properties in the housing addition throughout the past year. Expenses for obtaining the properties, and preparing the full parcel of land for development, will be recouped when the property is sold for an estimated $3.07 million to Hunt Properties.
“We have purchased some homes near Cleveland and Garriott, and we’ll be clearing land to get ready for another retail development,” Kisling said.
The expansion at the Koch Fertilizer plant made clear one of the issues with which local development has to contend, and it is an issue that also directly concerns Kisling in his role with Northwest Oklahoma Workforce Development Team. “There are two issues in northwest Oklahoma that can keep us from growing even faster than we already are,” Kisling said. “The first is water availability, but we’ve developed a plan and are implementing it now. The other issue is that we have more jobs than people.”
The development team is looking for more ways to market job opportunities in Enid. When the newest round of expansion was announced for Koch, the team used news stories in major media outlets in Oklahoma City to appeal to workers there, many of whom had lost jobs in the SandRidge Energy layoffs. “We’ll continue to find new ways to market the region, but the bigger mission is keeping our best and brightest here,” Kisling said. “We are working with superintendents in K-12 schools, as well as CareerTechs and industry to work with us on this, and we’re doing well, but we believe we can do more.”
For now, the team in engaged in a fact-finding process to determine the best strategies. Kisling said he believes reaching young people even earlier in the process will be helpful by exposing them to the benefits and strengths of their communities.