Enid Regional Development Alliance was focused on making Enid a “billion dollar community” during the organization’s quarterly luncheon Thursday at Oakwood Country Club.

ERDA Executive Director Brent Kisling spent the bulk of the meeting discussing ERDA’s “Billion by 2025” campaign — an initiative to increase the city’s annual retail sales to $1 billion by 2025.

“I would challenge us now as a community to look at opportunities that are before us, and not miss out on opportunities we have to grow,” Kisling told the crowd of business and civic leaders.

Growth requires change, and Kisling said he and his staff “sometimes have to convince people that growing is a good thing.”

But, he said, the alternatives to growth are not attractive.

“If you’re not growing you’re dying,” Kisling said, “and we need to continue to innovate in finding ways to get people to move here.”

Enid has come close to ERDA’s retail sales goal in the recent past. In 2013, when Kisling said Garfield County was “one of the hottest economies in the nation” at the height of oil, wind and light industry production in Enid, the city’s retail sales topped $900 million.

But, downward trends in the economy yielded little more than $800 million in retail sales in 2016 and 2017.

Kisling said sales have stabilized, and are poised to increase. To meet the “Billion by 2025” goal, Kisling said Enid will need to increase monthly retail sales by 3 percent, yearover- year.

“That’s not something that’s insurmountable — that’s very achievable,” Kisling said.

To achieve that goal, Kisling said ERDA will be focused on three areas: attracting new people to the community; growing business opportunities to increase wealth and spending power in the local economy; and developing new experience-driven venues for shopping and dining.

Kisling said the community will benefit from Vance Air Force Base’s efforts to increase its annual pilot output from 300 pilots to 450 pilots.

Vance is Enid’s largest employer, Kisling said, followed in the top five by Tyson Foods, Enid Public Schools, Integris Bass Baptist Health Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. Taken together, Kisling said health care remains Enid’s largest employment sector. To continue increasing jobs, Kisling said the community needs to focus on growing new businesses, highlighting locally-founded companies like the former Advance Foods, Hammer-Williams Co., Marsau Enterprises, Parrish Manufacturing, Luckinbill and Atwoods.

“We grow our own here,” Kisling said. “We don’t necessarily bring in a

Boeing or a Google very often, and if we’re going to bring in more people we

need to think about growing our own businesses.”

ERDA continues to support entrepreneurs through utility assistance for new start-up businesses, the “Grow Enid” loan program and assistance with real estate placement for new businesses.

But, Kisling said ERDA spends about 90 percent of its time on existing businesses, connecting them with capital, customers, community outreach and workforce development.

Kisling said he and his staff also continue to travel to other cities to visit industries and corporations that might have an interest in moving or building production assets in Enid.

New companies bring investment, Kisling said, which drives up wealth and spending power in the economy. As an example, he pointed to the wind energy sector, which now pays about $7.5 million in annual landowner royalties — the equivalent of 200 people working at the county’s average wage.

In order to attract new visitors and capture more income from those already visiting, Kisling said there needs to be a focus on developing more boutique shopping and dining experiences, activities in the 5-9 p.m. time-frame and to continue capitalizing on athletic tourism like that offered at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.

To turn those concepts into an actionable plan, Kisling said he’s identified seven communities around the country that have been successful in

growing their retail sales, and he plans to “plagiarize” from what they’re doing well.

Teams of Enid residents will be flying to those cities in the coming months to visit with community leaders and learn lessons that can be duplicated in Enid, Kisling said.

Kisling said volunteers are needed to serve on those visit teams, and to give feedback at upcoming public input sessions.

“We still need to improve on the product we bring to sell to the world,” Kisling said. “That’s what we try to do in our office, but we need your help.”

For more information or to assist with “Billion by 2025” contact Kisling at kisling@growenid.com or (580) 233-4232.

Story provided by Enid News & Eagle

Written by James Neal