A main legislative priority in the state now is education, primary and secondary, and the city of Enid has a stake in both areas, said Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jon Blankenship.
Blankenship outlined a busy year for the chamber in 2019, saying this year’s focus is on classroom funding and reduction of student-to-teacher ratio is important to the Chamber because of the number of education institutions — from public and private schools to Autry Technology Center and universities — in Enid.
“In addition to secondary education, funding for regional career techs, colleges and universities is critical,” Blankenship said. “Everyone agrees that the good jobs of the future involve post-secondary education. This at a time when tuition rates are increasing, which reduces access.”
Another ongoing focus for Chamber officials is health care, Blankenship said, and progress has been made on a local residency program for physicians at Enid medical providers.
He added a residency program in local hospitals can increase the city’s ability to recruit and retain medical professionals.
Billion by 2025
By far the most ambitious economic development plan is the Billion by 2025 Plan, a collective effort by Enid First. The group is a coalition of the Enid Regional Development Alliance, Chamber, Main Street Enid, Visit Enid, and the city of Enid, and the goal is to reach $1 billion in retail sales by 2025. If the goal sounds lofty, it’s not as far off as it seems.
“We hit $814 million in 2017, and we closed out 2018 with $856 million, so the number is not as far away as it sounds,” Blankenship said.
To facilitate the increases, Enid First developed goals related to athletics tourism, downtown Enid and Oakwood Mall. Blankenship said the area already benefits from David Allen Ballpark and Enid Soccer Complex, and there will be a new focus on expanding offerings once Enid Public Schools finishes work on its competition gym and fine arts facility.
“We hope to make progress in residential living in downtown Enid, too,” Blankenship said. “We’ve visited other cities our size that have successfully developed downtown lofts and apartments, and we’re looking at what we can do to facilitate that here.”
Blankenship said Oakwood Mall needs an overhaul and upgrade to make it attractive to residents.
“We’ve got willingness at city hall,” he said, “but the bottom line is we need investors. We have to have an ownership group.”
According to Blankenship, Enid loses business to north Oklahoma City and other areas because of the condition of Oakwood Mall. Much of that is due to the movie theaters, currently the only one in the city, that need to be upgraded.
Membership development is an ongoing task of the chamber year to year, and the Enid chamber has partnered with the state chamber to maximize membership value. The Small Business Chamber Alliance is for companies with fewer than 25 employees, and membership automatically gives them “e-membership” to the State Chamber of Oklahoma, which means they will get regular updates on the chamber’s legislative goals and activities.
Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce is available to businesses countywide, according to Blankenship, and its mission is to foster economic development and improve the quality of life in Enid and surrounding areas.
Story provided by Enid News & Eagle
Written by: Greg Horton