ENID, Okla. — Lisa Powell, executive director of t he Enid Regional Development Alliance, said her staff’s work supporting Enid businesses during the COVID pandemic has been like having their foot all the way on the gas pedal — all while driving with two more feet and having another on the brake.

The local economic development nonprofit’s focus going forward is on growing new jobs in Enid while continuing to grapple with the local fiscal impact of the COVID pandemic, Powell said in January.

“While things may have improved slightly — or we keep thinking things have improved — the moment we let that foot off the brake a little, there’s another challenge thrown at (businesses) to adapt to,” she said.

Demand for growth pent up from COVID-related project delays has returned from the pandemic’s early days in 2020, but Powell said that demand is hard with inflation, rising costs and a diminishing workforce.

“Probably, the reality is, we’re probably not going to go ‘back to normal,’ so now everybody’s trying to predict how to do business in a time we’ve never been through before — so it’s hard to predict,” she said. “Some of it is just re-engineering your business from the ground up.”

Job board website

Recent ERDA initiatives are a key component of keeping residents here in Enid and recruiting new people to come to Enid.

Owing to the 501©6 nonprofit’s role as a “resource connector,” the organization launched its Enid job board website at the end of October 2021 as the first step in its Live in Enid campaign.

The new website, WorkinEnid.com, aggregates jobs in Enid on one site. Unlike other online job platforms, such as GlassDoor or Indeed, the site doesn’t have ads, isn’t managed by anyone trying to monetize the platform and has positions actually located in the city, Powell said.

Employers without their own job board can post on the site, which Powell called a “one-stop shop” for business owners who don’t want to grapple with the other, more expensive, cumbersome websites.

As of the end of January, the website includes nearly 400 postings for more than 180 companies, nonprofits and public entities such as the city of Enid and Enid Public Schools.

If a company is a member of ERDA, Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce or Main Street Enid, it’s automatically a member of the site, she said. Non-member employers can contact ERDA to share available positions.

Technical expertise

A companion to the jobs website, LiveinEnid.com touts the city as the best place to live in Oklahoma on a $50,000 salary, with low commute times, low crime rates and strong key community pillars such as health care and education.

Manufacturers and suppliers also are connected with a new platform in Oklahoma called Connex Oklahoma, on which businesses outline their information and needs — like a match.com for Oklahoma manufacturers, Powell explained.

Powell said ERDA most often provides technical expertise based on businesses’ staffing needs. These can include providing initiatives to support the housing market and programs in schools and hospitals for workforce training, as well as recommending appropriate city regulations and infrastructure for businesses.

Quality-of-life initiatives

While ERDA’s funding isn’t usually given to businesses, the organization’s board of directors approved a $100,000 forgivable loan to Best Western GLō last May, and ERDA also provides several small-business and micro-enterprise grant programs throughout the fiscal year.

ERDA also regularly helps recruit potential businesses and negotiates potential tax incentive agreements with the city’s economic trust authority, overseen by the Enid City Commission.

All of those items and quality-of-life initiatives keep the staff of three busy in their office located in the Strate Center business incubator at Autry Technology Center.

“We are doing as much as we can to maximize our impact with the available staff and resources that we have,” she said, “but that would be the limitation on what we can do, is based on the funding that we have available to staff the organization.”

Article by: Alexander Ewald, Enid News & Eagle 2.5.22