BY MIKE FRIEND
The Economic Development Council (EDC) responded to recent questions from local business owners this week stating there was a need for the expenditures to stimulate growth in town.
The EDC gave money to a project to fund $50,000 in dirt work to attract restaurant chain Interurban to the site east of the Best Western across from Walmart, as well as a $100,000 loan to fund a water retention system under the new Hampton Inn site.
The money allocations stimulated several existing business owners in town to ask if the grants were necessary to stimulate growth or whether it created more competition in an already competitive arena.
Ed Hicks, owner of Eduardo's Mexican Restraunt, said, "If they want to come in, I welcome it. But I don't want tax dollars helping my competition. I've opened three restaurants in Chickasha, the first one being Taco Mayo in 1979, and A&E Grill more recently. We took out a $750,000 loan from the bank and opened it up. Not a single dime from any local agency."
Hicks explained that his support of the local Chickasha Football team meals, the thousands donated over time to help fund the local 4th of July firework display, and multiple other countless organizations that his businesses have helped through the past 30 years of being in business are what he feels is one of the fundamental concerns with bringing in other chains that may not contribute to the local economy and general "good" of Chickasha.
"Bring in some manufacturing businesses or something that can really generate some better paying jobs and more people to the area. Something that brings in some more families and really stimulates growth. I just don't see how any of this is a concern of the EDC's to give money to support businesses that we already have," said Hicks.
Christy Elkins the recently board appointed President and CEO for the EDC said; "One of the first things I plan to accomplish is to develop a business retention program and other incentives to help existing businesses not only monetarily but with other technology too. These local businesses are extremely important to me, but they also must realize that the more we have to offer, the more people we can attract overall to the area."
Elkins said she hoped to attract more manufacturing and other higher paying positions to the area soon to help provide a better quality of life to the people of Chickasha.
"It's not that it is not good now, it is... that is why I wanted to move my family here, but I really think we can make it a better place to live. I think if we take a closer look at what is coming out of our technology center and the university and try to embrace them so that we can keep the younger age group wanting to stay here and possibly open a business... that would be great too."
With all the concern, the EDC hopes a recent move on their part will pay off and provide a more clear and concise answer to several of the aforementioned issues. They hired a business out of Texas called Catalyst to provide a retail analysis of Chickasha and to outline what businesses are needed in town, where locals shop, and how often they shop there, as well as the flow of travel of the local population. The company uses technology to capture images of licenses plates at certain key locations in town and compiles data to show the EDC who does what, when, and where. The company will also provide a GAP analysis that will show what items shoppers leave town to find and what type of retailers would be a good fit for the local business scene.
“Once we receive the data back from them we can try to better assess these concerns. I also want to make it very clear that the work done at the Interurban site was going to need to be done regardless of who went into that particular site,” said Elkins.
Other new businesses that are coming to town are the Boomerang Dinner and Game Stop.