BY MIKE FRIEND
Chickasha is growing. Due to recent allocations of money from the Economic Development Council and the Town of Chickasha, existing businesses have voiced concerns over "fairness".
While the collective of retail businesses and restaurants interviewed said competition is "more than welcome" and "healthy" all agreed it should be welcomed on a "level playing field."
Paw Paw's owner Teresa Payne said, "I know we haven't ever received a single hand out from the town. This business is family owned and operated since 1968 and Rex and I started running it in 1992 and I know we have never got anything to expand or do improvements. We still do good though. I'm glad we have a good established business but we are going to paint again soon and I can't even find anybody to help."
Munoz Mexican Restaurant owner Joanna Munoz said, "I know when we recently purchased this building we were not offered any incentives from the town. I even asked if we qualified for anything and was told no. I really wanted to put in a bar area to help with our nightly sales, but can't afford it. Then when I find out that other big businesses like Hampton Inn received money to open a business it makes me angry. To some degree, that is my own tax dollars working against me-not for me."
Munoz said if there are funds available she would definitely apply for them.
According to City Manager Stewart Fairburn, money may be available.
"We look at it on a case by case basis, and I would encourage anyone who has an interest to contact either myself or the Economic Development Council (EDC), "said Fairburn, "There are also other funds available through the Downtown Facade Program that allows for certain improves and certain historical preservation, things of that nature."
Fairburn said the funds the EDC receives are from a percentage of generated hotel/motel sales tax. Some of the recipients include Hampton Inn who received $100,000 for an underground retention system, the Interurban site received $50,000 for excavation work, and Gabrial received funds for roofing and lighting issues. Fairbanks said some are loans while others are in the form of grants.
Owner Aaron Warren of A&E Grill said, "If everyone who opens a business were to receive funds then I think it is great to bring in new business growth to Chickasha, but make sure it is on a level playing field. There is only so big of a pie to divide in this town, and unless the town's population can grow to accommodate it, then there is only one way to look at it- my business will get less of that pie."
Warren also confirmed his business was opened with no assistance from the town or state.
Warren said, "We did it the good old American way. We saved up; put it all on the line. We put our necks out there and worked hard. That's how we got were we are today."
President and CEO for the Chickasha Economic Development Council, Christy Elkins, said, “We are currently looking at a new list of incentives to help existing businesses as well as new entrepreneurs. I am confident the board did what they felt was best and I stand behind them. I have only been in position for four weeks now, but I put my full trust in their decisions thus far. I think as we move forward and more policies can be developed, we will be able to address some of these issues and concerns because our number one goal is to make Chickasha a better place.”